Edmonton Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl adjusting to big-league expectations
First-round pick training in Edmonton this summer in quest to crack NHL roster at 18
EDMONTON — It was only recently that Leon Draisaitl was finally able to exhale — in between squats, of course.
He had bounced from the National Hockey League combine to the draft day podium as the third pick overall then it was on to the Edmonton Oilers’ development camp.
But Draisaitl has since settled into an off-season routine in Edmonton as he readies himself for his first NHL training camp, all of which was touched on Wednesday when the 18-year-old centre swung by the Oilers hockey school in St. Albert:
Q: Now that you’re bunking in with billet Bruce Saville, and training with some of the other prospects who are in town, is there more of a realization that you are indeed in the Oilers’ fold?
A: “Once you really get to know the people you’re around and the staff, you start feeling like you’re an Oiler more and more every day. I’ve had an awesome time so far.”
Q: You decided, even before the draft, that you were going to spend the summer in your new hockey home, rather than flying home to Germany, in order to get acquainted with your new surroundings. No doubt, there are people in Edmonton who already feel they know you. How does that recognition compare to your previous days in Prince Albert as a member of the Raiders?
A: “It was a small town, and it’s obviously not as hyped as it is here. This is the NHL, this is a different story ... For sure, it’s cool. Being recognized on the street is something special.”
Q: Since the orientation camp wrapped up in Jasper on July 8, how have your days unfolded?
A: “It’s pretty much the same every week so far. There’s lots and lots of training going on, and skating twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays, so pretty much working out every day. I met a couple of my old buddies who I played with last year who were from here, so it’s been a lot of fun. It’s obviously different training than what I’ve been doing the last couple of summers but I have been enjoying it so far.”
Q: What is it that you’ve had to change in your off-season routine?
A: “I’ve really been working on my lower body, my strength in general. I think that’s what I need to work on a lot.”
Q: Do you look at the Oilers’ roster and say to yourself, ‘hey, there is a spot there for me?’ And on that same subject, what do you feel you to do, to make the jump to the NHL?
Q: “I want to play in the NHL next season. I know I have a lot of stuff to do to get there, and that’s what I’m here for, but I think every player is capable of thinking that he might be in that spot. So am I, and I am working towards it. I’ve always said, it’s getting stronger, getting faster and it’s the game away from the puck. That’s what it comes down to the most.”
Q: Enough about hockey. What about Germany laying claim to the World Cup?
A: “That’s awesome. For our country it’s a big thing, a huge deal. Soccer is the biggest thing in Germany. It was nuts (back home). I’ve seen tons of videos.”
OIL DROPS: Jean-Francois Houle will tutor the Oilers’ ECHL affiliate, replacing Troy Mann as the Bakersfield Condors’ head coach. Mann is the new head coach of the AHL’s Hershey Bears. Houle, the 39-year-old son of Rejean Houle, a former member of the Montreal Canadians, has spent the last four seasons coaching in the QMJHL (Lewiston and Blainville-Broisbriand), compiling a record of 174-101-12-18.
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