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It was 1:15 a.m. in Cologne, Germany and Leon Draisaitl sat in a plain white t-shirt in front of his laptop computer instead of wearing a tuxedo onstage in a glitz and glamour environment on stage in Las Vegas.
He’d just received the Ted Lindsay Award from Mark Messier and the Hart Trophy from Wayne Gretzky in virtual presentations with no trophy in sight at either end.
There was no photo op of the German superstar surrounded by the Lindsay, the Hart and the Art Ross Trophies like Oilers legends Gretzky, Messier and most recently teammate Connor McDavid had posed for on previous occasions.
Leading the NHL in points with 110 in the coronavirus pandemic-shortened season, Draisaitl — who had at least one point in 56 of 71 games including 33 miltiple-point games — had already captured the Art Ross Trophy.
While it was a slick enough production there couldn’t help but be an, “is that all there is?” feel to it, especially when Draisaitl pointed out his parents were in bed sleeping.
The whole thing had been taped earlier in the day and Draisaitl had to stay up until the show had run prior to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final last night in Edmonton.
Offered the opening question on the Zoom call that followed, I decided that was as good of a place as any to start by asking him if it took anything away from his accomplishment?
“At the end of the day, it’s still the same meaning behind it. It means the same thing for me but it obviously would have been nice to share it a little more with my family and actually have the awards happening.
“But these are obviously weird times for everyone so I’m just as happy about this.”
I suggested he’d have to win it again, then.
“There are a lot of different players out there so it’ll be hard to win it again. I’ll definitely try,” he said, adding that McDavid will always be up there and likely Nathan MacKinnon of Colorado as well. Draisaitl was a finalist for both awards against MacKinnon and Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers.
“I think that’s kind of the nature of all of us athletes. We try to do it all over again every season. That’s the mindset. And I think that’s what every player strives to do.”
Draisaitl said the reality of the moment when he was informed he’d won was the same for both the NHLPA most outstanding award voted by the players and the NHL most valuable player voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
“It’s obviously very exciting and it’s a big deal for me. At the same time, I know there’s so many people who helped me get to this point and there are so many people I have to thank — family, friends, coaching staff that trusted me my teammates most important and the fans. There are so many people that played such a big role. From my side, it’s a huge thank you for all those people.”
In addition to Messier and Gretzky presenting the awards to the 24-year-old Draisaitl, it was an all-Oilers legend roster involved in announcing and doing the honours with the other major awards.
Gretzky presented the Calder for rookie of the year to Calgary-developed Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche who was a finalist against Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks and Dominik Kubalik of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Oilers Hall of Fame goaltender Grant Fuhr presented the Vezina Trophy to Winnipeg Jets netminder Connor Hellebucyk who defeated Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Stanley Cup finalist Tampa Bay Lightning and Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins.
Oilers legend Paul Coffey had the honour of presenting to Norris Trophy winner Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators who beat out Victor Hedman of Tampa Bay and John Carlson of the Washington Capitals.
But obviously Draisaitl and his presenters stole the show.
“It means a lot,” he said of having Messier and Gretzky presenting to him to make the occasion memorable even if it wasn’t on stage in Las Vegas surrounded by the other stars of the sport, past and present.
“They’re obviously superstars and legends of the game, especially with the connection to Edmonton, getting to meet them and being around them. It means a lot. It’s special. They’ve won I don’t know how many of those awards. I’m sure they know what I’m feeling like right now.
“It’s a big deal and a great day.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020