With no NHL players participating at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, Team Germany has constructed its roster with players from the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL), Swedish Hockey League (SHL), and Switzerland’s National League (NL). Even though they will be missing star players like Leon Draisaitl, Tim Stutzle, and Moritz Seider, Team Germany has its sights set on a medal after winning the silver at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The Germans will be in a tough spot having to face Canada, the United States, and China as part of Group A, but based on their roster and recent history, they will be pushing to finish in a top-two spot.
Their silver-medal finish may be seen as a fluke that is unlikely to be repeated, however, Germany’s stock only continued to rise following the 2018 Olympics. Under newly-appointed head coach Toni Soderholm, who took over for Marco Sturm after he left for a role with the Los Angeles Kings, Germany has seen success. They finished sixth at the 2019 Worlds in Bratislava and fourth at the 2021 Worlds in Riga, and their announced roster for the 2022 Olympics has several familiar faces. DEL’s EHC Red Bull Munich and Adler Mannheim are both well represented with five players from their team making the flight to Beijing, while four come from the 2021 DEL champion Eisbaren Berlin.
Returning for his second consecutive Olympics is Berlin’s forward Marcel Noebels. The 29-year-old is third in scoring in the DEL with 45 points (16 goals, 29 assists) in 39 games, one behind teammate Matthew White and two behind league leader Jason Akeson. Noebels, who was selected 118th overall at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers, has spent the last seven seasons with Eisbaren Berlin, and was the DEL’s Forward of the Year and Player of the Year in back-to-back years (2020, 2021).
Noebels brings a powerful offensive punch to Germany’s centre position. While he had a rather ordinary 2018 appearance with one goal in seven games, he’s been dynamic in the DEL this season and is close to setting career-highs statistically. Soderholm will likely lean on him for offense in the top-six, so he’ll need to be at his best if Germany wants to compete with the likes of Canada and the United States.
As one of just six Germans with NHL experience under his belt, Tom Kuhnhackl is the most prolific of the group. He played in five seasons, three with the Pittsburgh Penguins and two with the New York Islanders, amassing 54 points (18 goals, 36 assists) in 232 games. Kuhnhackl is a two-time Stanley Cup champion as a member of the 2016 and 2017 Penguins teams, collecting 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists) in 58 post-season games. Internationally, he has represented Team Germany on seven different occasions, most notably scoring the game-clinching goal in the last game of the 2016 Olympic qualifying tournament against Latvia, qualifying Germany for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Kuhnhackl is most known for his solid two-way play and effectiveness in all situations. A good skater with a hard release for a shot, Germany will be utilizing the 30-year-old veteran on both the power play and penalty kill. He can block shots, battle hard in corners, and has good vision to find an open teammate when he finds himself in a tough situation. His experience at the NHL level, gritty style of play, and championship mentality will be vital for Germany’s success.
This will mark the first Olympic Games for Kuhnhackl. As a member of the Penguins during the 2018 Olympics, Kuhnhackl was ineligible to play, however, he is now playing for Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). He’s played under Soderholm’s coaching, making him a dependable forward that can be counted on. Kuhnhackl will be Germany’s second-oldest forward, along with fellow 30-year-old Mattias Plachta and just behind 35-year-old Daniel Pietta.
Dominik Kahun finished the 2018 Olympics as Germany’s second-highest point producer with five points in seven games, just behind Patrick Hager’s seven-point run. The 26-year-old went undrafted at the NHL level but he appeared in three seasons with the Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, and Edmonton Oilers. Before his debut, 13-goal season with the Blackhawks, Kahun played three seasons with EHC München of the DEL, during the team’s run that saw them win three consecutive league championships. Kahun currently plays for SC Bern of NL in Switzerland and, in his first season in the league, leads his team in points with 38 points (12 goals, 26 assists) in 34 games.
The Czech-born German is more notable as a playmaker that can alternate between the centre and wing positions, making him a versatile forward that can move up and down the lineup. His agile style of play is one of the many reasons why Blackhawks management played Kahun with the likes of Jonathan Toews and Alex Debrincat during the 2018-19 preseason. He plays with the prototypical German style, never giving up on a play and imposing himself in every battle for a loose puck. Kahun will be an important piece to Germany’s top-six, possibly on their top line.
Kahun is one of just four players on Germany’s roster who is not currently playing in the DEL, and is the sole representative from the Swiss National League. With three players out of SHL, the DEL is well represented on Germany’s club, however, Kahun may just be one of Germany’s most important players. The team’s offense will ride on his shoulders, along with the likes of Noebels and Hager.
Lean Bergmann (Adler Mannheim- DEL), Yasin Ehliz (EHC München- DEL), Patrick Hager (EHC München- DEL), Dominik Kahun (SC Bern- NL), Nico Krämmer (Adler Mannheim- DEL), Tom Kuhnhackl (Skelleftea AIK- SHL), Stefan Loibl (Skelleftea AIK- SHL), Marcel Noebels (Eisbären Berlin- DEL), Leo Pföderl (Eisbären Berlin- DEL), Daniel Pietta (ERC Ingolstadt- DEL), Matthias Plachta (Adler Mannheim- DEL), Tobias Rieder (Växjö Lakers HC- SHL), Frederik Tiffels (EHC München- DEL), David Wolf (Adler Mannheim- DEL)
Germany’s blue line is a great mix of youth and experience, and nobody is as tested as 33-year-old Korbinian Holzer. Having spent eight seasons in the NHL, playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, and Nashville Predators, Holzer has established himself as a solid defensive defenseman. In the 2021 World Championship, he was paired with Seider and both were named to the World Championship All-Star Team. He was also named as a top-3 player of his team during that tournament. Two years removed from the NHL, Holzer has made stops in the KHL to play for Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, and his current stop in the DEL playing for Adler Mannheim.
