When it comes to the World Junior Championships, Germany has usually been a bubble team. From 2000 to 2015, they were in and out of the top division every other year, so it was no surprise when they returned to the tournament in 2020, despite a five-year absence, as the 10th team. But that team proved it was here to stay after defeating Kazakhstan in the relegation series. They were a young roster filled with stars, but more importantly, most of the lineup had played together since the 2019 U18s, bringing with them team chemistry that was practically unheard of from the bigger nations. It was a new wave of German talent, and the world was not prepared for how hard and well they worked together.
In 2022 many of those players are reaching the end of their junior eligibility, while others, like Tim Stützle, John Peterka, and Lukas Reichel, have gone on to ply their trade in the NHL and American Hockey League. It’s the last kick at the can for this group, and they’ve made the most of it, finishing sixth in last year’s tournament, the highest finish ever for a German U20 team. But it’s also a welcoming party to a new wave of German talent that seeks to reach new heights never seen before. Under head coach Tobias Abstreiter, who’s led the team since their return in 2020, the Germans will once again be a tough competitor at the World Juniors.
Bugl Takes Over as Germany’s Starter
Florian Bugl (EC Salzberg), Niklas Lunemann (Kölner Junghaie U20), Nikita Quapp (Krefeld Pinguine)
Florian Bugl was one of last year’s best underdog stories, starting the tournament in quarantine and then returning to bail out Arno Tiefensee after a tough loss to the Canadians, winning his next two games against Slovakia and Switzerland and putting Germany in a playoff spot. When it came time to take on the powerful Russians in the quarterfinals, he got the nod and turned away 17 of 19 shots en route to a tough 2-1 loss. This year, the undrafted prospect takes on the starting role from the get-go. He’s been one of the best U20 goalies playing in Austria’s Alps Hockey League (AlpsHL) this season, putting up a 0.908 save percentage and 2.59 goals-against average with the RB Hockey Juniors.
Rather than bring back Tiefensee, the Germans instead opted for newcomer Nikita Quapp, a 6-foot-3 18-year-old playing with the Krefeld Pinguine in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL). He was Germany’s starter in the U18 World Championship last year, and although they were greatly outmatched, he kept his team in games they had no business being in, using his size and vision to cut down shooter’s angles. While he still has some technical work to do, the Carolina Hurricanes liked enough of what they saw and used their sixth-round pick last spring to select him. He’ll push Bugl like he did to Tiefensee last year and has the potential to steal the show if given the right chance.
Joining them is as their third-string option is Niklas Lunemann, a 6-foot-3 19-year-old playing in Germany’s U20 league, posting an impressive 1.97 goals-against average over 15 games. With his limited international experience – this is his first appearance on a national team since 2019-20, where he played one game at a U18 tournament – he’ll slot into the third-string option.
Trio of Returnees Lead the German Blueline
Maximilian Glötzl (EC Bad Nauheim), Maksymilian Szuber (SC Riessersee), Luca Münzenberger (U. of Vermont), Fabrizio Pilu (Bayreuth Tigers), Adrian Klein (EV Landshut), Arkadiusz Dziambor (Adler Mannheim), Korbinian Geibel (Eisbären Berlin), Justus Böttner (Black Dragons Erfurt)
There may not be two players who have played together more at this year’s tournament than Maximilian Glötzl and Maksymilian Szuber. Since 2017-18, the pair has appeared on every national team together, from the U16s all the way to the U20s, and this year they’ll be Germany’s anchors on the blueline. Glötzl is an aggressive, physical defender with a bomb of a slapshot, while Szuber possesses a more offensive skillset and was the highest-scoring U20 defenceman last year in the AlpsHL. This season, he’s mainly been with the DEL’s EHC München, where he has one goal in 16 games.
Luca Münzenberger is the only skater who’s been drafted to an NHL team – the Edmonton Oilers selected him last year in the third round. He’s been playing with the University of Vermont this season, where he has two assists in 15 games, but offence isn’t his specialty. When asked who he thought his skill set lined up best with, he said, “I would probably compare myself a little bit to Darnell Nurse…I think he’s an all-around great player, and I could see myself being in that spot in a couple of years with that focus on the defensive end and then if there’s a possibility to join the offence, I think that’s my style of play.”
Offensive support from the blueline will most likely come from Fabrizio Pilu, who’s been one of the best U20 point-producers in the DEL this season despite playing on a weaker Nürnberg Ice Tigers team. Adrian Klein will also be able to chip in some points, as the 6-foot-3 has been one of the best offensive defenders since arriving in Germany’s second-tier league, the DEL2, putting up five points in just six games. Only one U20 player has a higher point-per-game rate than him heading into the World Juniors.
