As Germany’s U18 team wrapped up its 6-0 and 9-2 thrashing of Japan in two test games before heading to Sochi, coach Jim Setters was making his final decisions on who to bring to Russia. The decisions have come easier this year as Germany will be sporting a team that is expected to do a bit more than in years past, although it has finished sixth in the two most recent U18 tournaments.
In the past two years, Germany has managed to ice a U18 tournament entry that has competed strongly in finishing a solid sixth on both occasions. Along the way, the team was able to grab the odd unexpected point or push a favorite to the brink of defeat, for example, when it beat Russia 4-2 in 2012 or in its 5-4 and 4-3 losses to Russia and Canada respectively in 2011.
The Prince Albert Raiders have struggled to make the playoffs for the last several years, despite the best efforts of players like current team leader and first-round NHL draft pick, Mark McNeil (CHI). Enter Leon Draisaitl, a German-born WHL rookie and 2014 draft-eligible forward who scored at nearly a point-per-game pace in his rookie season. Draisaitl and McNeil combined for 125 points and led the Raiders to their first post-season appearance in almost a decade.
Coming into the 2013 World Junior Championship, Team Germany’s head coach Ernst Hofner went about his preparatory business knowing right from the beginning that his country was fighting to avoid relegation, that an appearance in the relegation round was just short of pre-programmed, and that Germany would be using the preliminary round to prepare for what would likely come down to a game between Germany and – should there be no surprises – Latvia. This may have been the forecast made by most beforehand, and it was exactly how things ended up.