His gritty style is exactly what Germany’s defense tries to establish itself as. He’s tough to play against, battles hard every shift, and he doesn’t shy away from physicality. Coach Soderholm will depend on his veteran presence to rub off on a defensive squad that is aged from 26 to 35, a slightly younger and more refreshed group compared to the one they iced in 2018.
In a likely scenario, Holzer will line up on Germany’s top pairing, but with who remains to be seen. With no NHL players eligible to participate, his 2021 World Championship partner in Seider is not an option but several candidates can step into that role and fill in quite nicely. The DEL has boasted a few exceptional defensemen this year, and with a well-coached system that only Germany can play, Holzer will be in good company.
If the name of Jonas Müller doesn’t ring a bell, that wouldn’t be too much of a surprise until recent memory. The 26-year-old defenseman has spent his entire career in Germany, including the last eight seasons with the Eisbären Berlin of the DEL. It wasn’t until 2018 when his name would be known around the world, shocking hockey fans with a stunning goal in the gold-medal game against Russia that would put Germany up 3-2 with four minutes remaining in the game. While the German squad would fall short, losing in overtime, the stunned look on the Russian bench as they trailed in a game against the heavy underdog German team is one we won’t soon forget.
Along with his silver medal, Müller was part of the 2020-21 DEL Champion Eisbären Berlin, and was a top-3 player on Team Germany at the U-20 World Junior Championship in 2015. Not known for his offensive prowess, only registering 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists) in 40 games with Berlin this season, his goal in the 2018 gold medal game was the only point he registered in that tournament. With the memories of coming so close still burned into his mind, Müller will be as hungry as ever and determined to aid the blue line as the youngest defenseman on the team.
Like many of the defensemen dressing for this year’s Olympics, Müller is dependable, solid defensively, and plays the body well. He’s positionally sound and has good gap control, which explains him being the third-most utilized player on Berlin’s team, where he averages 20:01 of ice time per game and is a plus-18.
Konrad Abeltshauser (EHC München- DEL), Dominik Bittner (Grizzlys Wolfsburg- DEL), Marcel Brandt (Straubing Tigers- DEL), Korbinian Holzer (Adler Mannheim- DEL), Jonas Müller (Eisbären Berlin- DEL), Moritz Müller (Kölner Haie- DEL), Marco Nowak (Düsseldorfer EG- DEL), Fabio Wagner (ERC Ingolstadt- DEL)
Germany’s goaltending doesn’t feature anyone with NHL experience, but that doesn’t seem to phase Matthias Niederberger very much. The 29-year-old goaltender had an exceptional run at the 2021 World Championship, starting seven of Germany’s ten games. He earned wins against Canada (3-1), Latvia (2-1), and Switzerland in the quarter-final shoot-out (4-3), eventually losing against Finland in the semi-final (2-1). His stellar play is one of the big reasons why Eisbären Berlin is at the top of the league, with Niederberger holding a 20-9-0 record.
Matthias Niederberger (Eisbären Berlin- DEL), Felix Brückmann (Adler Mannheim- DEL), Danny aus den Birken (EHC München- DEL)
Team Germany By the Numbers
While a majority of the players on Team Germany’s roster are inexperienced at the NHL level or North American hockey, they have ample experience in playing time at the international level and together as a unit in those competitions.
NHL Experience: 5 players (Tobias Rieder, Tom Kühnhackl, Korbinian Holzer, Dominik Kahun, Lean Bergmann, David Wolf)
AHL Experience: 11 Players (Tom Kühnhackl, Korbinian Holzer, Konrad Abeltshauser, Marcel Noebels, Tobias Rieder, Matthias Plachta, Lean Bergmann, David Wolf, Frederik Tiffels, Mathias Niederberger, Yasin Ehliz)
Olympic Experience: 11 Players (Patrick Hager, Dominik Kahun, Yasin Ehliz, Matthias Plachta, David Wolf, Marcel Noebels, Moritz Müller, Danny aus den Birken, Jonas Müller, Korbinian Holzer, Leo Pföderl)
World Cup Of Hockey Experience: 1 Player (Marcus Krüger)
IIHF World Championship Experience: 25 Players (Moritz Müller, Patrick Hager, Korbinian Holzer, Matthias Plachta, Marcel Noebels, Dominik Kahun, Yasin Ehliz, Tobias Rieder, Daniel Pietta, Frederik Tiffels, Jonas Müller, Nico Krämmer, Marco Nowak, Leo Pföderl, Stefan Loibl, Mathias Niederberger, Lean Bergmann, Tom Kühnhackl, Fabio Wagner, Konrad Abeltshauser, Danny aus den Birken, David Wolf, Marcel Brandt, Felix Brückmann, Dominik Bittner)
Germany has a strong team that should be able to replicate their 2018 success, but they’ll be tested early on as part of a group that includes the Canadian and American teams. As one can imagine, they’re constructed in a way that will play every team tough, won’t make any shift or play easy on the opposition, and will look to wear them down as the game progresses. Germany has options up front for some offense and their tightly-knit defensive mentality will make playing them something teams won’t be looking forward to. A medal finish isn’t out of the question, but whether that piece of hardware is colored gold, silver, or bronze is up for debate.
Covering the Nashville Predators. I work for a company called SPORTLOGiQ and have loved the game of Hockey for over three decades. I’m obsessed with advanced analytics and pair that with my love for the eye test – i.e. watching the games (I DO that too!)