2014 NHL Draft Preview: Germany prospects overshadowed by countryman competing in WHL

By Chapin Landvogt

Marc Michaelis - Team Germany

Photo: Mannheim forward and 2014 prospect Marc Michaelis represented Germany at the 2013 U18 World Championship but did not compete internationally in the 2013-14 season (courtesy of ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

The 2013-14 season was one that had little excitement on the German front with respect to prospects with NHL ambitions, ultimately ending with a U18 World Championship tournament where Germany retained class retention with two victories over Denmark in the relegation round.

At the U18 WC in Finland, Germany featured a team that consisted almost entirely of players from its own DNL junior league, the top circuit in the country. The team’s most interesting player of note at the tournament was Maximilian Kammerer, a 2015-eligible draft prospect who had a quiet first season for the Regina Pats of the WHL. Still, several other players did show an ability to come through when it mattered most and improved game for game, which is something that is of great interest to the scouting community in general, especially clubs in the USHL and NAHL, where a number of young German skaters have ended up in recent years.

All in all, this year’s draft class of German-born players features very few prospects of interest to NHL teams at this juncture, none of which are goalies. Of the true first-time draft eligibles, not one of them is ranked amongst the top 100 skaters in Europe. As is often the case for countries that are hard to get a read on and traditionally produce fewer talents, a spring-ending U18 tournament usually goes a long way in helping the scouting community make decisions on that country’s draft class. This spring’s German performance did little to change the expected draft positions of draft-eligible Germans, but the year was hardly a lost one on the German front.

Here's a look at the top five German prospects out of Germany entering the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia, PA, USA on June 27-28.

1. Marc Michaelis – F – Shoots: Left – 5’10”, 165 lbs.
CSS European Rank – #103
Jan 22nd, 1995

Small in stature and a top six forward on the 2013 U18 entry in Sochi, Marc was one of the older players in the DNL this year and was bringing with him two full years of DNL experience.

Playing for champion Mannheim, the creative forward with above-average on-ice vision was expected to take on a leading role for his team and didn’t disappoint. A purely offensive weapon for this league, he put up 28 goals, 65 points, 22 penalty minutes, and a +40 rating in 36 regular season games. This was then topped off by another three goals, seven points, and +5 rating in seven playoff games. As nice as those numbers are, and they did suffice in helping his program win the championship, he did have 14 assists and 16 points in seven playoff games the spring before. Nonetheless, his offensive dominance and role on the league’s best team did not go unnoticed and he was named DNL Player of the Year at the end of the season.

Michaelis made no international appearances for Germany this winter and it is uncertain where exactly he’ll play next fall. But he’s a studious young man and, although the opportunity was there, he did not lace up the skates for a pro club at any juncture of the season. He has his eyes set on heading to North America and is keeping his options open for going the college route after a year or two of NAHL or USHL hockey, much like has been the case with Frederik Tiffels.

2. Stefan Loibl – F – Shoots: Left – 6'0" 173 lbs.
CSS European Rank – #104
Jun 24th, 1996

A player who really arrived firmly on the German scene this year is the continually growing Stefan Loibl.

A kid with some strong offensive instincts and impressive on-ice vision, Loibl only spent six games with his DNL club in Landshut (three goals, four assists, +4 rating) before finding himself entrenched on the men’s team in the country’s second highest pro league, the DEL2, where he took a regular shift on a lower line. His ability to adjust so well to play with men earned him more and more ice time in a grinder’s role, and by the time the U18 tournament came around, it was clear that this had helped his game immensely. After only having scored five goals and 10 points in 56 total regular season and playoff games with Landshut (the same organization that Tobias Rieder and Tom Kuhnhackl hail from), Loibl managed to pick things up offensively at the U18 tournament, collecting two goals and four points in six games, including the all-important class retention game winner in the second and final victory over Denmark.

Nonetheless, Germany had a real rough go of things at the U18 and Loibl was no exception, going -11 over the course of the tournament. Still quite lanky and obviously needing to fill out, what he did show at the tournament was some confidence and slick, tricky play in the offensive zone against tough competition. He clearly made some of the nicest passes seen from a German player at the tournament and created more chances than anyone else on the team. It will be interesting to see where Loibl's path will take him next season, as he is scheduled to either play with the Straubing Tigers in the DEL or the Kaufbeueren Jokers in the DEL2. Any opportunity to head to North America may alter that scheduling.

3. Andreas Eder – F – Shoots: Right – 6'2" 196 lbs.
CSS European Rank – #104
May 31, 1995

Eder was one of the most impressive players for Germany at the 2013 U18 in Sochi and this grabbed some international attention. Not long after that he was drafted by the Vancouver Giants and headed over to Canada to play in the WHL. After two goals, three points, and a -5 there in 19 games, Eder broke ties with the club and headed back to Germany, spending the majority of the rest of the season with his hometown Bad Tolz club. Things just hadn’t worked out for Eder in Canada and he felt he was neither completely ready for what he encountered and at the same time wasn’t necessarily brought in for the type of role he had expected.

Back home, things went better and Eder found himself getting a good portion of ice time. For the organization’s DNL club, he put up five goals and 10 points in 11 games. For the men’s team, which plays in the country’s third highest level, he put up four goals and nine points in 31 games.

