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GENE'S BLOG: Last Man Leon

In his latest blog, Gene Principe writes about Leon Draisaitl's pursuit to be the last player voted in to the NHL All-Star Game for the Pacific Division

by Gene Principe /

ANAHEIM, CA - I love the concept of being able to vote in the 2019 NHL All-Star Last Men In even if I don't love the reason behind it. The NHL has a lot of stars but they only have so many all-stars. It's a limited group who get the honour and the privilege to be called an 'All-Star'. It's a tricky and delicate balance to try and get the best players in one spot for one weekend. The League is doing their best but they have a problem (a nice problem, I guess) to get the right representatives for their respective teams within the divisions. 31 players have a shot at it which includes the Edmonton Oilers Leon Draisaitl. 

"Being voted an all-star would be a lot of fun and to go would be a huge honour," explained the Oilers second-leading scorer. "It's a bit of an awkward position for me. Lots of guys that could potentially go." 

No kidding. The possibilities are endless. In the Pacific here's the lineup of players, excluding Leon, who is on the ballot for Last Men In.

Video: ALL STAR | Leon's Top 10

Calgary - Mark Giordano 
Vegas - Jonathan Marchessault 
Anaheim - Ryan Getzlaf 
L.A. - Anze Kopitar 
Vancouver - Brock Boesser 
Arizona - Oliver Ekman-Larsson 

That is some tough competition. Hard to pick just one player out of those six but Draisaitl has done just about everything you can do to earn the opportunity. Going into action on Monday he is 10th in League scoring. Among the group above the closest to the German in scoring is Logan Couture, who is 36th. 

In goals, Leon sits 14th. Again, the closest competitor from the names above is Couture, who is 43rd. Now the one player in the Pacific whose stats are a challenge would be Mark Giordano. He has 39 points, which is third best among blueliners. Those are numbers you can't ignore but are they enough to prevent Leon Draisaitl from being named to his first All-Star Game? 

"I have never been to an All-Star game ever, anywhere," said the 23-year-old "I did play in the CHL Top Prospects game my draft year. It was fun to compete against the best players in your age group." 

It is times like these when you look at Leon's place in the All-Star conversation you have to marvel at his story. Born to one of the greatest German players of all time, Peter Draisaitl. As a kid, he used to watch YouTube videos of Anze Kopitar and Pavel Datsyuk. He decided to pursue his hockey dreams in Canada. A place on the prairies in Prince Albert led to his selection 3rd overall in the 2014 draft. He made it all the way to the Mastercard Memorial Cup Final with Kelowna and was voted tournament MVP. He's now entrenched as the two in the NHL's best one-two punch during what has turned out to be a breakout season.

Video: EDM@ANA: Draisaitl tallies from the slot

"Obviously there are spots where I have played really good but there have been times where I haven't been as consistent," was the way No. 29 broke down his first half of the season. "But overall, it's been a pretty good season." 

It could get better. First off as a team and the push in the second half for a playoff spot, and second as an individual. To continue his breakout season and get the chance to play in his first NHL All-Star game.

"No one will ever take that away from you," explained the Oilers forward. "It would be pretty special to go to that. It's something people dream of."

The thing is for it to become reality it rests in the hands of the fans and specifically Edmonton Oilers fans.

Last Men In voting closes at 11:59 p.m. ET on Jan. 10. You can vote up to 10 times per 24 hours. Vote HERE

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