2015 NHL Draft Preview: Napravnik top German prospect, others from Norway, Denmark, and Austria

By Chapin Landvogt
Kai Wissman - Eisbaeren Berlin - Deutsche Eishockey Liga

Photo: Eisbaeren Berlin forward and 2015 prospect Kai Wissmann worked his way up through various levels of German hockey in 2014-15 to earn a 10-game audition with Berlin of the DEL (courtesy of Marco Leipold/City-Press via Getty Images)

 

 

For a draft that has been as anticipated and bantered about in such high tones as the 2015 NHL Draft, players and talents coming from countries such as Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Norway, much less areas such as Northern Italy, have understandably gotten lost in the pack. This is also a bit more complicated when players from these countries have spent their season in better leagues in countries such as those in Finland, Germany, Russia, and Sweden, technically being ranked for the draft as members of those nations.

There is a lot for teams to take into consideration this summer, and the entire draft could probably be centered around talents playing in North America or coming from Sweden and Russia, although the Czech Republic, Finland, Slovakia and Switzerland have more than their fair share of exciting prospects to throw into the pot. For a number of second-time draft overagers, teams may just wait until this summer when they will be able to add these players to their organizations as UFAs.

With this in mind, here’s a look at Germany’s top 3 draft options heading into the 2015 NHL Draft, as well as several other names you might just be hearing in the late rounds at the end of June.

Germany

1. Julian Napravnik – 18 – Forward – 5’11”, 159 pounds – CSS European Rank: 77

Of a very average height and still needing to add on the pounds, Julian Napravnik was just about the German DNL’s most impressive offensive player this past winter. A tricky player who has good puck-possession and stickhandling skills, Napravnik was pretty much unstoppable for most of the regular season and then was a targeted commodity come playoff time, when his scoring stint ‘slowed’ down to merely three goals and six points in the four games Mannheim needed in taking the championship. In the regular season, Napravnik showed an adept ability to either score goals or collect assists, pumping in 30 markers and setting up another 36 in just 36 regular season games.

With Leon Draisaitl having put up similar numbers for the very same team just two seasons beforehand, the U18 World Championship served as Napravnik’s opportunity to show off what he was capable of on the international stage. This proved too heavy a task at this stage. With a goal and assist along with a -4 rating in six games, Napravnik had trouble with the tempo and game pace of a tournament chock full of kids who will be drafted this summer. His hockey sense was apparent, but his good ideas and cleverness were just a tick too slow – as was the case with many of his teammates – and he could do little to help a team that was desperate for him to be a key offensive player.

Whereas hearing his name this summer is highly unlikely, fans should keep an eye on him since a move to North America to play in the CHL or USHL would not be unthinkable at this juncture as many of his Mannheim colleagues have been taking this route in recent years.

2. Alex Lambacher – 18 – Forward – 6’2”, 176 pounds – CSS European Rank: 110

Napravnik’s radar partner in Mannheim, the Italian Alex Lambacher from a German-speaking part of Northern Italy, likely would have joined Napravnik on Germany’s U18 team had he had the corresponding passport. Instead, he represented Italy in the D1A WJC and put up three goals and five points in five games. Still lacking beef for a player his size, there’s definitely time and space to create quite an impressive player out of this winger who doesn’t hesitate to get physically involved in the play. While with the Jungadler, he played a first line scoring role and, like Napravnik, chipped in six points in the four games necessary for the championship. In the regular season, he collected 26 goals and 59 points in 37 games.

Lambacher’s path next season is uncertain at this point, but he does have a number of lower league pro offers and will have to weigh them against the option of continuing his junior career overseas.

3. Kai Wissmann – 18 – Forward – 6’0”, 187 pounds – CSS European Rank: 116

Likely the most developed of the Germans ranked for this draft, Kai Wissmann collected 16 penalty minutes at the WJC while providing much of the physical element in attempting to keep Germany from facing relegation. After a three-assist performance with the U18 team in Finland last spring, it was his second international showing for Germany for a defenseman who has gained a lot of fans back home. A good combination of all-around skills and some pretty solid hockey sense, Wissmann was a strong addition for everything from Berlin’s DNL club, for whom he had seven goals and 16 points in 14 games, to FASS Berlin of the third pro league (two assists in three games) to Dresden of the DEL2 (seven assists and 39 penalty minutes in 28 games) to a 10-game audition with the Eisbaeren Berlin of the DEL (one assist).

