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 this group’s last kick at the can, 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.
Florian Bugl (Straubing Tigers), Niklas Lunemann (Kölner Haie), Nikita Quapp (Eisbären Berlin)
Florian Bugl was one of 2021’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 will take on the starting role from the get-go. He was one of the best U20 goalies in Austria’s Alps Hockey League (AlpsHL) this season, putting up a .916 save percentage and 2.27 goals-against average over 20 games with the Red Bull Hockey Juniors.
Newcomer Nikita Quapp likely takes on the backup role, a 6-foot-3 19-year-old playing with the Krefeld Pinguine in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL). He was Germany’s starter at the 2021 U18 World Championship, 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 what they saw and used their 2021 sixth-round pick to select him. He’ll be ready to bail out Bugl if needed and has the potential to steal the show if given a chance.
Rounding out the trio is Niklas Lunemann, a 6-foot-3 20-year-old who played mainly in Germany’s U20 league and posted an impressive 1.91 goals-against average over 19 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 and likely won’t see any ice time.
Maximilian Glötzl (Kölner Haie), Maksymilian Szuber (EHC München), Luca Münzenberger (U. of Vermont), Adrian Klein (Straubing Tigers), Arkadiusz Dziambor (Adler Mannheim), Korbinian Geibel (Eisbären Berlin), Nils Elten (Iserlohn Roosters), Leon van der Linde (ESV Kaufbeuren)
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 to the U20s, and this year they’ll be Germany’s anchors on the blue line. Glötzl is an aggressive, physical defender with a bomb of a slapshot, while Szuber, a recent sixth-round selection of the Arizona Coyotes, possesses a more offensive skillset and was the highest-scoring U20 defenceman in 2020-21 in the AlpsHL. This season, he’s mainly been with the DEL’s EHC München, where he had seven points in 35 games.
Luca Münzenberger is the only other defender drafted to an NHL team – the Edmonton Oilers selected him in 2021 in the third round. He’s been playing with the University of Vermont this season, where he recorded three assists in 32 games, but scoring wasn’t ever 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 blue line will most likely come from Adrian Klein. Last season, the 6-foot-3 blueliner got off to an incredibly hot start in Germany’s second-tier league, the DEL2, putting up five points in just six games, but cooled off as the season progressed, scoring just one more point over his next 14 appearances. The other defencemen joining him are 20-year-olds Arkadiusz Dziambor and Korbinian Geibel, as well as 19-year-olds Leon van der Linde and Nils Elten.
With Glötzl, Szuber, and Münzenberger, Germany has a great top-end on their blue line with plenty of size and skill. They’re joined by a cohort of experienced players as 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 can shut down even the toughest opponents.
Alexander Blank (Krefeld Pinguine), Joshua Samanski (Augsberg Tigers), Markus Schweiger (ESV Kaufbeuren), Justin Volek (Augsberger Panther), Danjo Leonhardt (Nürnberg Ice Tigers), Maciej Rutkowski (Iserlohn Roosters), Bennet Rossmy (Eisbären Berlin), Josef Eham (Düsseldorfer EG), Thomas Heigel (RB Hockey Juniors), Nikolaus Heigl (RB Hockey Juniors), Ryan Del Monte (Barrie Colts), Luca Hauf (Edmonton Oil Kings), Håkon Hänelt (Gatineau Olympiques), Yannick Proske (Iserlohn Roosters)
Last year, the Germans had an incredible first line of Stützle, Peterka, and Florian Elias, who put up an incredible 29 points, combined. This year, that top unit is gone – Stutzle and Peterka are prepping for the 2022-23 NHL season, while Elias will remain in Germany after a disappointing showing at the cancelled 2022 World Juniors in December.
While the trio leaves big shoes to fill, the team is not without hope. 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 16 points in 48 games. He was nominated for 2021 DEL Rookie of the Year after scoring 13 points in 36 games, and although the award eventually went to Elias, he proved that he has the skill to take over the top line from him.
Joining Blank on the top unit will likely be Justin Volek, a longtime German team member, who will return to Edmonton with the U20 squad and will slot into the top six. He finished third in scoring among teenage players in the DEL with eight points in 50 games, tying fellow World Junior returnee Joshua Samanski, who has been one of Germany’s best goal-scorers in international competition. Danjo Leonhardt will be making his U20 debut this year after leading all U20 players in Austria’s ICEHL with 14 points in 40 games, and keep an eye on Josef Eham, who finished just inside the top-20 in league scoring in the AlpsHL with 17 goals and 42 points in 37 games.
The Germans will also have a strong Canadian contingent joining them this time around. Håkon Hänelt, a 2021 fifth-round pick of the Washington Capitals, had a short but impressive season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, scoring 10 points in 16 games. Over in Ontario, Ryan Del Monte started as a point-per-game player this season and finished with 21 points in 35 games. Finally, Luca Hauf, who was ranked 60th among European skaters for the 2022 NHL Draft but ended up going undrafted, will join the Edmonton Oil Kings next season. He was excellent at the 2022 U18 World Junior Championship, leading the team with three goals in four games, and was incredible at the German U20 level, scoring 14 points in just three games.
The biggest disappointment, however, is that the Germans will miss out on seeing Julian Lutz at the U20 level, as he was selected in the second round by the Arizona Coyotes at the 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 struggled with an injury last season that kept him out of all but four international games. After leading the U18 team with four points in four games, it’s possible that team Germany opted to give one of their best players a rest, much like the Austrians will do with Marco Kasper and Vinzenz Rohrer.
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 Sweden and the United States 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 Championship.
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