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Draisaitl Looking to Lead the Way for Fellow Germans

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers
Photos by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club

Leon Draisaitl attempts to make history on Friday night. In doing so, ‘Draisaitl’ could become a household name in his native country Germany.

Draisaitl is expected to become the highest drafted German-born player in NHL history when the league gathers in Philadelphia, PA to go through the annual selection process. He would take that title from the 20th overall pick in 2001, Marcel Goc.

“It’s an exciting time,” the Cologne, Germany native said. "It has always been my goal to play in the NHL one day and I’m close. I’m not there yet, I have a lot of work in front of me but it’s an exciting time and it’s kind of surreal so far.”

Although he’s expected to be a top-five pick, Draisaitl has his eyes set on a higher calling than draft bragging rights. Draisatil isn’t just satisfied with being drafted, he wants to have the kind of career that inspires his countrymen to embrace hockey.

“German players don’t come along very often,” he said. “We just don’t have the best development. I don’t like saying it. I’m proud to be German but I think it’s important for German hockey to have (good German players) so kids have guys to look up to. I want to be that same type of guy that maybe makes younger guys in Germany play hockey because I’m proud to be German and I want to make the country proud and make as many kids play hockey as possible.”

Germany hasn’t developed many notable players for the NHL. Uwe Krupp played 15 seasons in the NHL for the Sabres, Islanders, Quebec Nordiques, Colorado, Detroit and Atlanta. Marco Sturm went 21st overall to San Jose in 1996 and also had a long career with the Sharks and Boston Bruins before finishing his NHL years with Los Angeles, Washington, Vancouver and Florida.

Current German players include Buffalo’s Christian Ehrhoff, Boston’s Dennis Seidenberg and Goc (traded to Pittsburgh by Florida in March). The list is thin and Draisaitl wants to be the one to change that.

One day, Draisaitl jerseys might sell like hot cakes in Deutschland. These are high aspirations for an 18-year-old. The first step is getting drafted on Friday and the next step is to actually make it in the NHL.

Draisaitl made a decision to leave his home and come to North America where he had the best chance to fully develop into the player he wanted to become. There’s little doubt that it helped.

NHL Central Scouting’s fourth-ranked North American skater posted impressive offensive numbers in his second season in Prince Albert. With the Raiders, Draisaitl racked up 105 points (38-67-105) in 64 games. That point production tied fellow top draft prospect Sam Reinhart for fourth in the WHL.

It’s that offensive skill that he pairs with his size (6-1, 210 punds) that makes him such a highly touted prospect. He was an essential part of the turnaround of Prince Albert’s power play, which went from dead last in the WHL in Draisaitl’s first year to third overall this season. He was a leader with his playmaking ability on the ice.

They say there is some Anze Kopitar and Joe Thornton in Draisaitl. He sees himself as an offensive player and wants to bring creativity to whatever team he’s playing on, whether that’s in Prince Albert, for Germany on the international stage or with whichever NHL team selects him in Philadelphia.

Draisaitl is on his way to making Germany take notice. He led his country in scoring at the World Junior Championship this year and suited up for them at the IIHF World Championship in Belarus. But the journey to becoming an ambassador for the sport in Germany really takes off on Friday night.

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