After several meager years of mediocrity and even a two year relegation into the B-Pool of the IIHF, team Germany has made a furious rush back into the A-Pool, and more or less, into the top 10 in the world. This revival has several different reasons, but can in part be attributable to the fact that the DEL – Germany’s top ice hockey league – has seriously reduced the amount of foreigners that are permitted to play, thus providing many Germans with the necessary ice time to become vital cogs in their team’s success. More and more youngsters have also gotten their feet wet in international play and are taking a regular shift with their DEL team. Every season, the national team sees some new faces proving themselves ready for greater challenges. This trend has also caught the eyes of the NHL, as can be seen by the recent drafting of players such as Marcel Goc, Dennis Seidenberg, Christian Erhoff, Alexander Sulzer and Kai Hospelt, among others. However, this season is seeing somewhat of a mass exodus of younger players (no less than 7) who have been or will be playing in various leagues in North America this year, which will open the doors for some other players.
2003-04 Season: Particularly the DEL powerhouses Berlin, Mannheim and Cologne will be giving their youngsters ample opportunity to help their team and showcase themselves for the talent scouts on a regular basis. Along with the Hamburg Freezers, these teams are expected to assume the top 4 spots in the table and the Eisbaeren have already found themselves being the winner of 6 of the first 7 games despite being ravished by injuries and other sideline distractions, which has required them to have to use up to 7(!!!) 18 year old players in their lineup. With the DEL standings becoming tighter year for year, a big battle is expected between Augsburg, Ingolstadt, Nuremberg, Duesseldorf, Frankfurt, Kassel and defending champion Krefeld to fill in the remaining playoff spots. Each team has a myriad of ex-NHLers, AHLers and IHLers. Hanover, Iserlohn and newcomer Freiburg are expected to duke it out to avoid relegation, but as always, the game is played on the ice and Freiburg has already won in Hamburg whereas Hanover won 6-1 in Cologne. The beauty of the DEL is that any team can beat any other team on any given night.
As for the upcoming draft, there doesn’t really appear to be any clear cut ‘Can’t Miss’ prospects coming from Germany this season. That is, the performance of these prospects at various levels this season will determine their draft position next summer. Here are the top 10 prospects going into the 2003-2004 season:
1) F- Markus Kink: 6′ 1″ 194, 01/13/85 – DEL 44 games, 1-2-3, 10 PMs
Cologne Haie: Markus opted not to enter the draft last summer, whereas colleague and DNL linemate Kai Hospelt did, and was taken by San Jose in the seventh round of the 2003 draft. Markus now appears to be the frontrunner as Germany’s representative for the upcoming draft. He was a leader on Germany’s WJC entry and played a fairly regular role as a 4th liner for the Cologne Haie, under national team coach Hans Zach’s tutelage. More is expected of him this year and he’ll certainly be Germany’s key figure at the upcoming WJC. Although of decent size, Kink’s game is one of high offensive skill. At this point he’s being brought along to understand defensive responsibilities, but his obvious offensive talent is not to be ignored.
2) F-Yannic Seidenberg: 5′ 10″ 176, 01/11/84 – DEL 53 games, 2-9-11, 24 PMs
WHL: Yannic is the younger brother of Philadelphia Flyer defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who played in 59 games for the Flyers last season, his rookie year in the NHL. Yannic is on the smaller side but known for his speed. He was draft-eligible in the summer of 2002 but decided not to opt into the draft, which proved to be a mistake, because he then went undrafted in the summer of 2003 due to the perceived depth of the draft. Yannic will spend the upcoming season in the WHL, where he hopes to finally display weather he is or is not NHL material.
3) D- Felix Petermann: 6′ 2″ 186, 04/11/84 – Oberliga 50 games, 17-26-43, 84 PMs
Nuremberg Eistigers: The Nuremberg Eistigers have scooped up Germany’s best young undrafted defensive prospect. He’s an offensive defenseman by trade and was eligible for last season’s draft. He’ll now look to solidify a spot in the eyes of North America’s talent scouts with regular DEL ice time and a leading role on Germany’s WJC entry this winter. With a commitment being made by the Eistigers to foster young talent, Petermann has the opportunity to become a regular with Nuremberg this season much in the same way Ottawa prospect Christoph Schubert did two seasons ago.
4) G- Patrick Koslow: 5′ 10″ 172 01/06/85 – 21 games, 0 SOs, 4.54 GAA
Augsburg Panther: After extensive duty with team Germany’s U-17, U-18 and U-20 teams, Patrick will take on regular duty as Augsburg’s 2nd goalie this season. Already eligible for the draft this past summer, Koslow’s stock took a hit due to what was interpreted as a statistically poor year last season. Playing for Augsburg’s amateur team – a club that was certainly playing in a league where it was in over it’s head – Koslow faced an incredible amount of shots, getting little help from his defense. It didn’t get much better in his six DEL outings, where he allowed 17 goals against in only 160 minutes of playing time. Nonetheless, he is currently Germany’s top draft-eligible goaltender and has the tools for a long and successful career, whether in North America or Europe.
