BLOG: Draisaitl checks in from the European Player Media Tour
EDMONTON, AB – Bonjour, Leon.
The NHL European Player Media Tour took place in Paris this week ahead of the 2022-23 season, and the Edmonton Oilers forward and the German superstar Leon Draisaitl was among the players in attendance, showing their best faces for the league and posing in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Draisaitl attended a number of media meetings — including photos, videos and interviews — and discussed last season’s playoff run, battling injuries, German hockey and the Oilers’ hopes after Blue & Orange’s departure to the Stanley Growing Cup champion in last June’s Western Conference Finals against the Colorado Avalanche.
in a (n Interview on 32 Thoughts: The Podcast with Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman In Paris, the German addressed the pain he endured in the postseason after spraining his ankle in Game 6 of the opening round against the Los Angeles Kings.
“I really think I was very lucky,” he said. “I heard it pop right away because I fell backwards and my leg. If you look at it, you see my leg just stuck there. It’s been scary because I’ve been very lucky so far to stay healthy, so it was a big mental thing for me to find a way to still be productive.
“I’ve never really been injured in my career, knock wood, but I think it’s developed me as a player.”
The pain from pushing off with his right ankle limited his ability to accelerate and hit defenders wide, leading to him finding ways to contribute despite the illness by slowing the game and by inpatient areas operated from.
“The second I caught it in a game just stuck the toe or I flipped it in a general direction it doesn’t normally do anything, the pain would just shoot up my body and sap all my energy,” he said Draisaitl said. “So it was definitely painful. It was very painful. There was a lot of treatment, but like I said, there are a lot of people playing through injuries.”
The world’s best players, like the former winner of the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award 19-20, are finding ways to adapt. Despite the challenges presented by the injury, Draisaitl found the experience helpful in learning to find different ways to contribute and perform offensively.
“I liked it because I had to change my game,” he said. “It kind of showed me that I can kind of get better by doing almost less. I was very interested in this part of the game.
“When you’re healthy you try to do your best and you try to play at speed and you try to play fast. I didn’t have that with my game, so I tried to find a way to be productive in a different way. I thought I did pretty well.”
Draisaitl did more than that after picking up the injury, scoring two goals and recording a stellar 22 assists in the next 10 games, including an NHL-record three or more points in five straight playoff games. The Oilers defeated provincial rivals the Calgary Flames in five games during a hotly contested and emotional streak in which the German had two goals and 15 assists on an ankle.
“I think there’s definitely a bit more spice, especially when we finished one and two in our division,” Draisaitl said of the postseason’s Battle of Alberta. “Obviously there’s a history with both organizations, and there was a statistic that said it was the first time the Oilers and Flames had faced each other since 1990 or so.
“The media can blow it up very much. The fans and the media… you could feel it. There was just something in the air and I think these are just the funniest games. There was so much excitement for two weeks and there was so much going on. Every game was so hyped, so it was so much fun to be a part of.
The Oilers would lose in four games to the Avalanche, eventual Stanley Cup champions, in the Western Conference Finals, but many lessons were learned in the dressing room for this upcoming season and beyond as they attempted to beat the benchmark they had set to surpass last season.
“They were the best team in the league,” said Draisaitl. “They were better than us, no question. I think the series was a lot tighter than some people give us credit for. Aside from maybe Game 2, it really could have gone either way.”
Most of the time, to be the best, you have to beat the best, and the Oilers expect to have to find their way through the avalanche again to get closer to the Cup.
“A lot of teams look to the team that won last and try to pick little things out of what they’re doing,” he said. “Tampa was the same, but this is a really good hockey team. We want to get there. I think if we want to win the Stanley Cup we’ll have to go through them again at some point, so hopefully that’ll be next season.”
Draisaitl has been training with the Oilers’ new goaltender in Toronto this offseason Jack Campell and is expected to arrive in Edmonton on August 29, as per an Interview with NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen.
Earlier this month at Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer, head coach Jay Woodcroft said he expects Draisaitl to be healthy and ready to go to main camp in September.