Having arrived on the German ice hockey scene at the tender age of 16, Manuel Wiederer made quite a splash, popping in 16 goals and posting 29 points in 44 games for a pro team in the third men’s league. This quickly earned him a role on his nation’s national team for the 2014 U18 World Championship in Finland, where he proceeded to contribute five points in six games, helping Germany retain the class in two close victories over Denmark in the relegation round.
After that strong showing in the 2013-14 season, Wiederer was signed by the Straubing Tigers of the DEL. He collected two points and 31 penalty minutes in 29 games of action with the Tigers in the 2014-15 season, while slowly and painstakingly learning the ins and outs of pro hockey. A few showings at the DNL level (14 points in five games) and for Kaufbeuren in the DEL2 (six points in 15 contests) helped round out his game and allowed him to display that there is a scorer in him.
At that juncture, the opportunity to play in the QMJHL came about and Wiederer, currently an overager by drafting standards, without hesitation headed over to the Moncton Wildcats on loan. There, he has literally exploded on the scene with 24 goals and 56 points in 48 games, accompanied by a +20 rating, thus showing the scouting community just what he is capable of in the right environment.
Hockey’s Future recently had the opportunity to chat with Wiederer about his 2015-16 season to date.
Hockey’s Future: You went to North America as an undrafted player. You’ve enjoyed some real success there. How are enjoying your time overseas?
Manuel Wiederer: I’m really enjoying it. I play on a really good team and I get to play on a really good line. I’m enjoying it immensely. It wasn’t all that easy coming in, because I was not only new to the continent and that style of play, but I was also 19 years old and there were a lot of expectations of me. Making the adjustments on and off the ice came with challenges.
HF: How did you enjoy the tournament with the German national team in Vienna, Austria (one point in five games as Germany finished fifth out of six teams) shortly before Christmas?
MW: It’s a shame that I wasn’t able to perform as I expected. I didn’t make the impact that my nation needed me to, and after we had dropped out of the top division last winter, we came in here with pressure and expectations. We didn’t get the results we expected. And that was weird seeing as how well things had been going overseas in North America.
HF: How difficult was it to be over there in the QMJHL, playing three games a week and concentrating on a specific team goal, only to fly over to Europe and play in a grind of a tournament like the Division 1 U20 WJC, where your team played five games in seven days?
MW: It wasn’t easy. We played a completely different style of hockey over in Europe. Nonetheless, that shouldn’t be seen as an excuse for my lack of production and the team’s inability to achieve the desired results. We expected more of ourselves and we had a good collection of players that would have been capable of more if the team had been together longer.
HF: In Canada, you’re playing with and against a lot of kids who have already been drafted by NHL teams or plan to be drafted very soon. How much of a different world has it been for you than what you knew back in Germany?
MW: It’s a lot different. The players know that what they do now can reflect on their chances in the future. It also means that there is a huge mass of players who are very talented and goal-driven. The feeling is really different, because Canada is hockey country and the importance of the sport is so much greater than in Germany. I’m just trying to get better and soak in anything I can.
HF: What are your thoughts on your future, seeing as how you likely made the move to North America in order to get drafted?
MW: That’s indeed the main motivation for going over. I am 19 already, so my achievements there have to be viewed in the proper context and I know that overagers aren’t drafted a whole lot, but I have had some good talks with various decision makers in the background. For me, I just want to keep getting better and end the season on a strong note. I think my best hockey is still to come and I’m spending this season trying to give teams every reason to draft me.
HF: What have you been improving on the most since the Division 1 World Championship before Christmas?
MW: I’ve been concentrating on becoming more well-rounded. Things like finishing my checks, playing the body more, being responsible in my own zone – a lot of those things were never required of me in Germany. This is how you play here and if it doesn’t come, you and your team can’t really be successful. These are the things I’ve been adding to my skill set.
HF: Is there a particular player out there who you model your game after?
MW: I’ve been told by a few people that I remind them of Brent Sutter. He may not be an everyday household name and I know that a lot of guys my age aren’t really aware of what he was like as a player, but he played a solid two-way game and that’s the kind of game I play. I like to be responsible in my zone. I like to play with a defensive mindset.
HF: As a German player, have you been watching what Leon Draisaitl has been doing this year and, if so, what kind of impression has that left on you?
MW: He was always very talented, but he’s obviously done what’s necessary to create a regular job for himself in the NHL. It’s been great for Leon and it’s great for German ice hockey. That’s been creating interest for the sport back home and I’m happy we’re getting to see just how fantastic a player he is.
HF: Since you are German, do a lot of your colleagues in Canada ask you about Draisaitl?
MW: Yes, actually a lot. They ask if I know him and if I’ve played with him and about how important his success has been for the sport in the country. He’s gained a lot of attention this winter. He’s making a lot of people curious about what German ice hockey can be capable of producing in the years to come.
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