Prince Albert Raiders centre Leon Draisaitl is excited to reunite with his German brethren as he departs for World Junior Championship selection camp on Saturday.
Draisaitl said he is eager to hit the ice with his buddies; forwards Frederik Tiffels, Dominiuk Kahun and backstop Marvin Cupper, who have all been named to Germany’s selection camp roster.
“It is always fun representing your country and it makes it even more special that we are in the top division,” Draisaitl said of Team Germany, who have been placed in Group A with Canada, U.S., Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Germans were ousted in the preliminary round of last year’s tournament, posting a record of 0-3-1, however Draisaitl agreed that Deutschland is a hockey nation on the rise.
“As a country we are getting better,” he said. “It’s hard, we are not the biggest hockey country, there is soccer, volleyball and handball in front of hockey, it’s hard to get bigger but I think we are doing a good job.”
Following the lead of defenceman Josh Morrissey who departed for Team Canada camp on Thursday, Draisaitl will leave for Team Germany’s camp following Friday’s tilt against the Kamloops Blazers at the Art Hauser Centre.
With lessons learned after a 3-1 loss to the league worst Lethbridge Hurricanes last Friday, Draisaitl said the Blazers, who sit in the basement of the Western Conference with a record of 7-21-4, are not to be taken lightly.
“They struggled a little bit so far this season but that doesn’t mean they are a bad team,” he said. “We just have to stick to our game plan. The last couple of games we were playing really well, we just got really unlucky.”
Draisaitl added that the Raiders record of 5-5-0 over their last 10 games is not an accurate reflection of their efforts.
“We haven’t gotten the wins we deserved,” Drasiaitl said. “We just have to fight through that and try to get the win on Friday.”
Draisaitl is currently riding a seven-game point streak along with linemate right wing Dakota Conroy, who has scored goals in four straight games.
Draisaitl said Conroy’s ability to find the right spots on the ice perfectly complements his natural play making abilities. Draisaitl has tallied an assist on 13 of Conroy’s 15 total goals this season.
“He’s a really smart player,” Draisaitl said of Conroy. “He is unbelievable at finding those open spots and that’s exactly what I need him to do. I’m a pass-first guy for sure and he really makes it easy to get the puck to the open spots.”
As they look to snap a four-game losing skid, the Raiders will keep a keen eye on Blazers leading scorer left wing Cole Ully, who leads the team with 32 points in 30 games.
With injuries to forwards Reid Gardiner and Mike Winther, the Raiders are sure to have some fresh faces from within their system on the ice on Friday. Prince Albert native Lance Yaremchuk is expected to be back in the Raiders lineup after he was recalled from the Midget-AAA Prince Albert Mintos on Wednesday, eating up minutes in the Raiders 7-5 loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The Raiders met the Blazers just once last season, a 4-1 loss at the Interior Savings Centre.
The puck drops at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre when the Raiders take on the Blazers in their only regular season tilt on Friday.