2015-16 DEL Preview, Pt. 1: Straubing could be team to watch among lower rung clubs

By Chapin Landvogt
Tim Bender - EHC Muenchen - DEL

Photo: Schwenninger Wild Wings defenseman Tim Bender competed for EHC Munich in the 2014-15 season, and spent part of the 2013-14 season with the OHL’s London Knights (courtesy of Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

 

 

The German DEL (Deutsche Eishockey Liga) has settled in as a league that can feature some fine hockey that is very much equivalent to the level of play in the AHL, just a good bit older when it comes to the average age of the various line-ups and thus more mature in the style of play. Paying very well overall, the league is a business and is there to sell tickets and produce champions.

Internationally, the best teams were able to compete nicely with their European counterparts in the initial Champions Hockey League season in 2014-15 and are generally off to a good start in this year’s CHL competition. Still, the league hasn’t necessarily gained a reputation as a breeding ground for future NHL talent. In fact, it faces a number of challenges in working in young German talents on a regular basis who ultimately can make the same impact as many of the foreign import players. The effects of this lack of impact German players are felt all the way into the national team.

Still, with this well-known to the teams and the German Ice Hockey Federation, the 2015-16 is kicking off with loads of optimism and a competitive field in which – on paper – it’s difficult counting anyone out of the playoff picture. The champion Mannheim Adler squad is the prime favorite for the title this season, but a whole field of opponents are armed and ready to pull that title away from them. The league features a good contingent of youngsters and mid-20 something Germans who are ready to play a big role in that endeavor and show NHL scouts that they may soon be ready for bigger things.

Part one of this preview of the DEL’s 2015-16 season begins with the 14th-ranked club and ends with the ninth-ranked squad. Part two covers teams 1 thru 8.

14. Krefeld Pinguine

Few will agree with this ranking, especially in light of the team’s participation in the Champions Hockey League, but the DEL has lots of competition and Krefeld has continued to see valuable assets get older or leave the fold. Coach Rick Adduano continues to get good results from his charges, but this year’s squad just doesn’t seem to have the horses unless a good portion of the team steps up to the plate. Being pretty much one injury to heart-and-soul top player, Daniel Pietta, away from the complete inability to compete in this league, the little engine that always could is going to have a rough ride this season.

What’s good

The team manages to get a lot done with a low budget and some gem acquisitions. Seldom, however, do the many German prospects it brings in become impact players. The CHL is a great thing to be a part of and creates fan attention. Top scorer Daniel Pietta is truly one of the top German players in the league and is signed on for another nine seasons.

What’s not

There’s simply a lack of proven and capable depth at most positions and the new acquisitions have even more potential to flop than be a huge success. With the extra wear and tear of the CHL along with a boatload of defensemen still getting their feet wet, it’s hard to believe things won’t unravel at some point.

Biggest impact player

Center Daniel Pietta, who is a national team player and had 62 points in 55 games last season.

Names you’ll recognize

D David Fischer, F Herberts Vasilievs, F Jeff Swesz

Best German who never had an NHL shot

Daniel Pietta

Older players you may see in the NHL one day

Daniel Pietta, Oliver Mebus

Best player who was never drafted

Daniel Pietta

Scouts are watching closely

Nineteen-year-old Lukas Koziol isn’t big, but very talented and will get a look at some point this season. He spent last season in the second and third leagues after dominating the junior circuit to kick things off.

Twenty-year-old defenseman Mike Schmitz has only just now started to show what may come of him over time. With 23 points in the third league last season along with some strong positional play, many feel he could be in the DEL this season. His younger brother Tom, now 17, is draft-eligible next summer and may see time in the big league.

13. Schwenninger Wild Wings

Schwenninger rejoined the DEL last season, and it wasn’t pretty. Often ineffective at generating offense, even when their opponents seemed to be taking a night off, the Wild Wings just didn’t have what was necessary to compete at this level as a number of their more high-profile acquisitions simply didn’t deliver. That should become a thing of the past now. The team has four Finns helping out, two in the coaching department, and in general is banking on a number of players who have done promising things at lower levels. Promise abounds, but if scoring doesn’t pick up considerably, the team will be doing all it can to avoid last place.

What’s good

By acquiring former NHL backup Joey MacDonald, the team is bringing in more or less the most high-profile goalie in the league. The team has also brought in several Finns and Swedes to give itself a new look and buck the North American trend in the league. Bringing in Frenchman Damien Fleury was a real coup, since he was heavily inquired about after a terrific World Championship.

What isn’t

A few good Germans are either past their prime or haven’t developed as hoped. The team is also bringing in a number of players who still have much to prove at this level, even if they are promising.

Biggest impact player

Former New Jersey Devil pick Sascha Goc. Working on just one healthy leg, he’s still the leader and good for 20+ points from the blueline.

Names you’ll recognize

G Joey MacDonald, G Dimitri Patzold, D Sascha Goc, D Matt Pelech, F Yan Stastny, F Ashton Rome

Best German who never had an NHL shot

None

Older players you may see in the NHL one day

If any, local 22-year-old Nikolas Linsenmaier.

Best player who was never drafted

Forward Marcel Kurth

Scouts are watching closely

Twenty-year-old Tim Bender was once the top-rated prospect for the NHL in Germany. Even after a sojourn to the London Knights, it was apparent that he was still going to need a lot of work, even if there are some parts of his game that leave you thinking that he could do so much more. After an initial pro year split between Munich and Riessersee, he’ll be asked to take the bull by the horns. Team Germany sees him as a likely national team player down the road.

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