Germany's national media pays close attention to the daily progress of Kelowna Rockets centre and Edmonton Oilers draft pick Leon Draisaitl.

Draisaitl: German hockey’s wunderkind

Kelowna Rockets newly-acquired centre gets plenty of attention from back home as the highest drafted German player in history

In his native Germany, Leon Draisaitl is often referred to in the national media as a ‘wunderkind.’

Translation: a person who achieves great success when relatively young; a child prodigy.

Draisaitl may be just 19, but the Edmonton Oilers’ prospect and newest member of the Kelowna Rockets has already achieved a level of stardom in Germany rivalling that of a national soccer star.

In a country where global hockey heroes are few and far between, he’s even been dubbed ‘The German Gretzky.’

It may sound like a lot of pressure for a teenager to endure—but so far, so good for Draisaitl who is driven by his desire to help boost the profile and popularity of hockey in his homeland.

“It’s not the biggest sport, but attention on hockey in Germany is getting bigger and better all the time,” said Draisaitl. “My goal is to help make hockey bigger in Germany and getting kids to play hockey instead of soccer or other sports. It’s a great game and I want it to grow there. I think so far it’s been good.”

Eight Germans have appeared in the NHL this season, including Draisaitl, Boston’s Dennis Seidenberg and Pittsburgh’s Christian Ehrhoff.

If Draisaitl gets his wish, those numbers will steadily increase in the years to come, while Germany’s national program also grows stronger.

Based on his bloodlines, it’s not entirely surprising that Draisaitl is carrying so much of Germany’s hockey pride on his shoulders. His dad, Peter Draisaitl, is one of the country’s best known players ever, having starred for Germany in the 1988, 1992 and 1998 Olympics.

So it would seem Leon’s skill and passion for the game were both preordained.

“My dad played for over 25 years, it’s something that’s always been in the family, even my grandpa played hockey, so I’ve always been around it,” said Draisaitl. “It’s something I always wanted to do from a young age and follow them.”

A native of Germany and a keen observer of sports there, Kelowna’s Dirk Stroda has been tracking Draisaitl’s rise to prominence in his home country over the last couple of years.

Stroda, who grew up in Dusseldorf—40 kilometres from Draisaitl’s hometown of Cologne—is a mental coach and has worked with many world-class athletes over the years.

Stroda said Germany’s largest online source of sports news, Sport1.de, reports on Draisaitl’s every move, most recently posting a story on his first goal as a Kelowna Rocket on Wednesday night.

This summer, Draisaitl was drafted third overall in the NHL draft by the Edmonton Oilers, the highest a German-born player has ever been selected.

According to Stroda, it was a national event of major proportions.

“When he was drafted it was a very big announcement in Germany,” said Stroda, the High Performance Mental Coach for Equine Canada. “It had never happened before that a player went anywhere near that high. We have a long history in Germany with Canadian hockey players going there to play, so to have a German going the other way to the NHL with that much attention was a really big deal.

“Every hockey fan in Germany knows him,” added Stroda. “Everybody is proud of this young man and is hoping he brings greater potential to Germany’s national teams.”

On Saturday, as Draisaitl prepares for his Kelowna Rockets to host the Medicine Hat Tigers, a major hockey event will be taking place back in his home country.

In Dusseldorf, more than 50,000 fans are expected for an open-air game between Dusseldorf EG and the Cologne Sharks, the second such hockey spectacle in the country’s history.

Draisaitl, for one, is thrilled with the concept.

“This will be great for hockey in Germany,” he said. “I think the outdoor event is a great event and it’s going to draw in a lot of people.”

 

Just Posted

Kelowna mayoral candidate’s sign set aflame

Bobby Kennedy’s sign was set on fire on Saturday morning

TEDxKelowna looks to inspire Kelowna

The event will showcase ideas that transcend sectors and generations

Long awaited second power line in West Kelowna postponed

The power line was set to be completed in 2020 and will now be installed in 2025

Cops for Kids cyclists return home

After cycling 1,000 kilometres they have completed their 10 day journey

Sunshine ahead for Kelowna

Your weekly forecast shows that the sun will shine again on Tuesday

Meet the Chef: Kai Koroll, executive chef at Block One restaurant

Koroll honours the terroir of the Okanagan in every dish he serves

B.C. students send books to displaced students of Hornby Island school fire

Maple Ridge elementary school teacher says students learned about acts of kindness

Trans Canada now open west of Chase, ‘heavy delays’

Few details available about crash that closed Trans Canada Highway west of Chase Sunday, Sept. 23

Oliver to get new sheriff from graduating class

Oliver will be one of a number of B.C. communities to get a member of the recent graduating class

Trump drains oxygen from Trudeau foreign policy with PM, Freeland bound for UN

A lot has changed since the Liberals came to power in Canada in 2015

B.C. man fined $15,000, barred from trading securities for fraud

Larry Keith Davis used money from an investor to pay personal bills

Emergency crews investigate small sulphuric acid spill in Kootenays

IRM states a small volume of less than one cup and three dime-sized drips were leaked from carrier

Family, friends of B.C murder victim want killer sent back to max security facility

Group wants convicted murderer Walter Ramsay sent back to a maximum security facility

Most Read