In a nation renowned for its soccer clubs and players, it seems that hockey is once again getting noticed in Germany and German players getting noticed in North America. Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers is arguably the best player in the National Hockey League. The German men’s team claimed silver at the most recent Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. And one of the most promising prospects in this year’s draft is Tim Stützle, currently of Adler Mannheim (Mannheim Eagles).
I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Leon Draisaitl is the best player in the National Hockey League and has been consistently over the past two or three seasons. He won the 2020 Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s MVP, the Art Ross Memorial Trophy as the league’s top scorer, and the Ted Lindsay Memorial Award as the best player as voted by the National Hockey League Players’ Association. His individual trophy cabinet rivals that of other current greats like Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, and teammate Connor McDavid.
Draisaitl’s 2019-20 season saw him pot 43 goals and 67 assists for a total of 110 points in a season cut short by the arrival of a global pandemic. In 2019, he scored 50 goals and tallied 55 assists for 105 points. In both of those seasons, he played with McDavid. Draisaitl’s Ted Lindsay Award win will be the metric used to judge his abilities — he was voted the best player in the league by his colleagues, players who are themselves the best players in the world.
The Silver Dagger
The 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang is known for a lot of things. It was the first Olympic Games since 1994 where NHL players were absent. It was the Olympic Games where the Russian athletes weren’t allowed to display the Russian flag, play the anthem, or use their colours. Perhaps more than anything else, though, it was the Olympic Games where the German men’s ice hockey team won a silver medal over Canada, a team that, despite the absence of NHL players, was still considered a favourite to win the gold medal.
The German team was the story of the Olympics, as they had missed out on the tournament entirely in 2014 and hadn’t won at the Olympics since Salt Lake City in 2002. It was a team sprinkled with current and former NHLers, including Marcel Goc, Christian Ehrhoff, and Dominik Kahun. It was also coached by former Boston Bruin Marco Sturm, who helped successfully lead them to wins over Norway, Switzerland, and Sweden. They also scored an upset victory over tourney favourites, Canada, before ultimately losing to the Olympic Athletes from Russia in overtime to claim the silver medal.
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The victory over Canada was so unexpected the German government issued a travel advisory for Germans in Canada, advising them to “hug a Canadian” while avoiding talk of the game at all costs.
The latest advancement in German hockey has been the development of prospect Tim Stützle, currently of Adler Mannheim. Elite Prospects ranks him as 8th overall for this year’s draft and describes him as a “slick stick-handler” and notes that he possesses the ability to power an offence. A great skater with speed and finesse, it’s said he can easily out-manoeuvre opponents and can deke with the best of them. TSN’s Bob McKenzie says that Stützle’s skating ability alone places him in a separate category from the other top prospects in the draft.
It looks as though whoever drafts Stützle will be well-set for many seasons to come. While German hockey historically hasn’t had many laurels to rest on, the recent successes on both the individual and team levels are contributing to an excellent beginning to its “Märchen” (fairytale).
Covering the Pittsburgh Penguins and other topics for The Hockey Writers. Also a big fan of the Chicago Cubs and progressive rock music.