There has never been a better time for German hockey. Not only did the team finish sixth overall at last year’s World Junior Championship, their highest record since the country unified in 1990, but the nation is producing some of the best players in the world. Tim Stützle and Moritz Seider are the most recent ones to break into the NHL, joining Leon Draisaitl, while Dominik Bokk, John Peterka, and Lukas Reichel are well on their way.
However, while German hockey is in a great place, the German U20 team heading to Edmonton later this month isn’t in as great of shape. Gone are the dynamic trio of Stützle, Reichel, and Peterka, and though Florian Elias remains after breaking out last year, he’ll have a difficult time finding similar supporting linemates. The group rivalled the best offensive players in the world, with their top three point-getters combining for the third-highest total of any nation at the 2021 tournament. There are top prospects coming up, but the nation’s top draft-eligible prospect, Julian Lutz, is also not expected to attend due to an injury that’s kept him out of most of the 2021-22 season already.
But don’t for a second think that the Germans won’t be able to put the fear into their opponents. This is a team that has established itself as hard-working, and plays an in-your-face grinding style. They won’t back down to anyone, no matter the odds or the talent differential. So, without further ado, here are the players looking to make this year’s roster.
Germany’s Forwards Are Underratedly Skilled
As previously mentioned, Reichel and Peterka will not be returning this year as they have opted to remain in North America after talking with the Deutscher Eishockey-Bund (DEB). Although the Germans will miss them, it’s hard not to see why they wanted to stay put. The pair are two of the hottest players in the American Hockey League (AHL) and have a great opportunity to get an NHL call-up in the future. So far, Reichel has seven goals and 12 points in 15 games to lead the Rockford IceHogs, while Peterka has 18 points in 17 games for the Rochester Americans, which is second in scoring only to Jack Quinn.
That leaves Elias to pick up much of the slack, but the 19-year-old center is more than capable of handling the extra responsibility. Last year, he was often one of the best players on the ice, using his awareness to steal pucks and create excellent scoring opportunities for his teammates. He hasn’t been quite as productive this season in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL), scoring just four points in 19 games compared to eight points in 34 games in 2020-21, but that shouldn’t change the fact that he brings high-end offence to a German team much in need of firepower.
Although there are no big names supporting Elias, thankfully there are a few players who will help out. Jakub Borzecki, Joshua Samanski, Markus Schweiger, and Justin Volek are all eligible to return from last year’s team, and have been doing well thus far on the German U20 national team this season. The four all sit in the top-six in team scoring, with Samanski and Volek’s four points each leading the way after three appearances. Samanski in particular may be familiar to some North Americans as the big forward played for the Ontario Hockey League’s Owen Sound Attack back in 2019-20.
Alexander Blank will also bring a scoring punch to the top six. He’s currently the highest scoring U20 player in the DEL, and it’s not all that close; in 26 games, he’s put up 10 points, which is double Samanski, who sits in second place with four goals and five points in 22 games. His 0.38 points-per-game puts him on track to post one of the best seasons of a U20 player in the league outside of Reichel, Peterka, or Stützle.
Germany’s bottom-six is more difficult to predict, but being that they were the smallest team last year in terms of average height, it’s possible that they try to make up some ground by bringing bigger forwards. That opens up a spot for 6-foot-3 Bennet Rossmy, who took advantage of an opening with the Eisbären Berlin after the departure of Reichel. 6-foot, 192-pound Josef Eham is also a good option and has been one of the best players in the Alps Hockey League in Austria, scoring 27 points in 25 games. Eham’s teammate, Danjo Leonhardt, also deserves a long look. He’s not the biggest player at 5-foot-11, but he has no feat getting in front of the net to score a greasy goal.
However, it will be difficult to ignore the 5-foot-9 Yannik Burghart after scoring 14 goals in 12 games in the German U20 league this season. Noah Dunham is another sub-6-foot forward that deserves a long look, as he has been the best U20 player in Germany’s second-tier league, DEL2. The same goes for Maciej Rutkowski with his two goals in three games with the U20 national team plus another four points in the DEL. Adding them will likely make the Germans one of the smallest teams once again, but that hasn’t been an issue before. The 5-foot-8 Elias enters the tournament arguably as Germany’s best player, so look for coach Tobias Abstreiter to give opportunities based on merit and not simply whether they fit a typical hockey frame.
Germany’s Defence Headlined by Size and Experience
Germany will have three defenders returning to Edmonton in Maximilian Glötzl, Luca Münzenberger, and Maksymilian Szuber, and all three will be expected to play big parts for their team. Münzenberger is arguably the most talented of the three, given that he was selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the third round of the 2021 NHL Draft. He’s a solid defensive defender and has been plying his trade with the University of Vermont this season, playing 14 games and registering two assists. But don’t sleep on Glötzl, who’s been described as Germany’s biggest defensive talent since Seider thanks to his excellent all-around game.
