German players in North America

By Oliver Janz

On the top …


Jochen Hecht (25, F, Edmonton Oilers/NHL)

Comparing the last season to the season before, it wasn’t a step forward for the 25 year old Mannheim native. He played in ten more games, but recorded four points less. It was the first and the last season for Jochen Hecht in Edmonton. After one season with the Oilers, the last year from St. Louis acquired Hecht has been traded to the Buffalo Sabres. Hecht played only an average season and the Oilers missed the playoffs. Oilers’ GM Kevin Lowe didn’t spend much time on thinking about the opportunity to trade Hecht for two second round draft picks to the Sabres. The team which has currently financial problems. Maybe a good thing for Hecht as Buffalo can’t sign big stars – which could mean more icetime in one of the first lines for him. He is still two more years under contract.


Marco Sturm (23, F, San Jose Sharks/NHL)

The “leader of the German national team” is 23 years old and has an experience of 384 NHL regular season games. Last season, he set new career highs in goals (21), points (41), playoff goals (3) and playoff points (5). It looked like his best season – so far. Be sure, Sturm is still developing and is able to score about 40-60 points every season.


Uwe Krupp (37, D, Detroit Red Wings/NHL)

Just ten games in the comeback season for Uwe Krupp. The veteran defender came back from an injury and was hopefully to forgot all the trouble he had with the Red Wings. But it was recenty stopped by injuries or scratched for healthy by the coaches. Detroit won the Stanley Cup and Krupp only played in two playoff games. As he had a poor first series, he watched all the followed games from the stands. However, he was happy to win the Stanley Cup for the second time after he did it with the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, his help wasn’t very big this season. Uwe Krupp won’t end his career and signed a one year contract with the Thrashers from Atlanta.


Olaf Kölzig (32, G, Washington Capitals/NHL)

It was a good season for him. However, Kölzig had shown better performances during the last years – like his team. Besides, Kölzig set a new goaltender record in the NHL. 273 regular season games during the last four season – more than Patrick Roy, Curtis Joseph, Byron Dafoe or Dominik Hasek. Olie the goalie is still under contract in Washington.


Jan Benda (30, F, Edmonton Oilers/NHL*)

Benda attended the Oilers camp last year and was one of the last players who had been cut. According to Coyotes scout Thomas Steen, Benda lacks speed. However, the member of the German national team received many offers from clubs out of five countries after the tryout. The Czech-German forward is a very international guy. He played in seven different countries so far. Last season, he played for AK Bars Kazan of Russia. In the upcoming season we will see Benda playing in the NHL? Germany? Finland? Russia? Or maybe Brazil if there is a team with enough money. Finally, Benda signed a contract extension at Kazan.


Sascha Goc (23, D, Tampa Bay Lightning/NHL)

Goc had a bad last season. After ten games with Albany and two games with New Jersey, he had been traded to Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, he never got a real chance there and only played some minutes during the nine games he dressed for the Lightning. Goc was frustrated and did not accept the contract, the Lightning offered him after the season. The rights are still held by the Lightning, but Sascha Goc signed a two year contract with Adler Mannheim in Germany to play in a team with his younger brother Marcel, who was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 2001.


Minors …


Sven Butenschön (26, D, Hamilton Bulldogs/AHL)

Butenschön split another season between the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League. And like the seasons before, Butenschön had a great time in the AHL as he scored 44 points in 61 games. After playing 14 games with Edmonton, ‘Boots’ has now participated in 54 NHL games. However, his contract in Edmonton came to an end and after they did not offered him an extension he decided to sign with the Florida Panthers.


Steffen Karg (23, G, Richmond Renegades/ECHL)

The 23 year old native of Schwenningen decided to play one year in the North American minors. But it was more watching than playing. And he was often signed, assigned, called up and finally released. Karg spent the season between Charlotte, South Carolina, Greenville and Richmond. However, he just played one game for Charlotte and another one for Richmond. After this season, Karg headed back to Germany to play as a back up for his former team, the Schwenninger Wild Wings of the DEL.


Oliver Jonas (23, G, Reading Royals/ECHL*)

Goalie Oliver Jonas was signed by the Los Angeles Kings organization in summer of 2001. He got a ‘three-opportunities-contract’. His first team should become the Reading Royals, a ECHL expansion team. If he develops well, they are willing to give him a chance on a higher level. In that case, his new team has the name Manchester Monarchs from the American Hockey League. The third opportunity was a German team, Eisbären Berlin. Due to Berlin’s owner, the Anschütz group. Anschütz owns some teams in Europe and he also serves in the Kings management. Finally, the third possibility happened. Jonas was assigned to Berlin to replace the injured Klaus Merk, a former German national team member. Jonas didn’t play bad and Merk didn’t recover well. Due to both facts, Oliver Jonas stayed in Germany for the whole season and signed a contract extension for 2002-2003.


