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FEATURE: Draisaitl excited for All-Star debut

After being voted into the 2019 NHL All-Star Game as the Pacific Division's Last Man In, Leon Draisaitl is excited for his first-ever All-Star nod

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Team Pacific Head Coach Bill Peters won't have to scan his bench for long to find a linemate for Connor McDavid at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game.

The Calgary Flames bench boss has seen what the Oilers Captain can do with Leon Draisaitl, who was voted into the 2019 NHL All-Star Game on Friday in the League's Last Men In vote, decided by the fans.

It will mark No. 29's NHL All-Star Weekend debut, as he joins Jeff Skinner (Atlantic Division), Kris Letang (Metropolitan) and Gabriel Landeskog (Central) as the NHL's Last Men In.

"Actually, I was a little bit surprised he wasn't on the original roster," said teammate Milan Lucic. "But I'm happy for him."

Video: RAW | Leon Draisaitl 01.11.19

While Draisaitl's exclusion from the original roster came as a surprise to Lucic, Draisaitl's All-Star inclusion shouldn't shock anyone. The forward has 23 goals and 54 points in 44 games this campaign and is on pace to notch 100-points for the first time in his young, five-season career.

Additionally, the 2014 third-overall pick, who can assume the centre position or flank McDavid's wing, has been an overtime cheat for the Oilers since the 3-on-3 overtime format was implemented in the 2015-16 season.

In '16-17, the German had three OT winners. That following year, he put up five overtime points and is already up to four extra-session points in '18-19. Over his career, Draisaitl has six career fourth-period winners and 15 total overtime points.

So, there's a good reason for excitement surrounding Draisaitl's marquee All-Star nod, as he shares it with the other half of his dynamic duo, McDavid.

"We've seen the magic they can create in our 3-on-3s," said Oilers keeper Cam Talbot. "The talent level in the All-Star Game is above and beyond. It's going to be fun to watch those two."

Draisaitl didn't make any travel plans during the NHL All-Star Break just in case he did end up getting the nod and voiced his enthusiasm in going to the event when he was a Last Men In nominee.

"Three-on-three, in general, is exciting for everyone," the 23-year-old said. "Especially with the talent you're going to have there, it'll be pretty exciting to watch. I'm looking forward to that."

Video: THE PANEL | Crunch Time

Pick any one of the Pacific Division defencemen and it's likely that McDavid and Draisaitl's overtime wizardry could be well complemented. Generating chemistry shouldn't be hard when Pacific Division All-Star rearguards Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson or Drew Doughty take to the ice. The three defenders combined have 116 points on the year.

"I feel like any Dman that you put with those two is probably going to shine," said Talbot. "I don't think it really matters who you put with them. Throw another third forward out there and you'd just see magic happen, too."

Oilers fans who repeatedly refreshed window tabs to cast their ballots have come to know Draisaitl as a bonafide star but personally, Draisaitl is taking his first All-Star event as a testament to his play as an everyday NHLer.

"I think I'm establishing myself as a guy that produces year in and year out," Draisaitl said. "Obviously, there's ups and downs throughout a season and throughout your career. 

"I'm well aware of that and have experienced it myself."

Video: RAW | Ken Hitchcock 01.11.19

Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock lauded Draisaitl's ability to be both an offensive dynamo that can also defend against other elite NHL centres. On Thursday night against the Florida Panthers, Draisaitl was asked to suppress Aleksander Barkov in the third period and the Oilers escaped the match with a 4-3 shootout win. Draisaitl registered two assists, one which set up McDavid for the equalizer with eight seconds in the game left.

"I think the more tasks we give him, the better he plays," Hitchcock said. "He's a really good 200-foot player but as you saw last night, one of their players was outplaying us badly and we needed to change the table there. He did that.

"For me, if you give him a job and you give him a specific role in the game where it's really important, he grabs it and runs with it."

Known as 'The German Gretzky' in some European hockey circles, Draisaitl didn't say he ever dreamed of becoming an NHL All-Star throughout his childhood but will see it become a reality later in the month.

"Growing up, I never thought about going to an All-Star Game," he said. "It was probably the last thing I was thinking about. 

"It's a big honour for me." 

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