PHILADELPHIA — As Leon Draisaitl made his way down his row after being selected no. 3 overall by the Edmonton Oilers during the 2014 NHL Draft Friday night, his father, Peter, a former player in Germany, whispered some congratulations in his ear. But during the memorable moment for the 18-year old center from Prince Albert, he didn’t hear what dad had to say.
“I think I was somewhere else,” Draisaitl said with a laugh. “My head wasn’t really into his talking.”
Before the Oilers made their pick, there was already a connection between this year’s addition to the prospect cupboard and the team. In the off-season, Mark Messier used to skate in Cologne, Germany, where the elder Draisaitl played during parts of his career.
“They’ve had so many great players on their team. Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Craig MacTavish,” he said “all those guys [were] stars in the league and wearing the same jersey as they [did] is unbelievable.”
Draisaitl, who scored 38 goals and recorded 105 points with the Raiders this past season, now becomes another young piece on an Oilers team full of them. Having picked in the top since every June since 2009, Edmonton ices plenty of talent nightly, but they haven’t been able to provide a supporting cast to take that next step forward.
“They have a really talented young nucleus and they really want to be good,” he said. “The players are young, but they’re all majority stars in the league. To join them is great.
For now, however, Draisaitl likes the direction is team is going and knows taking a place in the roster will have to be earned.
“I’m going to have to do my job within my spot if I want to play in that league and on that team. I think they’re moving forward, for sure,” he said. “They’ve made some good trades, Perron, and the guys are getting older and more mature.”
After going third overall, Draisaitl is now the highest-German born draft pick, passing Marcel Goc who was taken no. 20 overall by the San Jose Sharks in 2001. Known as the “German Gretzky,” he sees the opportunity in front of him to further expand the game in his home country.
“I want make as many kids play hockey as possible in Germany,” he said. “I want to be an ambassador and I want to make them play hockey and get the passion for the sport.
"I think this might be pretty good for the game in Germany.”