As the clock ran out in their quarterfinal game against Team Slovakia, disappointment could be seen on Team Germany’s bench. With heads bowed down and shoulders hunched forward, a 4-0 loss spelled the end of their 2022 Olympic Winter Games. Given their silver medal run in 2018, the result four years later was nothing short of a disaster. With a roster that included ten returning players from their last Olympic lineup, expectations were high among the German group and their fans. Unfortunately, expectations were not met, and the German squad is heading home empty-handed.
Germany made history back in 2018, appearing in their first gold medal game and giving the Olympic Athletes from Russia a run for their money. They eventually squandered a lead in the third period and, mixed with some penalty troubles, lost the game in overtime. This time around, it was both Slovakia and Finland who made history. Slovakia defeated Sweden 4-0 to capture their first medal, while Finland edged out Russia 2-1 to claim their first gold medal.
Hockey fans are already acquainted with names like Leon Draisaitl, Tim Stützle, and Moritz Seider, the present and future of Germany’s greatest players of all time, but what about those who are in Europe? Here are three up-and-coming names currently playing in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, focusing on one forward, one defenseman, and one goaltender with the goal in mind to target players 21 and under.
Florian Elias, F (Adler Mannheim)
He may have gone undrafted at the NHL level in his second year of eligibility, but don’t underestimate how special a player Florian Elias has become. The small centre graduated to the DEL’s Adler Mannheim in the 2020-21 season, and he managed to put up 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) in 34 games as an 18-year-old, earning him the DEL Rookie of the Year. He finds himself in great company in that regard, as last year’s winner (Stützle) as well as the 2019 winner (Seider) are both in the NHL becoming star-caliber players at a rapid pace for their respective teams.
By the 2026 Olympic Winter Games, Elias will be 23 years old and at a good age to be considered for Team Germany’s roster. Despite his size (5-foot-8), he has a natural competitive edge to his game, and his competitive level is precisely what the Germans pride themselves on. He also has a hard, accurate shot paired with excellent vision, making him a solid candidate for one of the centre positions on the team. The one knock on his game is that he lacks the defensive awareness necessary for a centreman. However, Germany’s wingers tend to play a sound, defensive game and could mask any flaws in Elias’ game. Don’t consider him an absolute lock, but he’s someone that deserves consideration.
Eric Mik, D (Eisbären Berlin)
Back in 2020 at the World Junior Championship, defenseman Eric Mik was one of Germany’s best players. In the seven games he appeared in during the tournament, Mik registered one goal and one assist, and his defensive contributions did not go unnoticed. Positionally sound and always giving second and third efforts to aid his goaltenders and bailing them out on a few occasions, Mik played a big role in the team avoiding relegation against Team Kazakhstan.
Hendrik Hane, G (Düsseldorfer EG)
Goaltending has always been a strong suit for Germany, with names like Danny aus den Birken and Mathias Niederberger jumping to mind after their best efforts in the 2022 Olympics kept Germany in games. Hendrik Hane is another on that list. At just 21 years of age, he’s already begun his pedigree of accomplishments, earning the gold medal at the U20 Division-1A World Junior Championship in 2019, going 5-0-0 in the tournament while also being named the tournament’s best goaltender. The year prior, in the same tournament, although he played a passenger role for Germany, he still ended up with a bronze medal to his name.
While Germany’s showing in 2020 at the World Junior Championships was abysmal, Hane gave some of his best performances in the relegation round, where Germany defeated Kazakhstan in a best-of-three series. Winning two games to Kazakhstan’s one, Hane shut the opposition out in both of Germany’s wins, combining for 50 saves. It’s no surprise for fans who follow Hane’s DEL career, as his efforts for Düsseldorfer EG have earned him considerable amounts of praise in the last three seasons despite a cumulative record of 17-27-0.
The potential for a spot on Germany’s 2026 Olympic roster is there if aus den Birken is unavailable since he’ll be 41 years old by then. Brückmann will be 35 by then, and Niederberger will be 33, possibly opening up a spot in the third slot for a younger goaltender to come in and get some experience and exposure during a large-scale event like the Olympics. At 25 years of age, Hane would be a perfect candidate for that chance and his projection over the next four seasons in Germany place him in a good position to do so. For him, Mik, and Elias, the only thing that could serve as a threat to their chances is the return of NHL players to the Olympics. Otherwise, the sky is the limit for them, and only they can get in their own way.