He captained this year’s edition of the U18 squad and did his part offensively, putting up three goals, six points, and a +2 rating in six games. There was no Draisaitl or Kahun to lean on , so Eder’s club had to take its share of bruises on the way to maintaining the class. A meat-and-potatoes player, Eder can gain a good head of steam and has no problem playing a rough-and-tumble game. With decent size, an aggressive game, and a very lethal wrist shot, Andreas does have some solid long-term potential, but will have to be challenged much more in the near future, as he’d be doing himself no favors by sticking in the current league.

4. David Trinkberger – D – Shoots: Left – 6'4" 198 lbs.
CSS European Rank – #123
Aug 25th, 1996

A big boy who likes to use his size to his advantage, Trinkberger enjoys playing a rough game and using his body to block shots. He has a pretty good read of attacking forwards and is most effective when he plays with a “take no prisoners” attitude. He’s also shown the ability to make a fine first pass to start a rush.

Trinkberger's season back in Germany went fairly well with slow but steady improvement in all facets of his game. Coming from the talent factory of Landshut, he put up four goals and 13 points in 32 DNL games. His size and play earned him some attention from the national program and he went about making the U18 team. At the U18 tournament, the increase in his confidence was quite visible and he found himself getting more and more ice time from Coach Jim Setters. Despite some rough shifts against competition he certainly wasn’t used to facing in the first few games, Trinkberger settled down and solidified his play in all three zones, contributing heavily to Germany’s ability to avoid relegation. There he collected two assists and a -5 rating.

He may not be drafted by an NHL club this weekend, but Trinkberger was already drafted by the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL, so it would almost seem likely that he’ll head overseas for the 2014-15 season.

5. Fabio Pfohl – F – Shoots: Left – 5'11" 187 lbs.
CSS European Rank #124
Oct 8th, 1995

Originally a Bavarian native, Pfohl has spent the past few years playing in the Ruhr Valley after being picked up by the Dusseldorf DNL club for the 2011-12 season. He played for Germany at the U18 in 2013 in Sochi and even contributed two assists while keeping an even +/- rating.

This season, Pfohl joined the Cologne Sharks organization and was scheduled to perhaps be a key figure for their DNL club. In seven games, he did have eight assists and also contributed another two goals and four points in two playoff games, but his path would take him to the third league Duisburg Foxes for most of the season, one of the better addresses at that level. There he put up a total of 12 goals and 37 points in 33 games, fairly impressive totals playing primarily against men.

Pfohl enjoys playing a fairly chippy game, but is looking to continue improving as an offense-first forward. He is currently scheduled to suit up for Duisburg again next season.

Across the Pond

As lackluster as the front is in Germany itself, this is still one of the most interesting drafts ever in the eyes of the German ice hockey community as in all likelihood, German-born and raised Leon Draisaitl will be a top 10, if not top five, draft pick this at the 2014 NHL Draft.

A North American prospect who spent the past two seasons in the WHL with the Prince Albert Raiders, he’s had a season like none have ever seen of a German player, gathering 105 points in 64 WHL games. He represented and helped Germany maintain their class at the WJC in Malmo and later played for the men’s national team at the World Championship in Minsk, Belarus, where he didn’t look half bad in collecting a goal and four points in seven games. His rise the past two seasons has been truly unique and fans nationwide are watching carefully as the hope is that’ll he’ll one day be the Dirk Nowitzki of German ice hockey.

Also worth denoting is goaltender Kevin Reich. Following the 2014 WJC, he jumped ship from Munich’s affiliate in Salzburg, which plays in the MHL, and joined the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL. There he put up a 10-7-3 record while establishing a mild 3.02 goals-against average and .897 save percentage. Still, his performance there opened some eyes as CSS currently has him ranked fifth amongst North American goalies.

Former Mannheim Adler player Parker Tuomie was looking like a player to watch entering this season, but decided to join the NAHL in preparation for a college career. He ended up scoring 24 goals and 49 points in 49 games for the Wenatchee Wild and chances are that any NHL future the smaller forward may have will have to come after a full tenure in an NCAA program.

Overage Germans in North America may still be of interest to a few clubs. Draisaitl’s long time partner in Mannheim and internationally, Dominik Kahun, had a less than convincing year for the Sudbury Wolves, only getting nine goals and 31 points in 43 games, but was very impressive at the 2014 WJC, where he had four goals and seven points in being the key cog to Germany remaining in the event’s top group.

Also important at that tournament was Frederik Tiffels, who is heading to Western Michigan University next fall. This year was spent with three USHL clubs, but things finally clicked for the shifty winger once he landed in Cedar Rapids. There he put up nine goals, 27 points, and a +14 rating in 31 games. He had four goals, 10 points, and a -5 in 25 games split between Muskegon and Fargo before that.

Tim Bender is another German who headed over to North America after not having been drafted last summer, eventually joining the London Knights of the OHL. There the offensively minded defenseman only scored two goals and seven points, but got his defensive game on track and put up an impressive +15 rating.

Abbreviations
AHL = American Hockey League
CHL = Canadian Junior Hockey Leagues
CSS = Central Scouting Service
DEL = Deutsche Eishockey Liga (German Ice Hockey League)
2nd Bundesliga = Germany’s second highest professional league
DNL = Deutsche Nachwuchs Liga (German Junior League)
QMJHL = Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (Canadian junior league)
USHL = United States Hockey League

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