|Leon Draisaitl (left) collides with Edmonton's Curtis Lazar (photo by Andy Devlin / Oil Kings)
Not a week has lapsed since the Prince Albert Raiders clinched the final of eight Eastern Conference WHL playoff spots in a 5-3 win over the Red Deer Rebels in a tie-breaking unscheduled 73rd game (both teams were tied for wins and points through the 72 game regular-season.)
But, with the win the Raiders started their first postseason series against Edmonton’s own the top seeded Oil Kings (who won 50 of their regular season games for the third season in a row, becoming the second team in WHL history to have done so,) Saturday and Sunday, both in Edmonton.
Not only is the post-season an important time for teams to showcase their final efforts and ultimately claim a championship but it’s also a final push for draft-eligible players to show NHL teams what they’re made of.
One of those players, who already stirred up quite a bit of chatter amongst the National Hockey League is Raiders’, Leon Draisaitl [Dri-site-till.] The 6’1”, 209-pound centre is ranked second on the NHL’s Midterm Central Scouting Ranking’s and comes in fifth on Bob McKenzie’s mid-season rankings.
Draisaitl, however, isn’t focused on the impression he is making on Oilers management while playing in Rexall this postseason.
“It’s about the team. It’s not about me getting drafted or show what I’m capable of, it’s about the team and playing a good series.”
Even if he isn’t looking to show what he is capable of, in the first two games of the series, Draisaitl did manage to leave an impression on those in attendance, even if his team is zero for two on the road so far in the series. Draisaitl has helpers on two of the Raiders’ four goals, displaying finesse for controlling and shielding the puck while setting up his teammates (68 of his regular-season points as well as both of his playoff points are assists) and an ability to dig deep in the corners.
The German native, who has 104 points in 64 regular-season games and two points in as many playoff games, has compared his game style to that of San Jose’s Joe Thornton. While he compares himself to the London, Ontario native, others have described his game style like Anze Kopitar’s of the Los Angeles Kings.
“I think I have a little bit of a mix of both in me,” said Draisaitl on which he identifies with more, adding, “They’re two unbelievable players, it’s pretty hard to say who I can compare myself to.”
Having played left wing previous to centre, Draisaitl says he sees himself as a versatile player and when it comes to the NHL he would like to remain at centre “but it’s a coaches decision. If the coach puts me as a defender, I would play. It doesn’t really matter. I would prefer to play as a centre but if I have to play wing it’s fine,” explained Draisaitl.
While he is still focused on the series against Edmonton, Draisaitl says, come the draft, it would be an honour to be a part of a different organization that calls Edmonton home.
“It would be a huge honour for me. The Oilers are a great organization and they’ve had tons of superstars so, it would be huge for me,” explained Draisaitl, adding, “It would definitely be the greatest thing ever for me.”