Not many players in the 2020 draft class have had the rise to the top that Tim Stützle has had.
Currently mocked in the top five by practically every outlet there is that covers the sport, Stützle has combined playing in the DEL and good showings on the international stage into becoming one of the premier players in his age group in the world.
A Mentoring Hand
A native of Viersen, Germany, a lot of things have fallen in place for Stützle at the right time. Playing on the top line for Adler Mannheim in the DEL, he was paired with former NHLer Ben Smith and Finnish veteran Tommi Huhtala – two guys who have been around the block and know how things work.
Stützle said in an interview with the BTS Hockey Podcast back in January that those two were key in helping him to achieve what he has.
“Playing with guys like Ben Smith and Tommi Huhtala helps me to get better every day. That’s a big thing that has helped me out. It’s great for me.”
Smith and Huhtala go through workouts with him side by side and even drive him to school, seeing that he wasn’t old enough this past year in Germany to drive (18 years old is the required age). (From ‘Top 2020 NHL draft prospect Tim Stützle leads Germany’s next generation with ‘superstar’ upside’, The AthleticNHL– 1/5/20).
This only helped him to adjust to the league and everything that would come with it.
Playing in the DEL
Stützle’s year in the DEL was nothing short of sensational for a player at the age of 17 turning 18. He scored 34 points in 41 games for Mannheim, while playing a significant role on the power play and getting minutes on the top line for the team.
He said that playing against players who were older and stronger than him was where he noticed the biggest difference and where the most growth was made. This helped to mold him into the player that you now see.
“Training and playing against men every day is much harder than playing against players who are my age. Competing every day against those guys who have played in the NHL already or played a long time here in the men’s league is nice.”
Stützle scored five points when he represented Germany in the Czech Republic in this past year’s U-20 World Junior Championships. This just continued his steep upward trajectory towards the top of the draft.
However, he said he was just focused on helping his team do the best that they could.
“I thought we played well against the big nations and surprised some people. After the win against the Czech Republic, we thought we could have made the quarterfinals, but that didn’t happen. We just want to focus on next year and it’s great to be in the top division again.”
With his good performances representing his home country, it vaulted him to the top of the draft, thanks to his elite skating, great playmaking skills and poise on the ice. Now projected to go top three-to-five in the draft, he does admit that he is doing his best to be picked early, but that he doesn’t have a strong preference for which team he will be chosen by.
“My goal is to get picked as high as possible in the draft. I give myself credit for sure for working as hard as possible every day. It’s a great honor for us to represent Germany in the draft, and we really enjoy that. It’s just an honor for me to be drafted, and I really don’t care which team it’s going to be.”
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Former Mannheim defenseman Moritz Seider was drafted number six overall in last year’s draft to the Detroit Red Wings, and Stützle said that he went to Seider for some advice on how to approach the draft.
“I’m good friends with Moritz, he’s a great guy and a great player. I talked to him about the experience and how it was great for him and his family. I think it’s nice for him, and I hope he’s going to make the NHL.”
With the draft comes interviews, and with interviews comes a lesson in speaking a different language than he is accustomed to speaking. Saying all this, Stützle is taking it all in stride.
“I try to speak the best English I can,” Stützle said with a laugh. “It’s a bit hard for me, but I talk to the guys in the dressing room in English too. It’s getting easier. Talking to the media helps me out a lot. I really enjoy doing interviews or talking to guys. It’s nice for me. I play with two imports, so I need to speak English. With the German guys, I speak German, but we have guys who can only speak English, so that’s what I do.”
Stützle said he looks up to two players and watches how they both approach the game of hockey. He said that he also realizes that hard work will always outweigh the talent that you might possess.
“Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. I learned a lot from how hard they worked when they were younger. Talent isn’t the only thing you need to have. You need to have good work ethic and not just talent. When you get older, more than talent is important. You need to work hard every day to reach your goals.”
Despite all of the attention and fanfare surrounding Stützle’s progress and game, he just insists that he wants to play hockey.
“I love the game. I love to play hockey and be around the guys. I love to train hard. I want to be with my team and achieve great things. It’s great to be a hockey player.”
Stützle has a chance to make an impact wherever he goes because of all of the things that have been mentioned above, but one thing that cannot be measured is love for your craft.