PHILADELPHIA – Two years ago, Leon Draisaitl hadn’t even heard of a city called Prince Albert. That didn’t stop him from packing his bags and moving from Germany to play junior hockey in third-largest city in the Western Canada province of Saskatchewan.
“I knew quite a bit about the Western Hockey League,” Draisaitl said during Thursday’s media availability at The National Constitution Center. “But to be honest, I didn’t even know there was a city named ‘P-A.’ That was something else for sure when I finally got there”
The move has paid off for Draisaitl, who is ranked as NHL Central Scouting’s fourth-best prospect heading into Friday’s Entry Draft. After collecting 58 points in his 64-game rookie campaign in 2012-13, the big centerman led the Prince Albert Raiders in scoring this season with 38 goals and 105 points in 64 games.
Looking back on the move, Draisaitl said he has no regrets on leaving home as a 16-year-old to play hockey in North America.
“I had some offers from Finland, Sweden and Germany. So there was a possibility to stay there and probably make more money. But for me personally it’s not about the money. It’s about developing myself and getting better. And the best way for me to do that was definitely in Canada.”
There could be another move in Draisaitl’s immediate future following Friday night, but where it will be is anyone’s guess right now. Regardless of what team selects him, the confident 18-year-old believes he could step into the NHL as early as next season.
“I have a lot of respect for the NHL and what the level of hockey is like. But if I work hard and get better at certain things – I’m kind of lacking in some strength – I think I’m ready.”