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

By Chapin Landvogt

Sinan Akdag - Adler Mannheim - DEL

Photo: Adler Mannheim defenseman Sinan Akdag was a key performer in Mannheim’s 2015 DEL championship, posting two goals and eight points in 15 playoff games for Mannheim (courtesy of City-Press via Getty Images)

 

4. EHC München (Munich)

With European Champion coach Don Jackson brought in along with several high-profile players, many felt Munich was one of the top contenders for the championship last season. With a second-place finish in the league, this also looked like it would be the case until the playoffs came around – and the team was swept out of the first round by Wolfsburg.

Fingers were pointed and personnel was released, but Jackson now has a whole bunch of new, shiny players to work his magic with, and the expectations in the Bavarian capital are as high as ever. These are not necessarily unfounded either. A deep lineup features a number of well-known international names and a sponsor that trumps all others.

What’s good

Red Bull is backing and funding this project and the lineups of recent seasons have clearly shown this. The team looks as good as any on paper, save for Mannheim. In kindly saying that the playoffs last season were just a blip on his radar, Jackson is a proven winner and will surely do everything necessary not to allow history to repeat itself.

What’s not

The team has a pretty good goalie in Danny Aus den Birken, but Lukas Lang and youngster Ilya Sharipov can’t be looked at to adequately fill his shoes should he go down with an injury. Although several big names abound, a true first line still needs to evolve, even if the club features some promising youngsters to round things up on the lower lines.

Biggest impact player

F Keith Aucoin, as of immediately.

Names you’ll recognize

D Jeremy Dehner, D Daryl Boyle, D Frederic St. Denis, D Toni Soderholm, D Matt Smaby, D Richard Regehr, F Keith Aucoin, F Steve Pinizzotto, F Jason Jaffray, F Jerome Samson, F Dominik Kahun

Best German who never had an NHL shot

F Michael Wolf is the heart and soul of the locker room and has been a top scorer in the league for many years. Still a contributor, the small national team player was never on the NHL map, a later developer, and often the benefactor of being on a club that could afford to give him offensive responsibility. Now he leads the German contingent and holds the locker room together.

Older players you may see in the NHL one day

G Danny Aus den Birken, D Frederic St. Denis, F Jerome Samson, F Dominik Kahun, F Frank Mauer, F Joachim Ramoser

Best player who was never drafted

F Yannic Seidenberg is a national team player who has a family name very well-known to the NHL community. Able to take on an offensive or defensive role, the undersized forward has been a key role player for every DEL team he has suited up for.

Scouts are watching closely

F Andreas Eder is 19 and put up 45 points in the Russian MHL last season after a botched sojourn to Vancouver of the WHL. He already has the size to play against men and the speed to keep up with the DEL level of play. Should his draft-eligible brother Tobias wind up on the team, he will be watched more closely than any German in the country. Many felt he would be in North America this season, but finishing high school in Germany while honing his craft with the Red Bull organization is a priority.

3. Kölner Haie (Cologne)

The Cologne team is going Swedish. With Coach Niklas Sundblad, a former Calgary Flames first round pick, at the helm for his second straight season with the famed Cologne Sharks, the purchasing order this summer was blue and gold. The team now features six Swedes and three Swedish coaches along with a Canadian who spent last season in Sweden, namely defenseman Shawn Lalonde.

After having missed last season’s playoffs, which is just about unheard of for one of the league’s biggest draws, there’s no choice but to get back on track and there is plenty of reason to believe that just that will be happening this very season. As much as the team failed last season, the foreigners are as good as any team’s and there is a healthy stock of proven German players filling out the lineup, especially up front. All signs are that Cologne will have a good say in who is this year’s champion.

What’s good

There is lots of proven depth up front, and if speedy Swede Johannes Salmonsson can end up counting as a German player, then Cologne will really be firing on all cylinders coming out of the gate. Depth at every position will be able to handle eventually occurring injuries. Gustaf Wesslau may end up being the strongest goalie in the league.

What’s not

Sweden produces some of the best ice hockey in the world, but seldom has the DEL landscape of any one team been so modeled by a Swedish contingency. What happens if things go sour or a certain clique should form in the team?

Biggest impact player

D Alexander Sulzer

Names you’ll recognize

G Gustaf Wesslau, D Shawn Lalonde, D Alexander Sulzer, F Charles Stephens, F Nick Latta, F Ryan Jones, F Dragan Umicevic, F Philip Gogulla, F Jason Williams, F Sebastian Uvira

Best German who never had an NHL shot

Patrick Hager is a 27-year-old forward who has gotten better over time, but was defensively a top two-way player and national team member at a young age. He’s now a cog in the national team and plenty feel that he belongs among the top five German centers in the league.

Older players you may see in the NHL one day

D Pascal Zerressen, D Alex Sulzer, D Max Faber, D Thorsten Ankert, F Nick Latta, F Patrick Hager, F Sebastian Uvira

Best player who was never drafted

D Mirko Ludemann is 41 and he is only there for the ride nowadays, but he has long been one of the absolute best skaters the league has had to offer and enjoyed plenty of years as a two-way defenseman, often leading German defensemen in scoring.