Robert Francz (24, F, Mississippi Sea Wolves/ECHL*)

Another German boy who played the last seasons in North America is Robert Francz. The 23 year old forward saw ice time with the Peterborough Petes (OHL), Springfield Falcons (AHL) and the Sea Wolves from Mississippi (ECHL) in the last years. He didn’t got a real chance to develop in the AHL due to too many prospects in his team. Francz was drafted in 1997 from the Phoenix Coyotes. But the Coyotes hadn’t an own farmteam. They shared the their team with Tampa Bay Lightning. So, the way down in the ECHL is even faster. And after two seasons between the AHL and the ECHL, Francz wanted to come back to Germany. The Frankfurt Lions signed him. As for now, a right decision. He developed well. The coaches liked his playing style and he became a fan favourite due to his never quit attitude. His scoring numbers aren’t high and his team is one of those teams which spent many money for players every year – without success. Year by year. However, Francz was their best player in the last games and signed a one year contract extension


Erich Dumpis (22, F, Pensacola Ice Pilots/ECHL*)

Erich Dumpis, a 22 years old forward who spent the last season in the United Hockey League (UHL), while playing for the Kalamazoo Wings. In october 2001, he attended the camp of the Pensacola Ice Pilots from the ECHL. And he failed to make the team in the tryouts. Dumpis went back to Germany and was a member of the team he left in 2000 for the Wings, ERC Haßfurt of the third league.


Patrick Heinz (23, F, Corpus Christi Ice Rays/CHL*)

Patrick Heinz, a 23 year old wing who played for the Calgary Royals (AJHL), Nelson Leafs (RMJHL), Corpus Christi Ice Rays (WPHL) and El Paso Buzzards (WPHL) in the past. So, he know some guys in North America from this time and got invited to the camp of the Corpus Christi Ice Rays from the Central Hockey League. Unfortunately, he could not attend the camp due to the happenings about the World Trade Center on September, 11th. His flight was cancelled. Due to this matter, he decided to stay in Germany. Heinz is now a member of fourth league based team Hammer Huskies.


Universities …


Nils Antons (22, F, University of British Columbia Thunderbirds/CWUAA)

Antons is playing hockey in the west of Canada since 1996 as he joined the Kamloops Blazers (WHL). Since 1998, he played for the Thunderbirds of the University of British Columbia. In his last year at UBC, Antons had his best season. He scored 15 goals and 19 assists in 37 games and finished the season as the Thunderbirds’ topscorer. Unfortunately, the team played another poor season and ended up on the last place of their division for the fourth season. However, Antons will start his pro career – either in North America or in Germany.


Dallas Fallscheer (24, D, University of Calgary Dinos/CWUAA)

Fallscheer has a German mother and a German passport. Enough to not be classified as an import played in Germany. After attending the University of Calgary for four years, Fallscheer finally decided to went to Germany and starting his pro career there. After negotiations with two teams, he signed with REV Bremerhaven of the second league. If everything works well in Bremerhaven, there might be some teams from the DEL interested in him.


Paul Weismann (21, D, Geneseo College Ice Knights/SUNYAC)

After only eight games during the 2000-2001 season and no games during the first weeks of the 2001-2002 season, Weismann decided to transfer colleges. He went down from NCAA Division 1 to Division 3 hockey, but his playing time grows much. Weismann was a first line defender who also played in Power Play- and Penalty Killing situations. One can see it with a look at his stats at Geneseo: 13 games, two goals and five assists. Before he graduates in 2004, the 21 year old defender will develop in the SUNYAC.


Martin Hyun (23, F, St. Michael’s College Purple Knights/ECAC East)

Hyun is playing hockey in the United States since 1997. Till ’99 Hyun played two years of high school hockey before starting his years of study at St. Michael’s College. The Krefeld native scored 36 points in 49 games during his first two seasons and his coach was hopeful that he could reach the one point per game mark in the season 2001-2002. Unfortunately, Hyun suffered injuries and played only ten games during the whole season. Due to this fact, the scoring numbers were low. Only three assists and no goals. The upcoming season will be the last at St. Michael’s. And maybe the last in the United States, too. The DEL team of Krefeld could become his new home. It would be a step back to the roots as he also starts playing hockey in his hometown Krefeld.


