THIS WEEK @RWW - 2/24/04
DRAPER A WORLD CUP PROSPECT
By Linley Wartenberg
When the short list of prospects for the 2004 World Cup of Hockey came out recently in Toronto, it couldn't have been a complete surprise that Kris Draper's name was on it.
After all, the 32-year-old center has already posted career highs in goals and points this season, and is a top candidate for the Selke trophy as the league's best defensive forward.
Its a big thrill, to be thrown into the mix of all those great players, Draper said. It's such a prestigious tournament, its pretty neat to be considered.
Obviously, he knows he's having a terrific season and had heard some rumors about the World Cup team, but he had no idea he was under serious consideration until his father called him to congratulate him.
When my dad phone me, I had a big smile on my face, Draper said. It's exciting just to be in that mix right now.
Draper might be considered a long shot for the World Cup tournament, but he's no stranger to international competition. He's amassed three gold medals representing Canada so far in his career.
I was 18 years old, Draper recalled of his first international competition. The tournament was in Finland.
He and his Canadian teammates took home the gold medal in the 1990 World Junior championship that year the same tournament that the U.S. won this season and repeated the following year in Saskatoon.
Last spring, he, along with Kirk Maltby and Mathieu Dandenault, earned a gold medal for Canada in the World Championships.
Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill was the director of player personnel for that team, and this year he's not only general manager of Canada's World Championship team, but is helping management team member Wayne Gretzky select the World Cup team.
Nill was instrumental in bringing the three Red Wings to the World Championships last season. The way Draper has played the first half of the season, Nill might be convincing Team Canada to allow Draper to represent the country at yet another level of international play.
Anytime you get a chance to represent you country, it's great, Draper said. I've done it at the junior level, I've done it at the World Championship level. To do it at the World Cup level would be something that would be very special.
It's an honor to represent your country, Draper explains, and even if you're playing with people who you've previously skated against, that unites teammates quickly.
Real fast, he emphasizes. That's what's good about this game. I hadn't met a lot of the guys over there (at the World Championships). They were the guys I've had some pretty good battles with, some pretty intense battles.
All of a sudden, he, Maltby and Dandenault were standing beside their NHL enemies, rooming with them and hanging out with them during the three weeks of the tournament.
A lot of people didn't know Malts and myself, the way we play -- and especially the way Malts plays -- there's a lot of guys who were probably just shaking their heads that we were going to be there their teammate and they'd have to hang out with us for three weeks, Draper explains. But you realize you have something in common with these guys.
The Canadian team came together quickly, on and off the ice.
Once you get to know them, the team got a long really well. I think that's a big reason why we were bale to win the tournament, Draper said. Something like that, you really have to come together real fast. You need the guys getting along the well off the ice. I think that carries onto the ice.
Now, Draper has three gold medals from international competition, and has a bond with his fellow Canadians from the tournament, even though the NHL competitiveness has returned.
Everyone put something aside to make sure that we won, and I think whenever you win with guys, you create a certain bond, he said. Now you go out and you lay the guys, you smile at each other, but yet you still going to compete and play hard.
He's welcome the opportunity to represent Canada on an even bigger stage, but it's not something he's going to dwell on this season. He'll just continue to play the same game he always has for Detroit.
Just going to continue to do what I do and maybe Ill be fortunate enough for something to work out for me, he said. It's pretty neat to be thrown in that list and it would be something special to get selected to be able to represent my country in a tournament like that.