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

By Chapin Landvogt

Peter Flache, Stefan Loibl, Mirko Hoefflin - Straubing Ice Tigers - DEL

Photo: Straubing Tigers forwards Stefan Loibl (C) and Mirko Hoefflin (R) are two younger players that could have an impact with the Tigers in 2015-16 (courtesy of Photo by City-Press via Getty Images)

 

 

12. Augsburger Panther

A team that is rarely a favorite, but almost always finds a way to compete despite a small budget, the Augsburg Panther will once again be looking to make more noise this season than many suspect. With new Austro-Canadian coach Mike Stewart on board, this endeavor may be more successful than many think. With two years of huge success with Bremerhaven of the DEL2 in his pocket, Stewart will be bringing his new ideas, discipline, and enthusiasm a league higher this winter.

The team itself has a number of players who have proven their ability to play in this league, if not the AHL, and many more who despite some success feel the need to reprove themselves moving forward, such as Bretton Stamler, Derek Dinger, and Aleksander Placzek. With several players under 25 on board for the ride, the team will be a potpourri of possibilities, although goalie Jeff Deslauriers hopes that his expected ascension to the top of the league statistics amongst goaltenders will be just enough to get the team to the playoffs on his own accord. And that shouldn’t be all that surprising.

What’s good

Coach Mike Stewart is felt to be one of the rising stars in the European coaching landscape. A former take-no-prisoners defender for the Austrian national team, Stewart will demand a lot of his players, but will also have them prepared for what is to come in almost all situations. Throw in goalie Deslauriers, coming most recently from the KHL, and Augsburg has as good a chance to surprise as anyone.

What’s not

Yet another smalltown club, Augsburg will have to stay nearly injury-free to make any noise. The defense features a number of players who don’t exactly belong to the top of the crop in the DEL, and all of the offensive additions simply must be impact players. Anything less and Augsburg will be watching the playoffs from their living rooms.

Biggest impact player

He is getting up there in age and has definitely slowed down a few steps, but Slovakian Ivan Ciernik, who now has a German pass, is still a tank who is difficult to remove from the puck and continues to be a key player in the DEL.

Names you’ll recognize

G Jeff Deslaurier, D Braden Lamb, D Evan Oberg, D Arvids Rekis, F Jon Matsumoto, F Drew LeBlanc, F TJ Trevelyan, F Mark Mancari, F Ivan Ciernik, F Mike Iggulden

Best German who never had an NHL shot

D James Bettauer

Older players you may see in the NHL one day

D James Bettauer, F Hans Detsch

Best player who was never drafted

F Drew LeBlanc

Scouts are watching closely

It’s uncertain whether he’ll see any time in the DEL, but G Josef Lala is the son of famous Czech player Jiri Lala and is currently 18 years old. He’s spent time with the Detroit Little Caesars program and the club will make sure he’s in a situation where he’s getting ice time. Also of interest will be the play of 19-year-old D Patrick Kurz, who spent most of last season gathering experience in the DEL2. He’s currently defenseman number eight for Augsburg and will likely see more than the four games he played in the DEL last season.

11. Straubing Tigers

In many ways the league’s little step sister, the quaint town of Straubing offers pros a lovely destination off the beaten path, but has had little in the line of success in its 10 years of DEL play. Coach Larry Mitchell has had major underdog success with the Augsburg Panthers over the years and is now bringing just that to this club, which will rely heavily on his ability to find affordable, relatively unknown talent that can make a tangible impact.

On paper, the club could feature one of the best goaltenders and first lines in the league. A constant underdog, there’s really no reason to believe that this club shouldn’t contend for one of the pre-playoff spots.

What’s good

Coach Larry Mitchell is working with players he has chosen and has an ability to get the most out of small-budget rosters. The team has a lot of workers and a goalie that could be a real difference, bringing with him several games of NHL experience. There’s size and toughness to go along with a few skill players and a nice leader in NHL-experienced Ryan Bayda.

What’s not

The smalltown club needs a lot of things to go right, and any prolonged thread of injuries will mean lights out very quickly. An injury to goalie Matthew Climie leaves the team very susceptible. Also, the team has a history of generating little offense. That simply has to change for Straubing to have a real shot.

Biggest impact player

It will have to be F Ryan Bayda, who had 10 points in six games last season before suffering a season-ending injury.

Names you’ll recognize

G Matthew Climie, D Dylan Yeo, D Colton Jobke, D Maury Edwards, F Connor James, F Steven Zalewski, F Ryan Bayda, F Michael Connolly, F Mike Hedden, F Mirko Hofflin, F Blaine Down

Best German who never had an NHL shot

F Rene Rothke

Older players you may see in the NHL one day

G Dustin Strahlmeier, F Mirko Hoefflin

Best player who was never drafted

D Sebastian Osterloh

Scouts are watching closely

Nineteen-year-old Stefan Loibl was pointless in his 27-game DEL debut as an 18 year old and looked much more effective in 18 DEL2 games last season. A playmaker with an above-average sense of how to find teammates, Loibl has not come close to being the sum of his parts, but most agree that there is a lot of untapped potential.

