Published on January 14, 2014
Prince Albert Raiders forward Leon Draisaitl skates towards Kootenay Ice forward Sam Reinhart earlier this season at the Art Hauser Centre. Draisaitl has risen to second overall while Reinhart has dropped to fourth in Central Scouting's latest report.
Herald photo by Perry Bergson
Leon Draisaitl is a man on the move.
Having just returned from Malmo, Sweden, where he represented his native Germany at the world under-20 junior hockey championship, Draisaitl headed to Brandon on the weekend for a doubleheader between his Prince Albert Raiders and the Wheat Kings and now he is off to Calgary for Wednesday’s Top Prospect’s Game.
His travel bags aren’t the only things getting stamped these days as his skills have also been verified as pretty impressive with the NHL Central Scouting agency moving him up to the second-ranked North American skater in advance of June’s Entry Draft.
“It’s going to be another new experience with the top guys from the draft being there,” said Draisaitl prior to leaving for Calgary. “I don’t know exactly what is going on, but I know there is the game and a lot of media.”
Draisaitl’s rise in the mid-term rankings should come as no surprise considering the advance billing he brought with him to Prince Albert 18 months ago.
In 2010-11, while playing bantam hockey, Draisaitl registered an astounding 192 points on 97 goals and 95 assists in just 29 games. The next year, with a Mannheim under-18 squad, he scored 21 goals and set up 35 others in 35 games while also representing Germany at the World under-17 Hockey Challenge and at the world under-18 championship.
Last year, Draisaitl tallied 58 points in 64 games for the Raiders and as a result was named the top rookie in the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference. He also got his first taste of competing at the world junior championship where he notched two goals and four assists in 16 games.
So much was expected from the 18-year-old this year and he hasn’t disappointed. In 35 games with the Raiders, Draisaitl has amassed 54 points and at the world junior event he added four points in five games.
“Again, it was another great experience,” said Draisaitl of his second trip to the world junior event. “It’s always great to play against the best players in the world.”
“For me personally, it didn’t start the way I wanted it to start,” added Draisaitl in reference to his taking an uncharacteristic 52 minutes in penalties and being suspended for one game. “I had a little adversity there, but I finished the tournament pretty strong.”
Draisaitl, who was the team captain for Germany this year, helped his club win a relegation series against Norway and while it isn’t a medal to bring home, he says it is a very big accomplishment to be allowed to return to the tournament next year when it is staged in Toronto and Montreal.
“It was huge for us,” exclaimed Draisaitl. “Our goal was to remain in the “A” pool. It is something very special for Germany.”
During the three weeks that Draisaitl was away at the world junior tournament, his regular club underwent a series of changes bringing in forwards Calder Brooks and Collin Valcourt and defencemen Ryan Coghlan and Graeme Craig. While losing some friends in the various trades hurts, Draisaitl says he is excited for how the team looks now.
“It seems like a new team,” said Draisaitl. “They are all great guys and I think they will help us be a better team.”
Being a highly-touted draft pick requires a lot of extra-curricular activity, but once Draisaitl takes care of business at the Top Prospects game he says he is anxious to make a push for a playoff spot and hopefully the team can go deep in the post-season.
That ultimately keeps him on the move, but Draisaitl will be happy to deal with that.