2015-16 DEL Preview, Pt. 2: Mannheim seeks repeat with deep lineup

By Chapin Landvogt
David Wolf - Hamburg Freezers - DEL

Photo: After competing in the Calgary Flames organization in the 2014-15 season, Hamburg Freezers forward David Wolf has returned to Germany to play for the Freezers for the 2015-16 campaign (courtesy of Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images)

 

 

After taking a look at the lower-ranked teams competing in Germany’s top hockey league, the DEL (Deutsche Eishockey Liga), Hockey’s Future now previews the top eight clubs in that league for the 2015-16 season.

This group of eight includes the past three league champions – Adler Mannheim, ERC Ingolstadt, and Eisbären Berlin – with Mannheim being the current defending champions.

8. Düsseldorfer EG (Dusseldorf)

After several years with a questionable future, the famous ‘DEG’ finally got back on track in a big way last season. Expected to be a last place candidate, the team not only made the playoffs, but knocked off heavily favored Hamburg Freezers in the first round. In the process, they qualified for Champions Hockey League play.

Having given youngsters big time opportunity during some financially difficult times, that’s all paying off now as the team not only features a number of established foreigners who can compete internationally, but also a whole boatload of youngsters who ideally fill out the third- and fourth-line roles. Most pleasing for league pundits is that the team’s defensive corps is already led by two younger Germans who continue to improve season for season.

What’s good

The team had a huge season last year and features many players who the city and fans relate to in a bond perhaps unknown anywhere else in the league. With several strong import players leading the way on lines one and two, the patience with young German players is playing off, as the lower lines feature a number of youngsters who are proving good for 15-25 points a season despite more defensive duties. Several German defensemen leading the way on the blueline goes a long way in this league.

What’s not

The arena is great, but seldom filled. There are a lot of empty seats and it has been hard to generate more interest, although the organization is banking on just this happening after last season’s success. In addition, several key players have moved on to supposed greener pastures.

Biggest impact player

F Ken-Andre Olimb, a Norwegian who had 60 points in 63 games last season.

Names you’ll recognize

D Tim Conboy, D Kurt Davis, F Norm Milley, F Rob Collins, F Chris Minard, F Travis Turnbull

Best German who never had an NHL shot

Forward Daniel Kreutzer, 36, is the league’s second all-time leading scorer. Of a smaller build with no real speed of note, the feisty pit bull has proven to be a scorer for the national team, as well.

Older players you may see in the NHL one day

G Mathias Niederberger, D Bernhard Ebner

Best player who was never drafted

Defenseman Bernhard Ebner has developed nicely with some bumps along the way, but put up 12 goals and 32 points last season. Only 25, another year like last and a national team appearance may see him get a trip to North America.

Scouts are watching closely

Just 20, Eugan Alanov appears to be looking at a gig in Dusseldorf after putting up 46 points in 35 third league games last season. He needs to add weight, but has a strong skill set.

7. Eisbären Berlin

General Manager Peter John Lee, his sporting director Stefan Ustorf, and head coach Uwe Krupp are names very well-known to long-term NHL fans. They are heading things in Berlin, one of Europe’s most historical and recognizable cities and host to the country’s second-largest arena and highest attendance. In fact, the fans are so passionate that Berlin has one of the largest draws in all of Europe – at least, when the team is winning.

After years of dominance and championships, the team has missed the playoffs two years running, unacceptable for a franchise that expects to win – and has the players to do it. Featuring a number of top German players young and old, only a few additions were made this season with the club hoping that the continuity and maturity of several youngsters will get it back into contention.

What’s good

This team has the nation’s most recognizable coach in Uwe Krupp and the biggest fan backing of any club in the country, often having featured one of the highest attendance rates in Europe. Depth is available and, as strong as the team can actually be on paper, there are several licenses open for improvements in the foreign player department. This has been an approach GM Peter John Lee has always taken.

What’s not

A club that is used to winning has seen two straight seasons end in disappointment. Despite taking logical steps to prevent that each season, the result has been the same. It appears that several of the key players on the team, German and foreign, just haven’t been as dominating as years past. Some of them have to step back up to the plate.

Biggest impact player

National team D Frank Hordler, who does everything in all three zones and QB’s the power play.

Names you’ll recognize

D Bruno Gervais, D Micki DuPont, F Spencer Machacek, F Mark Bell, F Barry Tallackson, F Julian Talbot, F Darin Olver, F Marcel Noebels

Best German who never had an NHL shot

Tough call, but forward F Florian Busch put up a lot of good numbers in his prime before injuries took their toll on this 30 year old.

Older players you may see in the NHL one day

G Marvin Cupper, D Henry Haase, F Spencer Machacek, F Marcel Noebels, F Sven Ziegler

Best player who was never drafted

D Frank Hordler

Scouts are watching closely

Nineteen-year-old defensemen Jonas Muller and Kai Wissmann are both on the brink of a full-time DEL job and have played more than adequately at the DEL2 level. Muller was a real discovery until Krupp was hired, when Wissmann then appeared to get more positive attention, but all in all, responsibility was given to veterans to close out last season. Having attended the Los Angeles Kings’ prospects camp this summer, both have seen what life is like in North America and are entering this season with fire in their eyes.

6. ERC Ingolstadt

After a championship in 2014 and a finals loss in 2015, many would have to see the Ingolstadt Panthers as being a big favorite to make their way back to the finals this season. Now new head coach Emanuel Viveiros, a legend in Austrian ice hockey circles, has his work cut out for him in finding a way to fill Coach Larry Huras’ shoes while taking over a Panthers team that has lost several key players.

