Andreas Athanasiou is in the middle of quite a different training camp. The last time the speedy sniper appeared in a camp, it was in September with the Detroit Red Wings. Almost everyone knew the Wings were rebuilding and not in position to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Now? Athanasiou is suiting up next to the Art Ross Trophy winner and preparing to play playoff hockey for just the second time in his young career.
“He is a world class player, definitely one of the best,” Athanasiou said about Leon Draisaitl, his new center in camp. “I think just being around him every day you kind of see why, you see how he controls the play when he has the puck on his stick, it’s real smooth and real calm.”
Draisaitl led the NHL in scoring with 110 points, winning his first Art Ross Trophy. He and right winger Kailer Yamamoto formed a dangerous duo in the season’s second half. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the left winger on that line in the regular season, but he’s shifted up to play with Connor McDavid and Zack Kassian.
That gives Athanasiou a terrific opportunity in the Qualifying Round. Athanasiou scored 30 goals during the 2018-19 season, but had just 12 in 55 total games between the Oilers and Red Wings in 2019-20.
Draisaitl could be the playmaking center the Woodbridge, Ontario native is looking for.
“He just finds a way to find that open man and obviously his scoring touch is up there with the best,” Athanasiou continued. “He’s got an unbelievable skill-set, all-around, and it’s a lot of fun to play with and watch.”
Athanasiou, who only played nine games with the Oilers and never really settled onto one line, isn’t worried about shifting again to play with Draisaitl and Yamamoto. In fact, having an entire camp to adjust can only help him.
“I think anytime you can build chem it’s a positive and I think it helps a lot,” Athanasiou said when asked if he’s hoping to stick on one line. “There’s a lot of good guys in this room, a lot of great players so its your job to build chemistry with all of them as quick as possible and just be ready to play with whoever you are playing with.”