Joining them will be a host of 19-year-olds, giving the Germans a fairly capable corps of defenders. Arkadiusz Dziambor, aside from having one of the coolest names at the tournament, has played the fourth-most DEL games of any U20 player with 25 appearances for Adler Mannheim. Fabrizio Pilu is just behind him with 23 games with the Nürnberg Ice Tigers while also scoring five assists, which ranks second in the league for U20 players.
Tim Sezemsky and Korbinian Geibel haven’t spent as much time in the DEL, but they’ve done very well while playing in the DEL 2, both putting up four assists for their respective teams. Geibel is the more offensively gifted of the pair, as it only took him six games to hit his four points as opposed to Sezemsky’s 18, but the latter brings a stronger defensive presence and, at 6-foot-3, some additional size that the Germans are lacking.
Adrian Klein is the youngest defenceman of the group at 18 years old, but he has a chance to make a big impact. At 6-foot-3 and 205-pounds, he’s the biggest player on the team and stacks up well to the more powerful players from Finland, Slovakia, and Canada, which have in the past given Germany some trouble. But he also has experience playing in both of Germany’s top leagues as well as the U20 national team this season. Although he was held pointless in his 10 games with the DEL’s Straubing Tigers, he went on a tear in the DEL2, scoring five points in just four games. A big, all-around defender will allow the German’s forwards more freedom in the offensive end and hopefully result in a stolen win or two.
Bugl, Tiefensee Give Germany Reliable Options in Net
The Germans have two goalies returning this year in Arno Tiefensee and Florian Bugl. Tiefensee started the 2021 tournament and had the unfortunate duty of facing the Canadians and Fins in the first two games, which went about as good as expected. It didn’t help that much of the team was under quarantine to start the tournament, including Bugl, who was given the start once he returned to the active roster. Maybe that was what he needed, though, as he secured two crucial wins over Slovakia and Switzerland and allowed just two goals against the Russians in the quarterfinal. He was named one of Germany’s top three players at the tournament and likely starts for the Germans this year.
However, there’s one newcomer who may push for the starting job if given the chance. Nikita Quapp has had a great 2021-22 season so far, starting with the Carolina Hurricanes selecting him in the sixth round of the 2021 Draft. He then went on to join the DEL’s Krefeld Pinguine, where he’s started seven games – the only U20 goalie to do so this season. His numbers are solid, too, as he’s sitting at a 0.897 save percentage and a 3.29 goals-against average. If the Germans stumble out of the gate again, he may be given the opportunity to start, and although he doesn’t have the international experience the others do, he has the skill to steal some games for Germany.
Germany Once Again is a Playoff Darkhorse
Without Reichel or Peterka, Germany is taking no chances this year. Of the 27 players included on their preliminary roster, only four of them are 18 years old; the rest are 19-year-old’s with plenty of international experience and a desire to see Germany remain in the top group. And, if we’ve learned anything from their past three World Junior appearances, then we know that you can never underestimate the Germans. They work hard, no matter the odds, and this year will be no different, as Abstreiter returns behind the bench for his third World Junior tournament.
“We have put together a good squad. A third of the team has already had the experience of the last World Cup, which will be very important for us.”Head Coach Tobias Abstreiter
The biggest issue will be scoring, with few players showing high-end numbers like previous stars who came before them. Blank and Elias bring the most reliable offensive punch to the roster, but if players like Burghart, Eham, and Heigel can find their rhythm, the Germans could be surprisingly difficult to contain. Size will also be a bit of a concern, but with the likes of Klein, Rossmy, Szuber, and Sezemsky, they’ll have more than enough big guys who can create space for their smaller forwards to fly. While it still won’t be an easy tournament, the Germans have more than enough experience and tenacity to be a dark horse come to the playoff round and could potentially steal a series win, much like Switzerland in previous years.
Here is THW’s final prediction for who makes the final 23-man roster for the Germans.
Goaltenders – Florian Bugl, Arno Tiefensee, Nikita Quapp
Defensemen – Maximilian Glötzl, Luca Münzenberger, Maksymilian Szuber, Fabrizio Pilu, Adrian Klein, Arkadiusz Dziambor, Korbinian Geibel
Forwards – Florian Elias, Alexander Blank, Jakub Borzecki, Joshua Samanski, Markus Schweiger, Justin Volek, Noah Dunham, Danjo Leonhardt, Maciej Rutkowski, Bennet Rossmy, Yannik Burghart, Josef Eham, Thomas Heigel
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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.