In Germany's opening game against Kazakhstan, Leon Draisaitl picked up an assist in 12:05 in ice time in being named his team's best player.
Germany is rolling the dice at the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Head coach Pat Cortina is counting on several first time selections on the team to make an impression. The player who perhaps will draw the greatest attention is big centreman Leon Draisaitl.
It is no small statement to say that Draisaitl is perhaps one the most promising prospect ever produced from Germany. As he is NHL draft eligible and will most likely be selected in June, there is the strong possibility that Draisaitl will be the highest player ever selected from Germany.
Marcel Goc currently holds that status when he was selected 20th overall by the San Jose Sharks in 2001.
More important than his draft status, Draisaitl could become an impact player over the near future. After Germany’s first game against Kazakhstan, Draisaitl was named best player and played much older than his years. Every time he was on the ice, he did something to spark the offence.
“He was very good and I think we all see how good he is with the puck,” said his coach Cortina. “You know what I really liked about Leon is that he was extremely disciplined today with the puck and his shift length which is a sign of a mature young man.”
In one sequence he possessed the puck deep in the Kazakh zone, shielding it with his body and drawing a holding penalty.
“He’s strong on the puck and finds the open man most of the times,” Cortina remarked about his young charge. “In our last exhibition game he tried to force it a little bit but didn’t do that against Kazakhstan.”
On another, he sent a perfect pass to teammate Matthias Plachta who scored Germany’s first goal of the game and the tournament against Kazakhstan.
“He made a nice play on the first goal we scored,” Cortina added. “He didn’t try to do too much out there. I was worried that he was going to try and do too much given this as his first World Championship game but he was in control.”
Draisaitl comes from strong hockey bloodlines. His father Peter played for the German national team, taking part in three Winter Olympic tournaments. The elder Draisaitl currently coaches in the Czech Extraliga with HC Ceske Budejovice.
The last time a young skater performed at the World Championships ahead of the draft and played well was Anze Kopitar for Slovenia at the 2005 World Championships in Austria. It was less that Kopitar put up points (he had one goal in six games) and moreso that he displayed maturity beyond his years and managed to show that he was able to play at the highest level of annual international hockey competition.
Cortina will be looking for similar contributions here. Draisaitl is big. Standing 189 cm and weighing 96 kg, he has the size needed to excel at his position. With the Prince Albert Raiders in the Western Hockey League, he averaged about 25 minutes of ice time and scored 38 goals and 105 points. He made a late season push that possibly has enhanced his draft standing by scoring 48 points in the Raiders final 22 games.
His scouting report includes plenty of praise for his offensive skills and on ice presence. It will be interesting to watch how he fares against the United States and Russia when he’ll go up against the most skilled players as he’s encountered to date.
“If I play a good tournament it can only be good for me. You never know what might happen. This is probably the last time I can really show myself off so I want it to be good.”
With games like that, Draisaitl will get a long look from many NHL teams with the opportunity to choose him in the draft.