Top 6 Germany prospects for 2009 draft

By Chapin Landvogt

With German-born Jochen Hecht and Marco Sturm already established quantities in the NHL, this past season saw Dennis Seidenberg, Christian Erhoff, and Christoph Schubert take their games to a new level. Erhoff was a top-four blueliner for the top regular-season team, the San Jose Sharks. Seidenberg has become a top-four defenseman for the Carolina Hurricanes, contributing considerably to their inspiring playoff run. Schubert continued to carry out the role as a craftsman of all trades for an Ottawa team that struggled throughout the season. As soon as next season, they may be joined by several more German faces, namely Buffalo’s 2005 second rounder Philipp Gogulla and 2006 fourth rounder Felix Schutz. Also developing nicely this past season were 2006 draftees and current DELers Korbinian Holzer (TOR, 4th round) and Constantin Braun (LA, 6th round), who faced off against each other in this season’s championship series, with Braun’s Eisbaren Berlin getting the upper hand. Progress was also made by 2007 draftees Timo Pielmeier (SJ, 3rd round) and Dennis Reul (BOS, 5th round), both of whom spent this past winter playing key roles in the QMJHL for the Shawinigan Cataractes and Lewiston MAINEiacs respectively.

The 2008 NHL Entry Draft only featured one drafted German, Cologne’s Jerome Flaake (TOR, 5th round). Making the jump from the junior team to the Germany’s top league, Flaake didn’t take long to establish himself as a regular and more importantly, a player with great potential.

As was the case last summer, there are several prospects playing in Germany who have clocked in among the CSS’ top 200 European players. Here’s a look at the top six Germany prospects entering the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal on June 26-27.

1. Daniel Weiss, F – Shoots: Left – 6’3, 196 lbs.

CSS European Rank #57
Feb 22, 1990

The younger brother of Eisbaren Berlin sensation Alexander Weiss, Daniel spent this past season playing alongside his big brother. In what was in many ways a storybook year, Daniel made the Eisbaren Berlin and by the end of the season, was regularly killing penalties with Alexander in the DEL finals. Along the way, he put up six goals, five assists, 55 penalty minutes and a +2 rating for the DEL champions in 52 total games. He also added two goals and seven points in eight games with the B team, the Eisbaren Juniors in Germany’s third league.

Weiss has caught the scouts’ attention by displaying a propensity to play the body well and showing strong puck-protection skills. His good hockey sense and generally strong skating helps him get by despite needing to work on his first two steps. Nonetheless, he adjusted extremely well to the speed of the DEL. His increase in development was placed on display internationally for Team Germany at the U20 tournament in Canada. Despite it being a tough tournament for Germany, Weiss tied for second in team scoring with two goals, four points and a +3 rating in six games. The confidence gained there was carried over to finish off the DEL season. With a contract until 2011 in his pocket, management expects Weiss to continue to develop and ultimately excel in establishing himself as a top player in the DEL as soon as next season. 

2. Thomas Brandl, C – Shoots: Left – 5’11, 176 lbs.

CSS European Rank #75
Feb 8, 1991

The younger brother of former Prince Albert Raiders forward Max Brandl, Thomas Brandl split this past season with his hometown Landshut Cannibals of the German second league and their DNL (junior) team. Brandl became an integral part of the second league team’s checking line, chipping in with four goals and six points while racking up 28 penalty minutes. Brandl was a key offensive contributor for the junior club, scoring 13 goals and 23 points in 17 games and then adding six goals and 13 points in nine playoff games. The Landshut juniors made a surprising run to the finals, where they were easily dismissed by the favored team from Mannheim. Diminutive in size, Brandl is anything but diminutive in heart, bringing with him an aggressive style of play while also being considered highly coachable.

After an injury-plagued 2007-08 season, the constant load of playing regularly for two teams plus an international tournament has him in the finest shape of his young career. This was evident at the U18 tournament in April, when Brandl led Team Germany with four assists and scored one goal, a game winner, in what was a disappointing tournament for Germany. Unfortunately, his usually strong defensive play couldn’t prevent him from ending the tournament with a -3 rating. In addition, his face-off abilities will need some fine-tuning, but his technical adeptness is above-average, so he should improve in this category along the way. Brandl is the son and namesake of long-time German National Team member Thomas Brandl and jumped from a CSS mid-season rank of 99 among Europeans to his current No. 75 ranking. Depending on the Canadian junior league import draft, Brandl may make the jump to North America next season. Otherwise, he’ll spend next season becoming an even more important building block for his Landshut Cannibals. 

3.  Kevin Puschnik, F – Shoots: Left – 5’10, 165 lbs.
CSS European Rank #76 
Sept 2, 1991

Having spent the 2008-09 season with the Mannheim Juniors in the DNL, the undersized Puschnik is ranked 76th among European skaters, third among Germany players. Puschnik put up 36 goals and 60 assists in 44 total regular season and playoff games, leading the DNL’s top team in scoring while playing with linemate Marc El-Sayed. This total also proved to be one of the most impressive totals ever in the young DNL’s history. Intriguing however, is that he possesses Austrian citizenship and is the son of one of Austria’s most famous national ice hockey players, Gerhard Puschnik. As such, he suited up for Austria at the Division I, Group B U18 championship in Denmark, having led Austria in scoring with four goals and four assists in five games. Despite his solid contributions, Austria only managed to finish third out of six teams.