10. Grizzly Adams Wolfsburg

The Wolfsburg club is coached by former New York Islanders-drafted Pavel Gross, a Czech who spent the majority of his career playing in Germany and has now been coaching in the DEL since the 2000-01 season. He has almost magically managed to get this club to the playoffs and then the semifinal three years running, doing so with a number of lesser-known players along the way.

In light of the league’s lowest attendance rate, due in part to the league’s smallest venue, what Gross has done certainly ranks him amongst the best pro coaches at the DEL level. He has few internationally successful players to work with and a loyal, but small, fan following backing him, but this group is once again solid and filled with the type of character that usually sees teams overachieve at this level. Still, there are plenty of hurdles for Wolfsburg to jump if they want to be in the playoffs again.

What’s good

Continuity and a history of success despite all odds. This team is lacking depth on paper, but features a deep group of eight capable defenders and more than enough hard-working forwards to etch out a spot in at least the pre-playoffs, something not uncommon in the hometown of Volkswagen.

What’s not

The goaltending has been successful, but could just as easily become an Achilles heel. No less disturbing is the fact that little can be done financially if major injuries set in. Some long-term pillars such as Norm Milley have moved on and it needs to be seen if they’ve been adequately replaced. From a scoring standpoint, that looks doubtful.

Biggest impact player

F Mark Voakes, who had 37 points in 33 games last season before being knocked out with an injury.

Names you’ll recognize

D James Sharrow, D Jeff Likens, D Bjorn Krupp, F Tyler Haskins, F Brent Aubin, F Marco Rosa, F Mark Voakes

Best German who never had an NHL shot

F Sebastian Furchner, a two-way hustler who put up 26 goals last season.

Older players you may see in the NHL one day

G Felix Bruckmann, D Bjorn Krupp

Best player who was never drafted

U.S. defenseman Jeff Likens is 30 and has become a solid, two-way defenseman who is clearly at the peak of his career.

Scouts are watching closely

Fabio Pfohl is a 5’11”, 187-pound 20-year-old forward who has been a heavy scorer at the junior level in Germany and has represented his country internationally at three tournaments. After two points in eight DEL games last season and 66 points in 41 games in the country’s third pro league, Pfohl in an environment where there’s no pressure, but lots of opportunity to produce.

9. Iserlohn Roosters

Iserlohn is just a little town a bit eastward from Cologne and Dusseldorf, but it has made its way to the semifinal two years running and continues to find Canadian-born players with just enough German ancestry to count as a German player. Thanks to this ability, the team manages to compete year for year and even boasts one of the league’s scariest offensive attacks. That won’t change this season as the team is going into the season with an attack that could boast upwards of ten 30+ point scorers. The number of players born in North America surely leads the league and gives the small-town club plenty of reason to believe it can once again make a lot of noise come playoff time.

What’s good

This team has lots of weapons. There are plenty of proven scorers throughout the first three lines and a number of players that have good chemistry with each other. General Manager Carsten Mende somehow has a way of finding players who can do damage for his small market team, qualify as Germans, and find themselves heading to better-paying teams the next season. And he may have the best mix ever this season. Two goalies who could claim the number one role is a nice luxury, as well.

What’s not

Despite a loud arena that proves to be a major home ice advantage, the team just doesn’t get enough done on the road and will once again have to prove its mettle against the big teams in the league, which usually means the end of the season for them. Can they get over that hump?

Biggest impact player

Center Mike York, who after several years in the NHL and then a swoon in his career, has been a solid producer and go-to guy for Iserlohn for years. There’s something about this place that has Mike York very happy as a human being, and averaging a point-per-game for this club seems to be his calling in life.

Names you’ll recognize

G Chad Pickard, D Jean-Philippe Cote, D Robert Raymond, D Colton Teubert, D Mike Little, F Nicholas Petersen, Louie Caporusso, C Chris Connolly, F Jason Jaspers, F Mike York, F Brooks Macek, F Dylan Wruck, F Cody Sylvester

Best German who never had an NHL shot

Goalie Mathias Lange is 30 and went to RPI. He still has a home in New Jersey, where his family resides. He’s now become a regular DEL competitor and a goalie that has shown he can decide games on his own.

Older players you may see in the NHL one day

G Chet Pickard, D Colton Teubert, F Dylan Wruck, F Brooks Macek, F Nicholas Petersen

Best player who was never drafted

German-Canadian Dylan Wruck, 22, is a tiny tot who has scored wherever he’s been. After three seasons of 78 or more points for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL, he has been playing successfully in Germany to fulfill requirements to play for the German National Team.

Scouts are watching closely

Now 20, defenseman Denis Shevyrin converted from being a forward and has returned from a year with the Minnesota Magicians of the NAHL. With good size in tow, gaining a regular shift with Iserlohn could show what may still become of this budding defenseman.

Part 1 | Part 2

Follow Chapin Landvogt on Twitter via @Csomichapin

 

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