2014 NHL Draft Profile: Leon Draisaitl, the German Gretzky?
Team: Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Hometown: Cologne, Germany
Projected: Top 10
Leon Draisaitl is a versatile center with size, speed, and tenacity. He can function as both a playmaker, because of his superior passing, and a power forward, because of his size and speed. He also brings a strong shot with a quick release. His most important asset, however, is his vision. All of these characteristics combine into a very solid and exciting prospect with tremendous upside.
Currently, Draisaitl is rounding out the top five of the draft rankings but he has had a drop in play recently, which put him behind Dal Colle. If this trend continues, he could fall even farther. Either way, Draisaitl is a very solid player who has already fully developed physically and should have a bright future ahead of him.
Oddly enough, Draisaitl has drawn comparisons to Wayne Gretzky and, although this is very, very, far fetched, I can see why people might compare their playing style. They both are do-it-all players who use their vision very well to support deft touch passing and to maximize their scoring chances. Who knows, maybe he can one day be the German Gretzky...
"He plays a big, power forward-style of game," Central Scouting's B.J. Macdonald said. "He goes to the net and the opposition has a hard time stopping him from getting there. He's a big presence in front of the goal and skates well with deceptive speed. He can shoot the puck and overpower goalies with it. I like his style and attitude; he has a lot of upside"
"Draisaitl is a well-rounded player, with an array of effective tools. At 6'2" and 198 pounds, he already has the size and strength to compete at a professional level. He has not yet developed an advanced physical game, but he shows a good willingness to play the body both while forechecking and on defense. He also has the balance necessary to absorb a hit and still maintain possession, and he uses his body and his stick to shield the puck from defenders. He has an active stick in the defensive zone, though most of the time he has been shifted to the wing in his own end while McNeil handled the more rigorous defensive responsibilities down low.
When Draisaitl has the puck, he attacks. He looks comfortable rushing the puck up ice, and shows a determination to carry the puck into the offensive zone to create chances. He drives the net with a purpose, and shows a good ability to change speeds while puck handling and he uses his balance and agility to get around defenders while maintaining possession even in heavy traffic. He has a hard, accurate wrist shot and likes to set up in the high slot on the power-play. Draisaitl did not rely on the power-play for his scoring, though. In fact, only two of his 21 goals were scored with the man advantage, which also helped to contribute to his team-best plus-22 rating.
What really sets him apart from the field is his vision and passing. Draisaitl, even at full speed or heavily pressured, consistently finds open linemates and makes accurate passes with perfect weight."
Draisaitl is regarded as one of the top prospects of the 2014 draft class born outside of North America. He has elicited several comparisons to current and former NHL stars, including The Great One.
"A lot of people want me to do very good," says Draisaitl. "But I'm not (Wayne) Gretzky or anyone like that. I'm just going to work hard and continue to grow."
The Gretzky comparison brings the term farfetched to a completely new level. However, the 16-year-old did post stats in German junior leagues that are Gretzky-like numbers. He scored 97 goals and 192 points in 29 games for Mannheimer under-16 in 2010-11, followed by netting 21 goals and 56 points in 35 games for Jungadler Mannheim under-18. Sure, the leagues he played in weren't on par with North America's best junior leagues. But still, he scored 248 freakin' points in just 64 games. That's impressive in a beer league, let alone the best junior leagues Germany has to offer.
Where He Would Fit
Draisaitl would be a welcomed addition on every team in the league, but especially the Nashville Predators. His willingness to go into the dirty areas, along with his goal-scoring and playmaking abilities makes him an especially desirable player for Nashville, a franchise that prefers forwards who play within the team concept in the offensive zone but also needs an upgrade in talent.
Because Draisaitl can play both center and left wing and because of his versatility as a player, the Predators would have no trouble finding a place for him on their team. If he becomes an NHL center, the Predators would probably benefit more but they also do not have a sure-fire top six left wing other than Colin Wilson, who might end up at the center position anyway.