Florian Roth (22, F, University of Windsor Lancers/OUAA)

Roth did not scored big numbers during his time in Germany, he is more a player who wants to see the big world due to his years of study. In 2000-2001, Roth played in the third Finnish division for Kiekko-67 Turku during his study time in Finland. Last season, he attended the University of Windsor and played for their hockey team, the Lancers. Without big succes – he only registered four penalty minutes in just six games. Next year, he could be back in Windsor, but he’s also trying to find a place to play and study in Germany.


Junior hockey …


Toni Bader (21, D, Seattle Thunderbirds/WHL)

The season 2001/2002 was the last on the major junior level for Bader – and also his best. While playing for Calgary Hitmen (four games) and Seattle Thunderbirds, he recorded a total of 30 points in 62 games. Bader has a dual citizenship: The most German-Canadiens applied for a German citizenship, but Bader applied for a Canadien one, which he received. Because he would like to stay in Canada for a longer time. And so he also wants to start a pro career elsewhere in in the minor leagues of North America. Finally, he found a team in the East Coast Hockey League. Bader will play his first season on the pro level for the Baton Rouge Kingfish.


Marcel Juhasz (19, F, Cowichan Valley Capitals/BCJHL)

One can call Juhasz as a player with three native countries. He has German, Hungarian and Canadien ancestors. And he played in these countries, too. Last season, Juhasz was a member of the Cowichan Valley Capitals in British Columbia. Coming out of a 58 point season in Hungary, he collected 23 points during the regular season of the BCJHL while only playing in the third line. Juhasz, who is eligible to play another two years at the junior level, will stay in British Columbia but change the team as he was traded to the Penticton Panthers.


Eric Peter-Kaiser (21, F, Nanaimo Clippers/BCJHL)

The son of two Germans who migrated from Germany to Canada, Eric Peter-Kaiser played the last three seasons for Nanaimo in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League. After registering 28 points in 46 games during his last junior season, Peter-Kaiser decided to attend a college in the US. For the next four years, you can see his name over the number 23 on his jersey of the Potsdam University (SUNYAC).


Michael Müller (20, F, Summerside Western Capitals/MJAHL)

Known as a player who never quits and always fights for the puck, Müller played his last year in Canada. While spending his whole junior career in Canada, he played for five teams in three different leagues. His last team were the Summerside Western Capitals of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League, where he scored eight points after registering 18 points for Trail and Prince George in the BCJHL. The Weißwasser native headed back to Germany after the season to find a team there. And he had success. Müller signed a one year junior contract with Eisbären Berlin of the highest German hockey league (DEL), but will start at their farmteam, ETC Crimmitschau of the second league.


Mike Gerstenbuhler (21, D, Olds Grizzlys/AJHL)

Gerstenbuhler can be classified as a „future German“. He will get a dual citizenship next year due to his German father. And he will also play hockey in Germany in the future. Some German teams showed interest in him, but he decided to attend SAIT College in Calgary before he will move to his father’s native country. In the past, Gerstenbuhler had a stint with the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)and won the AMBHL Top Defenseman Trophy 1997. On year later, Jay Bouwmeester garnered this award.


Justin Tolton (21, F, Collingwood Blues/OPJHL)

One more player from Canada who has German ancestors. A fact which helped him to receive a German passport. Tolton wanted to start his pro career in Germany last season, but his former team, Collingwood, did not allow this. One year later, Tolton finished his junior career and headed to Freiburg, Germany, to try to start his pro career at their second league based hockey team. Unfortunately, the coach gave him only a spot as the seventh defender. Not enough for Tolton, he took the plane to flight back to Canada for the second time.


Marian Dejdar (19, F, Green Bay Gamblers/USHL)

This German-Czech Republic native had played for seven teams during the last three years. Dejdar started the last season playing for Frankfurt Lions at the highest German pro level (DEL). After registering no points and no penalty minutes in 24 games, General Manager Bernie Johnston helped him to find a place in the USHL. His stats after another 24 games were better, but not very high. Dejdar scored one goal and assisted on four during the games with Green Bay. Now, he’s back in Germany and will split the season between Frankfurt and a to be announced farmteam for him.