A crafty player with an excellent ability to read the game, the mite-sized Puschnik is also one of the youngest players in the 2009 draft. Quick on his feet, Puschnik regularly displays the ability to know when he should shoot and when he should pass. Still, at his size, he’ll need a lot of work on his physical game if he’s to make it into one of world’s better leagues, much less the NHL. There’s no argument however, that he has his sights set on the best league in the world. As for next season, Puschnik very much hopes to follow fellow countrymen Stefan Ulmer and Michael Grabner, both of whom have made names for themselves with excellent seasons for Spokane of the WHL. Should he not be drafted by a CHL club in the 2009 import draft, he may very well look to join a team in the USHL and perhaps set his sights on NCAA hockey, a route once taken by Thomas Vanek.

4. Laurin Braun, F – Shoots: Left – 5’11, 180 lbs.
CSS European Rank #109 
Feb 18, 1991

The younger brother of Los Angeles 2006 sixth rounder Constantin Braun, Laurin spent this past season in his brother’s organization playing for the Eisbaren Juniors. There he put up 14 goals, 18 assists and 59 penalty minutes in 47 games after having put up a point per game in 24 games the season before. Unlike his older brother, Laurin doesn’t feature a hulking frame, coming in a good four inches shorter than his brother, but he made a huge jump in the maturity department this year. His play during the course of the season ultimately earned him a cup of coffee with the big club, having seen moderate ice time in a three-game introduction. A strong skater, Laurin has good offensive instincts but will simply have to get stronger if he wants to one day play a regular role in the DEL, much less at a higher level. Like Weiss, Braun was chosen to play for Team Germany at the U18 tournament and didn’t disappoint, putting up two goals and four points in six games. His -1 rating tied him for second on the team in that department (only Marcel Ohmann registered a plus rating with +1 in five games). Laurin will be looking to earn himself a regular role in the DEL line-up next season, something his drafted older brother has successfully done over the course of the past two seasons.  

5. Marc El-Sayed, F – Shoots: Left – 6’3, 212 lbs.
CSS European Rank #126
Jan 18, 1991
In the 2008-09 season, the well-built El-Sayed helped lead his Mannheim/Heilbronn Juniors to the DNL championship, dismissing challenger Landshut in quick fashion, 4-1 and 9-4 in the best-of-three series. In 33 regular season games, El-Sayed contributed a whopping 17 goals, 33 assists and 28 penalty minutes to the league’s runaway top team. The pace didn’t drop off in the playoffs, where he finished second in playoff scoring with six goals and 19 points in eight games. Making this achievement all the more impressive is that it coincided with his semi-regular play for the Heilbronn Falcons of Germany’s second league. Used sparingly, El-Sayed failed to get even one point in 20 total games with the Falcons, but after totaling six penalty minutes in 17 regular season games, he oddly amassed 27 penalty minutes in only three playoff games in a heated first-round dismissal at the hands of the surprising Lausitzer Foxes.

As one of the better-sized participants, El-Sayed represented Team Germany at the U18 tournament. Like many of his teammates, he had hard time preventing the team from being relegated, going -5 in six games. He did however lead the team in scoring with three goals and three assists while managing to stay out of the penalty box completely. Where his path will take him next season has yet to be determined. He’ll likely find himself taking on a bigger role in Germany’s second league while working on his speed and his overall game. Then again, El-Sayed’s combination of size and playmaking ability may even be tempting enough to see him get drafted by a Canadian junior team in the import draft.

6. Dominik Bielke, D – Shoots: Left – 6’3, 190 lbs.
CSS European Rank #134
Oct 23, 1990

Although only ranked fifth among German prospects entering this draft, Bielke took some huge steps this past winter. Playing for the Eisbaren Berlin’s second team, the Eisbaren Juniors, Bielke had a huge season for a surprisingly competitive team in Germany’s third professional league, where he was also named the third best defenseman in the league by Germany’s top ice hockey publication, the Eishockey News. Playing in 47 games for the juniors, Bielke scored 14 goals, 39 points and racked up 104 penalty minutes. His play earned him a call-up to the big team and he didn’t disappoint, getting one assist and putting up a +2 rating in seven DEL games. The German national program made quick note of the rising star, giving him ample ice time at the U20 tournament in Canada. In six games, Bielke gathered four penalty minutes and a rough -4 rating.

Particularly impressive are Bielke’s offensive instincts as a blueliner. He possesses a hard, accurate shot and skates very well for a boy his size. His offense came at a consistent rate this past season, even if he wasn’t able to translate that aspect of his play in Germany to the U20 tournament. According to management, Bielke must work on his first few steps, but is surely knocking very loudly on the DEL team’s door. As such, some of the defensemen currently playing for the senior team will have keep an eye on their jobs, as Bielke’s summer training will go a long way in determining just how much of an impact he can make at the top level next season – his offensive instincts are already very enticing to management and the coaching staff.

The remaining two Germans ranked by CSS for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft are:

Marco Nowak, D – Shoots: Right – 6’1, 198 lbs.
Dusseldorf, DEL
CSS European Skater Rank #200

Felix Bruckmann, G – 5’11, 169 lbs.
Heilbronn, German third league
CSS European Goalie Rank #13

DNL = Deutsche Nachwuchs Liga (German Young Prospects League)