At the age of 24, Leon Draisaitl was voted the best player in the NHL. No German has managed that before him. Almost everyone in North America knows him – but he is largely unknown in his homeland. There are striking parallels to basketball icon Dirk Nowitzki.
What in football Skin is is in ice hockey Wayne Gretzky – a legend of the sport. “The Great One”. The greatest of all time. Even at the age of 60, the Canadian is revered in North America like hardly any other sportsperson, and in terms of popularity plays in a league Michael Jordan or Tom Brady.
When Gretzky speaks, they listen carefully. This was also the case on Monday evening when the former superstar announced the Most Valuable Player (MVP), the best player of the NHL season. The result was a novelty, because with the 24-year-old Leon Draisaitl from the Edmonton Oilers For the first time a German won the Hart Memorial Trophy.
Award of historical dimension
And although the honor is due to the Corona-Pandemie was only made virtually, the son of the former national player Peter Draisaitl could clearly see the emotional impact of the decision. “It’s really exciting. It’s a big thing for me,” he said, describing his emotional world shortly after Gretzky, a childhood idol, pronounced his name. After basketball superstar Dirk Nowitzki, Draisaitl is only the second German to play in one of the major North American sports leagues NHL, NBA (Basketball), NFL (Football) and MLB (Baseball) was voted Most Valuable Player.
Leon Draisaitl (2nd from left) is also an integral part of the German national team. He has been part of the DEB team since 2014. (Source: Peter Schatz / imago images)
The native of Cologne now has it in black and white that he is a superstar in his sport. But like Nowitzki at the beginning of his career, Draisaitl is only known to those interested in sports in Germany. The broad mass of the population does not know his name. And that’s not the only parallel: “Dirk is someone I look up to. Someone I admire. The way he presents himself and how he has achieved everything there is for a professional athlete to achieve in North America,” so Draisaitl. That is why he declared a few years ago that his goal was to become a kind of “Dirk Nowitzki of ice hockey”.
Performance explosion in the preseason
He has now taken the first step towards this. And that’s because – like Nowitzki – he works hard and consistently on himself and is continuously developing. A few years ago, however, very few observers expected a coup like this one.
Although the native of Cologne found his way in the NHL comparatively quickly after his debut in October 2014, Draisaitl shone more as a template provider than a goalscorer. With 51, 77 and 70 scorer points (addition of goals and assists, editor’s note) between 2016 and 2018, he was considered an upper-class international striker. A player like Germany has probably never had – but not a superstar.
But then a performance explosion followed: In 2018/19 the man with the jersey number 29 scored 50 goals and 55 assists and was fourth in the league; this season he finally crowned himself the best point collector in the NHL with 110 points (43 goals, 67 assists) after the corona-related cancellation of the regular season. By the way, Nowitzki never succeeded in his 21 NBA years.
What makes Draisaitl and Nowitzki different
Nevertheless, there is one fundamental thing that separates Draisaitl and Nowitzki in sport – a title. Nowitzki won this 2011 completely unexpectedly with his Dallas Mavericksjoked afterwards Barack Obama im White house and caused a long unseen basketball enthusiasm in Germany. He became a global ambassador and at that time probably the only German world sports star. Draisaitl and his Edmonton Oilers are still a long way from that.
In the qualifying round for the play-offs, the Canadians failed due to outsiders Chicago Blackhawks. And although Draisaitl and Captain Connor McDavid always offer something spectacular on the offensive, there is hardly any improvement in sight. Because defensively, the Oilers have a number of weaknesses.
Leon Draisaitl also cuts a fine figure in football. Born in Cologne, he is a fan of 1. FC Köln. (Source: Peter Schatz / imago images)
Draisaitl’s title hunger
Despite everything, Draisaitl has a big goal. “What’s missing is a championship. That’s what it’s all about. That’s the most important thing,” he said a few months ago, and after receiving the MVP award, he affirmed: “It’s a nice personal award for me. But there is nothing that says it the Stanley Cup comes. “
But there is still a long way to go before then. But if the young German continues his career at this speed, the title will be more than a dream. Especially since he is already ahead in one category compared to Nowitzki: He only won the MVP trophy when he was almost 29 years old. Nowitzki was 33 when he won the title in 2011. So Draisaitl still has some time to catch up with his idol and finally become the “Nowitzki of ice hockey”.