The Edmonton Oilers drafted German forward Leon Draisaitl with the third overall selection in the 2014 NHL draft, the league announced:
Draisaitil went after Aaron Ekblad and Sam Reinhart with the first two picks in the draft. Draisaitl becomes the highest drafted German-born player in history.
For most of the draft process, the trio of Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart and Aaron Ekblad dominated the spotlight. Draisaitl did enough during his second campaign with the Prince Albert Raiders to push himself into that elite-prospect category.
The left winger, who's also capable of shifting to center, scored 105 points in 64 games. It was a nearly 50-point increase over his first season in the WHL. Known mostly as a playmaker, his 38 goals showed the continued development of his offensive game.
He has drawn comparisons to Joe Thornton and Anze Kopitar for his ability to create scoring chances for teammates. Chris Wescott of the Edmonton Oilers' official site passed along comments from the rising star about those links.
"I think I have a little bit of a mix of both in me," he said. "They're two unbelievable players, it's pretty hard to say who I can compare myself to."
Another player he has been compared to is Jaromir Jagr. If he has anywhere near the same type of career, both in terms of success and longevity, there's little doubt he'll be the best player to emerge from this year's draft class.
Adam Kimelman of NHL.com provided an assessment from Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald:
He's the best prospect I've seen from this draft class at protecting and handling the puck. He's very Jaromir Jagr-esque. He protects the puck, makes those button hooks and hits guys coming in late. He'll hold onto that puck until he sees the right play to make. He has a great wrist shot and good snap shot and can surprise a lot of goalies with it.
Between Thornton, Kopitar and Jagr, those are some high standards to live up to. That said, the early signs, highlighted by those terrific numbers with Prince Albert, point to a bright future.
The 18-year-old forward already possesses good size at a shade over six feet and 200 pounds. He should grow and fill out his frame in the years ahead, giving him a chance to turn into a power forward with a playmaking mindset, which is where the Jagr comparisons come in.
Draisaitl's vision on the ice is probably the one trait that sets him apart from his fellow top prospects. He has displayed an extremely high hockey IQ. He understands how to read the play, which is something that's very difficult to learn. His passing ability takes care of the rest.
Of course, there are still some areas where improvement will be necessary.
The biggest thing is learning to use his size effectively. He has reached this point because of his high-end skill, but at the NHL level, there's far less space and time on the puck. Draisaitl needs to bulk up and start using his size to win battles along the boards and in front of net.
Another area of focus will be in the defensive zone. He's merely average at coverage on the backcheck, but a lot of that comes down to putting in the effort on every shift. That's something the coaching staff will take him to task on.
All told, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Draisaitl is a natural playmaker who's starting to become equally adept at finding the net. If his development maintains its current rate, he should become a top-line forward within a handful of years.
The next question becomes how quickly they want to push him toward the NHL. Although skill-wise he's ready right now, giving him more time to work on those weaknesses before pushing him into a prime role in a year or two is the safe route.
Either way, it likely won't be long before Draisaitl is making a major impact.
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