© Herald photo by Perry Bergson
Leon Draisaitl, shown last August at the Art Hauser Centre, is grateful for what the Prince Albert Raiders have done for his hockey career.
Leon Draisaitl’s goals may now lie elsewhere but it’s unlikely he’s going to forget Prince Albert anytime soon.
The big German forward, who was drafted third overall by the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, said on Saturday afternoon that the Raiders and playing in the WHL were instrumental in his development.
“It was just huge for me,” he said. “I have to thank the Raiders for making it easy for me, and especially Bruno Campese for bringing me over. It’s a huge credit to them for where I am now. I developed as a player and as a person.”
In 64 games last season, the Cologne-born forward tallied 105 points and finished fourth overall in league scoring.
That followed a rookie season in which he posted 58 points, also in 64 games.
Draisaitl arrived in Philadelphia for the draft on Tuesday and was kept busy with a variety of activities. He was joined by his best friend along with his mom, dad, sister and his sister’s boyfriend.
“It was really exciting,” he said. “It was a great week. I tried to enjoy it as much as possible.”
Naturally, hearing his name called by the Oilers was the highlight.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I waited pretty much my entire life so putting that jersey on was pretty special.”
He’ll be travelling to Edmonton later in the week and hopes to stay there until camps begin in August.
“I have some work to do over the summer,” Draisaitl said. “My goal is to make an impact with the Oilers next season.”
He joins an Oilers team packed with young stars such as Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
His transition to the pro game will no doubt be enhanced by a new focus on limiting turnovers that he worked on with the Raiders last season.
“I think I used to be a guy who turned it over quite a bit,” Draisaitl admits. “I tried to limit my turnovers this year. The coaches, Cory, Tim and Dave, have done a great job with me teaching me that part of the game.”
If Draisaitl chooses to play in North America, which is likely, he can only do it in two places; Edmonton or Prince Albert, due to the agreement between the two leagues.
As usual, Draisaitl was quick to mention Carol Ring, his billet for the last two seasons and someone he has grown very close to. They were finally able to speak to on Saturday morning.
“She’s really proud,” he said. “She’s been a very big part of this as well.”
He has also texted back and forth with his roommate, forward Shane Danyluk, along with other members of the team.
Draisaitl had a message for Raiders fans as well.
“Keep doing what you’re doing,” he said. “In my opinion they’re the best fans in the league by far. They’ve been huge for me. They’ve always been very nice. A huge thanks to them.”