Scouts are watching closely

There is no one on the radar who is theoretically draft-eligible, but scouts continue to monitor the DEL play of giant defensemen Pascal Zerressen and hustlers Nick Latta and Sebastian Uvira, the latter of whom were fairly successful in the OHL not too long ago.

2. Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers (Nuremberg)

The team has a passionate businessman of a patron in Thomas Szabo, who has continually pumped money into his project with the hopes of gaining a championship. Always competitive, Nuremberg has always stumbled along the way, despite recently featuring one of the league’s most potent offenses.

This season the team will look to continue on that path, having invested a great deal in their top three centers, former NHL players Steven Reinprecht, David Steckel, and Colin Fraser. Throw in the last-minute acquisition of Dany Heatley, who was born in Freiburg, Germany and has a German playing pass, and we’re looking at some huge NHL experience in this lineup. These four are being looked at to provide offense and, aside from Heatley, two-way play at every juncture and keep teams too busy trying to shut them down. There’s plenty of reason to feel that Nuremberg will get over that quarterfinal hump and make their way perhaps as far as the finals.

What’s good

All in all, the team features more former NHL players than any team in the league. In addition, the defense is big, experienced, and punishing while the goaltending features two of the better German players on the market, both of whom have proven successful while splitting duties. These positions are topped off by two of the top German producers in the league, namely national team player Patrick Reimer and young Yasin Ehliz.

What’s not

Coach Rob Wilson was anything but a success in Straubing in his most recent DEL venture. Will he be able to handle, much less form, a team that consists of so many experienced players who may have different expectations of a coach? In addition, the Heatley acquisition is making major news nationwide, but will he ultimately be a distraction of sorts? He has almost entirely fallen off the professional hockey map, so there’s no telling if he will be more trouble than he is worth.

Biggest impact player

Center Steven Reinprecht

Names you’ll recognize

D Casey Borer, D Kurtis Foster, D Derek Joslin, D Kyle Klubertanz, D David Printz, F Brandon Segal, F Steven Reinprecht, F David Steckel, F Colin Fraser, F Danny Heatley

Best German who never had an NHL shot

Thirty-year-old goalie Jochen Reimer took a long time to develop, but he’s become one of the best German starters in the league.

Older players you may see in the NHL one day

G Andreas Jenike, F Brandon Segal, F Yasin Ehliz, F Leo Pfoderl

Best player who was never drafted

Forward Yasin Ehliz isn’t the biggest, but he’s been one of the best young producers in the league and only continues to get better offensively, now garnering a top line role. Never drafted, continued production may see him get a shot nonetheless.

Scouts are watching closely

Defenseman Andreas Schwarz is 20 years old and spent all of last season in a regular role in the DEL2. The rough-and-tumble defenseman will continue to be given a shot to show he is ready for top league play. He has already represented Germany at the U18 level.

1. Adler Mannheim

The Mannheim Adler is the team widely considered the league’s most professional outfit and features many well-known names. Internationally, there are few teams from Germany that can compete with teams from Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, but the Adler have been best at doing just that. Once again chock full of players who could likely earn their money in better leagues, the two challenges this year’s club will have to face is accepting a completely new coach and overcoming the championship honeymoon swoon after previous coach Geoff Ward joined the New Jersey Devils. Still, with the recent five-year contract for Marcel Goc, who many felt would remain in the NHL, the league’s heavy favorite got all that much better.

What’s good

Everything. Not a team in the league can display this much proven depth at every position and that much firepower up front, which was already the league’s best attack before Goc was added. They feature 14 players who had between 28-58 points last season, and that doesn’t include former NHL players Goc and Brandon Yip. In addition, German defenseman Sinan Akdag put up 13 goals and 36 points last season as a 25 year old. It looks like the youngster is gaining international attention.

What’s not

Coach Greg Ireland, most recently of the OHL’s Owen Sound, is new and is coming in on the coattails of a very successful coach who the players responded to like few they have had before. It won’t be easy for him, and there’s no telling what things will be like if the team should have a slump.

Biggest impact player

Marcel Goc, as of right now. He won’t be required to carry the offense, but it should not come hard for him with all the talent this team boasts.

Names you’ll recognize

G Dennis Endras, D Steve Wagner, D Daniel Richmond, D Denis Reul, D Mathieu Carle, F Marcel Goc, F Jochen Hecht, F Andrew Joudrey, F Jon Rheault, F Jamie Tardif, F Glen Metropolit, F Brandon Yip, F Ryan MacMurchy

Best German who never had an NHL shot

Forward Kai Hospelt has been a top DEL player and member of the national team for many years now. Once drafted by the San Jose Sharks, he never spent a season in North America and there’s no telling what he might have achieved, as many felt he didn’t reach his full potential until he was in his mid-20’s.

Older players you may see in the NHL one day

F Marcel Goc, G Dennis Endras, D Sinan Akdag, F Andrew Joudrey, F Jon Rheault, F Brent Raedeke

Best player who was never drafted

C Christoph Ullmann, a consummate leader and long-term DEL producer with national team experience.

Scouts are watching closely

Third-string goalie Florian Proske is 19 and likely to play in the DEL2 for Kassel, but has had some good years as a junior and may see time in the DEL should one of the goalies get injured.

Part 1 | Part 2

Follow Chapin Landvogt on Twitter via @Csomichapin

 

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