With Glötzl, Szuber, and Münzenberger, Germany has a great top-end on their blueline with plenty of size and skill. They’re joined by a cohort of experienced players; every other defender is 19 years old apart from Klein, who is the lone 18-year-old. While that doesn’t set them up well for next year, that’s 2023’s problem. This team is built for success now, and they have the ability to shut down even the toughest opponents.
Elias Gives Germany a Top Offensive Talent
Florian Elias (Adler Mannheim), Alexander Blank (Krefeld Pinguine), Jakub Borzecki (RB Hockey Juniors), Joshua Samanski (EV Landshut), Markus Schweiger (ESV Kaufbeuren), Justin Volek (Löwen Frankfurt), Noah Dunham (Heilbronner Falken), Danjo Leonhardt (EC Salzberg), Maciej Rutkowski (Krefelder EV 1981 U20), Bennet Rossmy (Eisbären Berlin), Yannik Burghart (ESV Kaufbeuren), Josef Eham (RB Hockey Juniors), Thomas Heigel (EC Riessersee), Jussi Petersen (ESC Dresden II)
Last year, the Germans had an incredible first line of Stützle, Peterka, and Elias, who put up an incredible 29 points, combined. Only Elias is returning to Edmonton, this time with a ‘C’ stitched on his sweater. He’s a dynamic offensive forward with great speed, and is producing well in his second season in the DEL. Currently, he has four points in 21 games with Adler Mannheim. However, there is some concern that without Stützle, he may have a tougher time finding space against deeper teams. With such a creative center at his side, Elias was able to cruise to the net easily. This year, that space won’t come nearly as easy.
But that’s not to say Elias won’t have any support. Justin Volek and Jakub Borzecki, longtime German team members, return to Edmonton with the U20 squad and will slot into the top-six. Volek sits third in scoring among U20 players in the DEL with five points in 28 games, which ties fellow returnee Joshua Samanski, who has been one of the most productive U20 players this season for Germany. Likewise, Borzecki sits third in Austria’s ICEHL with seven points in 25 games, tied with EC Salzburg teammate Danjo Leonhardt, who will be making his U20 debut this year. And keep an eye on Josef Eham, who sits just on the outside of the top-10 in league scoring in the AlpsHL with 11 goals and 29 points in 27 games.
One of the most intriguing options the Germans have for the top-six is Alexander Blank. The 19-year-old is a relative newcomer to the international circuit as he made his German team debut just last year, appearing in two international games and going pointless in those contests. But he’s hit another gear this season, leading all U20 players in the DEL with three goals and 10 points in 28 games; only Samanski has more markers, sitting with four goals so far. Last year, he was nominated for DEL Rookie of the Year, which ended up going to Elias. If given a significant role, he could be one of Germany’s secret weapons.
On the defensive side, 6-foot-3 Bennet Rossmy has no problem playing a physical, heavy-hitting game. He served as the captain on the U18 team last year, and has since made his DEL debut, playing 21 games with the Eisbären Berlin. He also leads all DEL2 U20 players in penalty minutes with 14 in 11 games. Jussi Petersen is another tough customer who also brings some scoring punch, standing at 6-foot-0 and currently playing in the DEL2, where he has two goals and an assist in 19 games.
The biggest disappointment, however, is that the Germans will miss out on seeing Julian Lutz at the U20 level. He’s been ranked as a fringe first-round pick for the upcoming 2022 NHL Draft. He’s a big, powerful forward who can skate like the wind and is set to be Germany’s next big hockey star, but an injury has kept him out of all but four international games this season. Had he been healthy, the 17-year-old almost certainly would have been a lock for the team.
After a strong finish to the 2021 tournament, everyone will be curious how the Germans fair this year without their biggest stars since Leon Draisaitl. It won’t be easy – Germany is in a pool with Canada, Finland, and the Czech Republic, all of whom will bring their A-games with top-tier junior players. But there’s a reason Germany has stuck around the top division for three years now. Despite not possessing the depth of other nations, they are a cohesive unit, having played double or triple the number of international tournaments together compared to other nations. On top of that, they never back down from a challenge, whether the score is 2-1 or 20-1. The Germans have proven they can’t be underestimated, and they’ll once again be a team to watch at the 2022 World Junior Championships.
All Your THW 2022 World Junior Championship Coverage
An elementary teacher by day and an avid hockey fan, Dayton joined The Hockey Writers in 2019 and currently covers the Ottawa Senators, World Juniors, and NHL Entry Draft.