CALGARY — When Leon Draisaitl steps on to the ice at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday, he’ll take a moment to let it all soak in.
Nearly 26 years after his father, Peter, competed for Germany at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, the younger Draisaitl will play for Team Orr in the 2014 CHL/NHL Top Prospects game.
“It’s definitely neat to play here in the same rink where my dad played,” said Draisaitl, who will be the game’s top-ranked player following the release of the NHL’s Central Scouting mid-term rankings Monday.
The six-foot-one, 209-pound forward was the second-ranked North American skater behind Sam Bennett of the Kingston Frontenacs. But Bennett won’t play due to a groin injury.
Draisaitl has 19 goals and 35 assists through 35 games with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders this season.
“For the good majority of the season, everyone that’s come in and scouted through the west has said he’s the best prospect in the Western Hockey League right now,” Central Scouting director Dan Marr said. “He comes from a hockey family.
“His father played in the German league at 18 years of age and played on three Olympic teams for Germany.”
Draisaitl credited his father for helping prepare him for the rigours of high-level hockey.
“He was huge for me,” said Leon, who was born in Cologne in ’95 while his father played for the Cologne Sharks. “He helped me out a lot in the big things and the little things.”
Draisaitl is one of six prospects whose father played pro hockey.
The others include Team Orr teammates Brendan Lemieux of the Barrie Colts and Brendan Perlini of the Niagara IceDogs. Team Cherry features Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice, Ryan MacInnis of the Kitchener Rangers and Daniel Audette of the Sherbrooke Phoenix.
“They all really got something from their dads or else they wouldn’t be here,” Draisaitl said. “It’s good to see.”
Lemieux’s father, Claude, won four Stanley Cups with three teams and also claimed the ’95 Conn Smythe Trophy while with the New Jersey Devils.
“I was really blessed to have a father in the NHL,” Lemieux said. “What it comes down to is the work ethic that the fathers instill on kids.
“They really show the kids if you want to do this you can.”
Perlini’s father, Fred, played just eight games with the Toronto Maple Leafs before a successful British Hockey League career.
“Obviously him playing in the NHL, he knows a lot of ins and outs of the game, which is definitely beneficial to my game,” said Perlini.
Brendan Perlini also deeply admired his grandfather, Fred Perlini Sr., who passed away Friday.
“He was definitely a big influence on my career,” he said.
Since Team Cherry coach Jim Peplinski played for the Toronto Marlboros during the 1979-80 season with Fred Perlini, he tried to convince Team Orr coach Tim Hunter to swing a deal so Brendan could play on Team Cherry.
“Jim played with Perlini’s dad and he wanted to trade for him,” said Hunter, who was an assistant captain with Peplinski when the Calgary Flames won the ’89 Stanley Cup. “I said for Sam Reinhart straight across but he didn’t go for that.”
Reinhart is looking forward to playing for his father, Paul, who’ll serve as one of Peplinski’s assistant coaches.
“It’ll be fun,” said Sam, whose father coached him and his older brothers, Griffin and Max, in West Vancouver, B.C., where the family settled after the elder Reinhart ended his NHL career with the Vancouver Canucks. “It goes back to minor hockey, so it’s exciting for us.”
MacInnis is also eagerly anticipating the opportunity to follow in his father Al’s skates and play on the Saddledome ice.
“He’s given me a lot of advice my entire life; he told me to play the game and have fun and play your best,” MacInnis said of his father, the ’89 Conn Smythe trophy winner with Calgary.
Audette would welcome having a career like his father, Donald, who scored 260 career NHL goals in 735 games with six different teams.
“It’s really fun he’s played here (at Saddledome) and I’m playing here now,” Audette said. “He just told me to work hard and play my game and do what I do best on the ice and that’s how I’m going to have success.”
It’s not surprising to Hunter and Peplinski that many of their former teammates and competitors have sons on the verge of being drafted into the NHL.
“That makes you feel a little bit old, but it’s really cool with the hockey lineage of fathers and sons playing, and sons of former NHLers having a pretty good chance to play in the NHL,” Hunter said.
Peplinski noted the prospects have plenty of work ahead of them if they hope to live up to their fathers’ success.
“If you focus on it and you know what you’re doing, you can rise up the ranks,” he said. “The next step is arguably tougher.”