On Friday afternoon, Edmonton Oilers forward, Leon Draisaitl, jumped on a quick conference call with league reporters to talk about winning the Art Ross Trophy for the 2019-20 season, the 24-team playoff format, his friendship with Alphonso Davies and a whole lot more.
Earlier this week, Leon Draisaitl collected the NHL’s 2019-20 Art Ross Trophy after leading the league with 110 points, but when asked about it, the former 3rd overall from 2014 was about as humble as you’d expect.
“I’m proud of it. It’s obviously a cool story for myself, no question. I’ve been lucky enough to have some great teammates, some great linemates over the last two years that have really made me a better player and pushed me to become an offensively dangerous player. You dream of doing these things but until you do it, it seems very far away. But we’re a team and it is a team sport. You don’t do anything like this by yourself.”
Before the NHL shut down on March 12th as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Draisaitl was firmly in the running for the Hart Trophy, which is awarded to the league’s most valuable player. Now that he’s got an Art Ross under his belt, could he win the award as the league’s MVP as well?
“I don’t really pay too much attention to the Hart Trophy race, to be honest with you. Of course, it would be a big honour, it would be great to win it or even come close to even being in the race. We’ll find out soon enough whatever the decision is. Either way, I’ll be proud of myself.”
Seeing Draisaitl answer questions humbly is nothing new to Oilers fans, so when the questions turned towards the team, #29 sees plenty of potential from a group that has grown together over the past few years.
“It’s been great to stick with the same guys and see them grow and watch the team grow. It’s definitely been fun to be a part of and I think that we still have a lot of upside as a team. It’s been great to do that with essentially the same guys you started with.”
Rather than focusing on himself, Draisaitl was much more willing to look ahead at the potential play-in series versus the Chicago Blackhawks provided that the National Hockey League can safely get back on the ice later in the summer.
“It’s a team with a lot of experience still. They’ve won, they have that experience of how to win hockey games, playoff series. I think it’ll be a good matchup, a good series, and we’re looking to obviously win that.”
In terms of getting back into game shape, Draisaitl admitted that it will take some time to get there, but since everyone is basically in the same boat, every team will be forced to get to work.
“It definitely takes a while. Hockey, in general, is a sport that takes maybe a little longer than other sports to get into your coordination, your cardio, that kind of stuff, your timing. It takes a little while. But I think the NHL will give us enough time to get ready and get back into it and get our feet wet. At the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat, right? Every team has the same circumstance pretty much. I guess you could say it’s pretty fair.”
Changing gears entirely, Draisaitl spoke about his budding friendship with Alphonso Davies, a local soccer product that’s catching fire in the German league. So how did the pair meet?
“He came in the dressing room before the game or at the morning skate. I talked to him for a little while and we stay in contact here and there.”
Despite the differences in location and sport, Draisaitl explained that the two catch up from time to time, and even spoke on the phone earlier in the day before he started this Zoom call.
“He’s becoming a very, very good player. It’s obviously fun to watch, fun to see. I kind of know what he’s going through right now with soccer being so big back home and hockey being so big in Canada, and coming over and trying to adjust, find your rhythm, find your game, find your life … but I think he’s doing a great job. He doesn’t need advice from me.”
Draisaitl has been following the German soccer league, Bundesliga, where Davies stars for first-place Bayern Munich after the league was able to resume player earlier this month following a two-month hiatus caused by COVID-19. So what has he learned the way the Bundesliga is operating?
“I think they’ve done a good job of making it safe for everyone in Germany in the Bundesliga. They’ve done a very professional job making it as close as possible to a normal game day or a normal format, which obviously is impossible without fans, without all that kid of that, but I think they’ve done a great job.”
Here’s hoping NHL fans will get the same opportunity to watch the sport they love a little bit later in the summer. Fingers crossed.
THE FULL INTERVIEW
If you’re interested in watching the entire discussion, Draisaitl spoke for just over 25 minutes so there was plenty that I didn’t transcribe for this recap, but the whole call still worth the time if you have it.