Learning from big Leon

Vees forward Dakota Conroy learned more about creating offensive chances from former teammate Leon Draisaitl

EDMONTON OILERS forward Leon Draisaitl fends off Vancouver Canucks prospect Curtis Valk during the Canucks Young Stars Classic at the South Okanagan Events Centre. Draisaitl played with new Penticton Vees forward Dakota Conroy

EDMONTON OILERS forward Leon Draisaitl fends off Vancouver Canucks prospect Curtis Valk during the Canucks Young Stars Classic at the South Okanagan Events Centre. Draisaitl played with new Penticton Vees forward Dakota Conroy

Dakota Conroy, the Penticton Vees’ newest forward, comes with more  offensive smarts.

“I like to make plays. You get there with some skilled guys on your line and you’d be amazed at some of the plays that you can make, some of the goals that you can score,” said Conroy, who racked up a career-high 30 goals and 61 points last season for the Prince Albert Raiders playing with Leon Draisaitl, the Edmonton Oilers third overall pick last summer.

“He was the best player in the league. I kind of translated my game to kind of work around him,” said Conroy. “Try to find open ice. That guy can get the puck to anyone.”

Conroy learned more about playing in that area from Draisaitl, who got his first game action with the Oilers in Penticton during the Canucks Young Stars Classic in September.

“I definitely learned where the soft spots on the ice were,” he said. “I’m trying to translate that here. Just trying to get a shot off. I think you’ll notice more once in a while, I will get the puck a little high in the zone, at least I want it there.”

Playing alongside Draisaitl also helped Conroy better understand on how to work a power play. He said it was a great experience and with his former teammate being in the NHL now, it’s good for him knowing what it takes to get to the next level. His time with Draisaitl was one of the most memorable moments of his junior career.

“We’re still great friends to this day,” said Conroy. “During my break home I was hanging out with him. He just wants to see me do good as well.”

In his first game with the Vees, a 3-2 overtime win against the Merritt Centennials Nov. 21 at the South Okanagan Events Centre, Conroy played with Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Connor Chartier. Conroy didn’t collect a point, but he created chances and nearly scored early in the first period. Conroy said that first game in a month was good and there were some adjustments.

“I felt like the speed was there, finding open areas,” said Conroy. “We were just trying to figure out some chemistry. I figured we had a lot of good scoring opportunities and I think as the year goes on we get a little more comfortable with each other we will be able to contribute a lot more.”

Conroy found the back of the net twice in his second game, a 5-3 win in Merritt. His empty-netter secured the win.

Playing with Chartier and Zerter-Gossage, Conroy likes the line and loves Zerter-Gossage’s speed, especially down the middle where he said he lacks afterburners.

“I try to make up for it with some good anticipation,” said Conroy. “Just using his speed, getting over the blue line and letting him bring their D back, or give him the puck and let him burn them.”

Along with a crashing and banging style, Conroy hopes that he and his line mates will also display some finesse.

In the 5-3 win Saturday, the Vees lost forward Matt Serratore with a broken left leg for six to eight weeks. Serratore is fourth in Vees scoring with 13 goals and 23 points in 26 games. He set up Jack Ramsey’s goal in the first period. The Three V’s blog reported Serratore was injured in the second period when got tangled behind the Centennials net and fell awkwardly feet first into the boards.

Tyson Jost was the hero in their overtime win. Jost burned the Centennials with his speed and skill.

The 16-year-old blew past a Centennials defender and caught an incredibe saucer pass from Demico Hannoun as he reached the crease then lifted a backhand shot top shelf with Pupplo out of the net.

“I saw Nooner bust up the right wing. I thought I had a break to the net so he made a great saucer pass across the ice to me and the goalie had no chance because Nooner made such a great pass,” said Jost. “It was a great play by him and I had speed coming through the neutral zone. He read the play good so it worked out.

“I had a lot of speed coming through the neutral zone,” said Jost when asked if he thought he could get the puck. “They were just changing so I thought I had a chance.”

The Vees, now 22-3-0-1, remain third in the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings, with the Portage Terriers and Carleton Place Canadians in first and second, respectively.