Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Willkommen Leon!

Leon Driasatli
Translation? In German, the headline reads: Welcome Leon! The worst kept secret in the Western Hockey League has 'officially' been revealed. The Kelowna Rockets landed German born Leon Draisaitl after his CHL rights were traded to the Rockets by the Prince Albert Raiders. In return the Rockets surrender a first round bantam pick in 2015, forward Kris Schmidli and 18 year-old defenceman Dalton Yorke.
The Edmonton Oilers, who drafted Draisaitli third overall in this summers NHL draft, were  rumoured for weeks about potentially sending their top prospect down to junior hockey before the Oilers 40th game, but only if his rights were sent to a contending team. That contending team was/is the Kelowna Rockets. The Raiders, who drafted him in the CHL Import draft in 2011, had their hands tied in this deal to a certain extent. The Oilers had ultimate say on where they wanted to see Draisaitl play the remainder of this season. The best spot for his development, according to the Oilers, was right here in the Okanagan.
  • One man does not make a team, but Driasatli is a high end talent without question. At 17, the 6'1, 210 forward scored 21 times and collected 58 points. In his draft year, Draisaitl scored 38 goals and 105 points on a Raiders team that frankly wasn't very good. The Raiders just squeezed into the playoffs with a tie breaking game against Red Deer before being eliminated in four straight games to eventual WHL and Memorial Cup champion Edmonton Oil Kings. The Oilers, who's season ends against the Vancouver Canucks on April 11th, would like nothing better than Draisaitl helping the Rockets to a long playoff run and a potential shot at a birth in this May's Memorial Cup in Quebec City. 
  • The trading of Schmidli and Yorke is the 4th and 5th players on this years roster to be traded to the Raiders this season. Colton Heffley was moved in November followed by Jesse Lees and Austin Glover in a four player deal and draft picks on December 10th.
  • In some respects, the acquisition of Draisaitl is eerily similar of what happened on January 11, 2009 when Calgary Flames General Manager Darryl Sutter announced that Mikael Backlund would join the Rockets after completing his stint for Sweden at the World Junior Hockey Championship. The Flames first round pick from 2007 would play 28 regular season games with the Rockets, collecting 13 goals and 23 points in 19 games towards a Western Hockey League championship. Backlund had two-two goal games in the championship series against the regular season's best team - the Calgary Hitmen.   
  • While expectations are high following Draisaitl's return to the WHL, dominating after playing at the NHL level may not come easy, at least not right away. If you look back again at 2009, Mikael Backlund had a slow start in an effort to manufacture offense. Backlund didn't score a goal until his third game and had just three goals in his first 9 WHL contests. There was a stretch in February where Backlund didn't score in five games and wasn't the dominant force many had envisioned. The good news for Backlund and the Rockets was the then 19 year-old found his game in the playoffs and was a major contributor to the teams long playoff run. Where Draisaitl has the advantage over Backlund is he played major junior last season and is far more advanced in his understanding of the North American game. Backlund made his Kelowna Rockets debut on January 14, 2009 against the Tri City Americans. Draisaitli will make his debut on January 7th - at home - against the Vancouver Giants.
  • Draisaitl's father Peter played in the German professional first league for over 20 years and represented Germany at the Olympics three times and at seven World Championships.   
  •  Draisaitl scored his NHL goal for the Oilers against Carolina on October 14th against Anton Khudobin. It was the game winner. 
  • Draisaitl is the highest German born player ever picked in the NHL draft. 


Ralph Hass said...

I guess someone with German roots like me should be the first to comment, eh?

Remember Leon "The Neon" Bright on the BC Lions?
It looks like Leon Draisaitl likes that nickname too. Have a look:

~Ralph Hass

daryl said...

The Rockets gave up too much for what will likely be a five month player... Great for this year however!

g.k said...

I believe these moves to bring in Morrisey & Leon were needed to give us a legitimate chance at a Memorial Cup. We did give up alot for sure but in the past Bruce has stood pat & we can't seem to get it done in the playoffs when it counts!! If this is what we needed to get us a Cup great. If not then we gave up too much!! We still need another 20 year old, hopefully that spot can be filled by the weekend!!