An all-around player with leadership qualities, many on the scene have been speaking about Wissmann as a possible NHL talent at some juncture. Even more feel he’s ready for a regular DEL job as soon as next season. This is something Berlin, for whom he’s under contract, will be looking for.

Other German prospects of note

While both are technically eligible, it is unlikely that overagers Dominik Kahun and Jonas Muller will be taken this summer, but they are on every scout’s list. Both were big minute-munchers for a German WJC entry that was relegated this past winter, but made good headway in the pro leagues back home.

After two seasons of hockey with the Sudbury Wolves plus a number of international appearances next to Draisaitl as his primary partner, the slightly shaped Kahun began the season with Riesersee of the DEL2. After seven goals and 15 points in 12 games, it was apparent that he was ready for DEL level play. Worked in slowly with the Munich Barons, Kahun had four goals and seven points in 37 games. Much more will already be expected of him next season, and his skill set has viewers in Germany feeling he’ll be a regular 50-point scorer by the time he’s 23.

Also 19, Muller spent a good chunk of the season in the DEL2 for Dresden and managed five points and 20 penalty minutes in 25 games. More impressive, however, was his maturity and collectedness with Eisbaeren Berlin in the DEL, for whom he played 30 games and posted seven points and a +7 rating. Used a lot at the beginning of the season, new coach Uwe Krupp placed more emphasis on veteran ice time as the season progressed, but Muller has etched his name into a top-six role heading into next season. Working primarily on being highly efficient in his own zone, Muller’s strengths may ultimately lie in his offensive abilities down the line.

At the same time, goaltender Maxi Franzreb of the Hamburg Freezers organization seems to be one of the bigger secrets in Germany’s hockey landscape. Having long played in a spot that is rarely scouted, his loyalty to his hometown team and organization has earned him relative anonymity that may be banished with his first contract with the DEL’s Hamburg Freezers. Incredibly calm and controlled, he often faced over 50 shots a game for his first-year DNL club and kept things tight, robbing some victories along the way. The mental strength combined with the technical skills would likely have him being seen as quite the commodity if he were from a more well-known hockey area. The nation has yet to test Franzreb as an option for their national program.

Not a whole lot went well for Team Germany in getting relegated at both the U20 and U18 tournaments, but the latter did have a few names that are draft-eligible and at least could be of special interest to CHL, USHL, and NAHL clubs, namely wingers Lois Spitzner, Maximilian Daubner, and Jakob Mayenschein as well as defensemen Lukas Kalble and Philipp Halbauer.

Looking forward

With respect to the 2016 and 2017 NHL Drafts, two names are already jumping out at the scouting community. Tobias Eder’s older brother Andreas, who is eligible for this summer’s draft, spent half a season with the Vancouver Giants and eventually captained Germany at the 2014 U18 tournament. Tobias has now led Germany in scoring at the U18, having just turned 17 in March of this year. A forward with a nose for the net, he was one of the few players who continually jumped out for scouts at the 2015 U18 and did so after putting up 32 goals and 65 points in 42 DNL games for Bad Tolz, which led to his being named DNL Player of the Year. While he has put an emphasis on schooling, it’s already known that he’d be very ready to take the next step and head to the CHL. At 5’11” and 170 pounds, Eder still has some growing to do, but he’s looking like the next forward from Germany who could make some real international noise.

Another younger brother is Louis Latta, whose older brother Nickolas spent this past season playing for the Cologne Sharks after three years of chasing pucks for the Sarnia Sting, even having captained the team. First eligible for the 2017 draft, Louis scored 26 goals in 31 DNL2 games as a 16 year old and also played 41 games for Peiting in Germany’s third level pro league, collecting four points along the way. At 6’2” and 190 pounds, Latta already has the size of an emerging power forward and may, like his brother, find his way to North America sooner rather than later. Their father Ken is originally from Thunder Bay, Ontario, and coaches professionally in Germany.

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