5) D- Nikolai Goc: ? ? ?, 06/17/86. Further information currently unavailable
?: Still uncertain where he’ll spend this seaon (most likely with Mannheim in the DNL), the youngest of the Goc family may live a little off the reputation of his brothers Sascha and Marcel, who were both drafted by the NHL, with Marcel being the highest drafted German ever. He is a smaller player at the moment and will just be turning 18 shortly before the 2004 draft, but this season will go a long way in determining whether he even opts into the next draft. He should have little problem making it onto Germany’s U-18 and WJC entries. However the young defender is said to be a very solid skater and heads-up player in the classic mold of an offensive defenseman.
6) D- Frank Hördler: 6′ 0″ 171, 01/26/85 – Oberliga 46 games, 4-12-16, 121 PMs
Eisbaeren Berlin: One of Germany’s rising stars, Frank played a very solid season last year in Germany’s third league and already appears more than capable of dealing with the rough stuff although he does need to continue filling out his frame. After having played for team Germany at U-17 and U-18 tournaments, Frank is already seeing ice time with the Eisbären Berlin in the DEL and has contributed nicely, as injuries have opened up a door of opportunity for him. The team hasn’t missed a beat and he’s helped them with 6 victories in their first 7 games. He is currently being coached by Pierre Pagé, who is very experienced in the ins and outs of North American and European hockey.
7) G- Daniel Aus den Birken: 6′ 2″ 184, 2/15/85 – DNL 23 games, ? SOs, 1.05 GAA
Jungadler Mannheim: Daniel is one of the young players who has profited from the Mannheim Academy system. In the German junior league DNL, Daniel has led the Jungadler to the championship two years running and will most likely spend the majority of this season in the 2nd Bundesliga for Heilbronn. Still, it is expected that he’ll receive some spot-duty with the Adler as he did last season, when he allowed 5 goals against in 91 minutes of DEL playing time.
8) F- Fabio Carciola: 5′ 10″ 172, 08/25/85 – DNL 31 games, 30-36-66, 60 PMs
Adler Mannheim: One of the Jungadler’s top players last season, Fabio played on their first line and led the team on their way to the DEL championship. He also had the opportunity to suit up for 28 DEL games for Mannheim, although he did not etch his name into the scoring column. This season, he’ll be expected to take a fairly regular shift on the 4th line, especially now that Yannic Seidenberg has moved on to the WHL.
9) G- Thomas Greiss: 6′ 2″ 188, 01/29/86 – DNL 28 games, 3 SOs, 2.16 GAA
Cologne Junghaie: The goalie for Germany’s U-18 entry, Thomas spent the last season leading Cologne’s DNL team to the finals, where they lost to Aus den Birken’s Adler. He will spend this season with the DNL team again, although it is likely he’ll see some playing time with Cologne Haie where he’ll be coached by Germany’s National team coach Hans Zach.
10) D- Michael Hrtska: 5′ 11″ 182, 01/22/86 – DNL 37 games, 4-22-26, 70 PMs
Cologne Junghaie: Michael has been maturing nicely with Cologne’s DNL team and is known for providing a fairly physical presence. This season, he is scheduled to practice regularly with the Cologne Haie although it is also likely that he’ll take on a leadership role with the Junghaie again in the DNL, where more will be expected of him offensively.
F- Mattias Forster – Eisbären Berlin
F- Florian Busch – Eisbären Berlin
Possible overage draft candidates in this order of draft-likelihood:
Daniel Kreutzer – F, Duesseldorf Metro Stars
Vitaali Aab – F, Nuremberg Eistigers
Patrick Köppchen – D, Hamburg Freezers
Lasse Kopitz – D/F, Nuremberg Eistigers
Sebastian Furchner – F, Cologne Haie
Nils Anton (formerly of British Columbia Uni CWUAA and the Kamloops Blazers) – F Eisbaeren Berlin
Neville Rautert – F, Ingolstadt Panthers
Adrian Grygiel – F, Krefeld Penguins
Christoph Ullmann – F, Mannheim Adler
René Roethke – F, Hamburg Freezers
Bjorn Bombis – F, Hannover Scorpions
Daniel Hilpert – D, Ingolstadt Panthers
Alexander Barta – F, Augsburg Panthers
Christoph Melischko – F, Ingolstadt Panthers
Konstantin Firsanov – F, Nuremberg Eistigers
Josef Menauer – F, Nurember Eistigers
Artjom Kostyrev – F, Kassel Huskies