Team Europe had its third and final World Cup pre-tournament game Wednesday afternoon, and it’s safe to say that Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl is ready for the tournament to get underway.
Having been held off the scoresheet in consecutive losses to Team North America, Draisaitl used the tilt between Europe and Sweden to have his breakout game and show that the thrown-together European squad can actually make some noise at the tournament. Draisaitl netted a hat trick with goals in the first, second and third period, but it was his tally in the middle frame that really brought fans out of their seats.
After a pass from Nino Niederreiter bounced over Draisaitl’s stick, he timed the puck’s bounce off the boards and the pursuit of Mattias Ekholm and reached out to poke the puck around the Swedish defenseman. With the puck past Ekholm, Draisaitl jumped around the check, got to the loose puck in time and chipped the puck past netminder Henrik Lundqvist:
Draisaitl’s trio of tallies alone would have been enough to give the European squad the victory — they skated to a 6-2 win — and, in a sense, his hat trick was the difference. Matter of fact, the beautiful second goal stood as the game winner as it was Europe’s third of the night.
That Draisaitl had such a solid outing ahead of the tournament, and against a team as good as the Swedes, is promising for the Oilers this coming season.
When Draisaitl stayed in the NHL for the first half of the 2014-15 campaign, the hope was that he’d be an instant contributor as a rookie. Instead, he struggled, and it took until about the second month of the past season before he really found his legs in the NHL. During November and Decemeber, Draisaitl netted six goals and 26 points — more than half of his point total.
If Draisaitl is ready to go out of the gates, though, there’s a good chance he can start fast and improve on his 19-goal, 51-point season in his third season in the league.
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