A CHL participant, Ingolstadt still has plenty of firepower and experience in the lineup and will once again start this season as a team expected to be in the playoffs, but the competition will likely be harder than in recent years. Playoff ace goalie Timo Pielmeier will have to play an incredible amount of games again this season (69 games last season), while his backup Marco Eisenhut has all of five games of DEL experience. The team is also placing a great deal of hope into new defensemen Patrick McNeill and Brian Salcido, the latter of whom is starting the season on the IR list. Still, the team has all the makings of being a top-six club in the DEL.

What’s good

There are plenty of proven winners on the team and a lot of the players who have been in the finals the past two years. In addition, Pielmeier has fortified himself as one of the league’s top three goaltenders.

What isn’t

The team has a new coach and lost several of its key players the last season. What this means about a winning team’s success will have to be seen, but on paper it is hard to tell if the players the team lost will be adequately replaced.

Biggest impact player

Former Florida Panthers first rounder Petr Taticek came in last season and became the team’s top forward. He’s one of the league’s top playmakers and will need to continue being that this season.

Names you’ll recognize

G Timo Pielmeier, D Patrick McNeill, D Brian Salcido, F Brian Lebler, F Brandon Buck, F Petr Taticek, F Danny Irmen, F Jared Ross, F David Elsner, F Tomas Kubalik

Best German who never had an NHL shot

F Thomas Greilinger has been one of the league’s top scorers on many occasions and has at times been the DEL’s top German player. He’s been a sniper at every station in his career.

Older players you may still see in the NHL one day

G Timo Pielmeier, G Marco Eisenhut, D Benedikt Kohl, F Brandon Buck, F David Elsner, F Tomas Kubalik, F Brian Lebler

Best player who was never drafted

F Alexander Barta is a heart and soul player who has spent several years with the national team and once captained the Hamburg Freezers. One of the league’s long-time best skaters.

 

Scouts are watching closely

A number of kids! Twenty-year-old Fabio Wagner is a young defenseman who many around Germany are very high on as a future national team mainstay. This season may be his coming out party.

The draft-eligible Simon Schutz, 17 until November, was part of the most recent U18 team and, although his numbers and the team’s result were nothing to write home about, the defenseman left his heart on the ice and never gave up. With one year of pro hockey already under his belt, it shouldn’t be surprising if he manages to get some time in the DEL at some point this season.

Lastly, 20-year-old Marc Schmidpeter is a strong, young player who has half a season of DEL play and a WJC under his belt. He will be in the lineup this fall and looking to establish himself as a top-nine forward.

5. Hamburg Freezers

Hamburg is coming off a regular season in which it showed that it was ready to be the big city favorite it’s modern facility and budgetary possibilities demand of it, but as playoff time swirled around, a number of key players were lost to injury. This lead to a 7-game first round outing against lower-ranked Dusseldorf.

When the dust settled, it was fairly clear where and what kind of depth was needed and GM Stephane Richer went out and took care of business. With every acquisition, he not only improved the team, but took care of a very specific need. As promising as the team was looking in early August, things got a whole lot more interesting when it was made known that David Wolf was returning to the Freezers just one year after heading over to the Calgary Flames organization, for whom he played 4 games in the NHL and put up a healthy 20 goals, 38 points, 168 penalty minutes and a +8 in 59 games for AHL affiliate Adirondack. This had most thinking he was in store for bigger things in North America this season, but, only 25, that door surely hasn’t closed yet for Wolf, but his returning to Hamburg has the team ready to make some noise in 2015-16.

What’s good

From top to bottom, the team has every position filled with the talent and depth to make a long run in the playoffs. Relatively speaking, only Mannheim features fewer holes in the lineup.

What isn’t

The team’s goaltending tandem entered last season felt to be the league’s best. They proved mighty human and sometimes less than ordinary as time wore on, however. In addition, Philippe Dupuis is one big hit away from his career ending due to concussion issues while Brett Festerling continues to be hampered by a hand injury – the recovery date is not fully set in stone.

Biggest impact player

F David Wolf is a scoring and checking monster on the ice, and the heart and soul favorite of the team’s solid fan following.

Names you’ll recognize

G Sebastian Caron, D Mathieau Roy, D Brett Festerling, D Sean Sullivan, D Christoph Schubert, F Michael Davies, F Philippe Dupuis, F Marty Sertich, F Marcel Muller, F David Wolf

Best German who never had an NHL shot

F Jerome Flaake has been on the team’s first line for three years now and his absence just before the playoffs pretty much meant the death knell for the team last spring. Good for 25+ goals a season, Flaake was once a Toronto Maple Leafs‘ property and has had a slow path to maturity. Only 25 now, could another season or two of being a DEL top scorer earn him a go in North America?

At this point, one has to mention Thomas Oppenheimer as well. Having first played in the league as a 17 year old, Oppenheimer has become more of an offensive factor every season and has a cannon of a shot, which has seen him manning the point on the power play. A current cog in the national team, Oppenheimer turns 27 in December.

Older players you may still see in the NHL one day

D Mathieu Roy, F David Wolf, F Jerome Flaake, F Thomas Oppenheimer

Best player who was never drafted

F Thomas Oppenheimer, a German national team player who has slowly but surely become a sniper in many ways, including taking a role on the point during power plays.

Scouts are watching closely

The third-string goalie is Maxi Franzreb. He will be the #1 for the Freezers’ farm team HSV, which plays in the same town. Having just attended the Los Angeles Kings’ prospect camp, Franzreb will be shooting for a WJC appearance in Helsinki this winter.

Few seem to know it, but Montreal Canadiens camp invitee Markus Eisenschmid is Freezers property once he returns to Germany. Until then, he’ll likely continue to suit up for the Medicine Hat Tigers.

Pages: 1 2