A recent staple in international play for Germany, Frederik Tiffels has been playing in North America for several years now, having played three seasons of USHL hockey before beginning his NCAA career. This is a route rarely taken by German hockey players.
Having been passed over in two NHL Drafts, it was a surprise to many to see Tiffels drafted in the sixth round by the Pittsburgh Penguins this past summer. With that, he became the first German-born and raised player drafted since Leon Draisaitl, with whom he has often played internationally.
Hockey’s Future: This summer, in your last go-around of possibly being drafted by an NHL team, your name was called in the sixth round, 167th overall, by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Where were you when this happened and did your getting picked actually surprise you?
Frederik Tiffels: I was in a car on my way to Grand Haven when I received a phone call from my family advisor. I knew that some teams had interest in drafting me and that there was a chance of getting drafted. It was a very special moment.
HF: Had there been any contact with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization in the course of time?
FT: I can’t really say there was any in past years, but I spoke to a scout of the Pittsburgh Penguins right after this past season had ended.
HF: What kind of a feeling is it knowing that in the future, you may get the opportunity to stand on the same ice as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, amongst others?
FT: It is an awesome feeling, but of course nothing is guaranteed. I need to improve in certain areas to earn a chance to be skating on the same ice as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
HF: Tom Kuhnhackl was drafted by the Penguins in 2010 and finally was able to complete his first full season for the Penguins’ organization as a pro player (72 games with Wilkes-Barre). Do you know him personally and have you had any contact since the draft?
FT: No, I don’t know Tom personally.
HF: You seem to be a bit of a trendsetter! You’ve gone through the USHL into the NCAA. Now Janik Moser is playing at the Ohio State University and Parker Tuomie will begin his NCAA career this fall at the University of Minnesota State Mankato. Do you feel more German players will make their way to the NCAA? What obstacles are there to taking that route?
FT: That is a really good question. I would encourage players who have the chance to play college hockey. You have all the resources to get better at hockey and at the same time you are able to get an education. The CHL is a top choice as well and worked out for players in the past. I believe it is one’s preference and up to each individual. Other than not having good enough grades, which would keep you from enrolling into school, I don’t see any obstacles.
HF: Your college coach, Andy Murray, is a known commodity in Germany, having worked for the Cologne organization. Did he know you in your childhood when you were playing for Cologne? Or how is it that you’ve come to play for Western Michigan University?
FT: We didn’t know each other until I played in a few tournaments in North America where he saw me play.
HF: With 21 points and a +6 in 32 games, you had a very good freshman season. Are you satisfied with the year you had, and what role are you scheduled to assume next season?
FT: You should never be satisfied. I believe we had an OK season. We want to win it all next season and I want to add as much to it as possible.
HF: What feedback have you received from the organization with respect to your possible future as a Penguin?
FT: The feedback was positive. I believe the future is totally up to me. If I work hard all the time and get more consistent, I will give myself a chance to play for Pittsburgh in the future.
HF: You are now far away from the ice hockey scene in Germany, where your brother is now a prospect for the Hamburg Freezers. Still, you’ve played three U20 tournaments in a row and have experienced how the U20, U18, and women’s teams were all relegated this past winter. Even the men’s team hasn’t been able to recently rank amongst the world’s top 10-12 teams. What is your take on the state of the ice hockey nation in Germany, something you’ll likely be playing a role in improving in the future? What are your thoughts on Marco Sturm being named the head coach and GM of the national team?
FT: I have very positive thoughts on the future of German hockey. Marco Sturm is well-known in Germany and the international ice hockey community. He has the authority to lead German hockey to better things. Every player is responsible for improving so that when all is said and done, the national becomes better too.
HF: Young players such as Tobias Rieder, Leon Draisaitl, and Dominik Kahun have each played in at least one Men’s World Championship. Has the German Ice Hockey Federation held any discussions with you about your possible future in the national team? What feedback have you gotten from the federation, where much has been changing recently?
FT: I was in contact with Pat Cortina about a possible training camp invitation prior to the World Championship this past April. School was still going on, so I decided to stay in school and finish my freshman year on a strong note academically.
HF: What are you doing this summer? Now as a Penguins prospect, how are you preparing for the next season?
FT: My teammates and I have been at Western Michigan since the beginning of July. We are working out together with the goal of getting stronger and faster.
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