Max Graupner (19, D, Tupelo T-Rex/AWHL)

Graupner’s wish to play junior hockey in the United States should came true as he contacted various teams from the United States Hockey League, a Junior A league. Finally, he attended the Green Bay Gamblers Tryout camp. After the camp, he went home to Germany to stay at the pro level and play for his former team, the Blue Devils Weiden from the fourth league in Germany.


However, after 21 games with Weiden, Graupner decided to play junior hockey. His agent introduced him to a team from a new junior league, the CEHL. But this league isn’t as good as the NAHL or the USHL. Another change of mind happened some days later. His new team won’t be from the CEHL, he’s going to play for a team from the American West Hockey League (AWHL). The league level is a bit higher. Also, they have a NHL-drafted player in their alumni. Swedish guy David Printz, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers. Graupner’s new team became the T-Rex from Tupelo, the team with the worst record in the whole league. He played in 18 games since december and scored one goal and two assists. However, the next season can only be better and Graupner will stay there to play his first full season in Tupelo. His future could be in the United States, too. Maybe he wants to play for a minor league team before heading back to Germany.


Jacek Wilk (19, F, Bay City Bombers/WSHL)

One of Graupner’s former teammates from the Weiden junior project was Jacek Wilk. The 19 year old winger was born in Katowice, Poland. He got his talent from his father (Gregor) who was a famous hockey player in Poland. However, Jacek is a German citizen and spend a lot of his hockey career in Essen. Personal records from his midget days were 24 goals and 130 penalty minutes in the 99-00 season. Then he joined Weiden to play there until January as he went to to the United States.


Without a contract from any junior team over there so far. Wilk proved himself during some tryouts there and got a contract at the end of January. His new team became the Bay City Bombers from the Western States Hockey League (WSHL). The goal for Jacek after Junior B is Junior A. He attended tryouts for the next season, with Springfield of the NAHL for example. Finally, he signed with the Traverse City Enforcers of the CEHL.


Andreas Pufal (21, D, Golden Junior Rockets/KIJHL)

Pufal was born in Lich, Germany, but played hockey in North America for a long time. For example, he played for the Southern Elite Hockey League in Florida during this years. However, the 21 year old defender skated for the Golden Jr. Rockets in the KIJHL last season. The KIJHL is a junior B league based in Kootenay, where he scored 20 points in 33 games during the regular season. As he was born in 1981, this season was the last one on the junior level. Pufal has to play at the senior level next season – maybe in North America, maybe in Germany.


Roland Griesmayer (19, F, St. Thomas Stars/WJBHL)

Roland Griesmayer will also maybe play hockey in Germany next season. The 19 year old forward has only one problem. Griesmayer hasn’t a German passport, only a Canadian for now. He was born in Altstätten, Switzerland and is of German decent, but lived nearly his whole life in Canada. His hometown is Toronto, Ontario. There he started to play hockey and developed in teams like the Toronto Marlboros. Last season, Griesmayer played for the St. Thomas Stars in the Western Junior B Hockey League. He finished as their top goalscorer. An interesting fact, because Joe Thornton of the Boston Bruins also won this team award in the past. Griesmayer will stay in Ontario or move to Germany to play another junior season.


Kolja Schneider (18, D, Shattuck St. Mary’s Sabres/MNJHL)

Many Schneider’s played hockey in North America last season, Eric Schneider of the ECHL for example. Just one of this “family” is a German, Kolja Schneider. He played for the Shattuck St. Mary’s Junior B team. Shattuck, Minnesota is known for his well hockey program. Schneider played for their midget teams since 1999. Last season, he did not made the cut for the prep team. Players like Zach Parise or Tyler Hirsch did it. Schneider got a place in the Junior B team, which was full of players who also could play midget AAA due to their age. The "second prep team" plays many exhibition games and is a member of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League (MNJHL).


The Sabres finished the season with a 16-26-0 record in the MNJHL and a 29-29-1 overall record. Schneider, a defender who started the season as a wing, scored 22 times in 45 games and had a good season. The 18 year old guy attended some invited tryout camps. Eight Junior A teams from the USHL, AWHL, NAHL and the BCJHL invited him. However, Schneider accepted an offer from the Northwest Knights, also from the MNJHL, due to attending their high school as a postgraduate. Schneider plans to play one or two more years before his college commitment.


Georg Rainer Köttsdorfer (20, D, Valley Junior Warriors/EJHL)

The official level of the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL) was Junior C, but if one compare the players of the EJHL to the other junior leagues, it’s more a Jr. A or a Jr. B league. Right now, the league is listed on an independend level. Besides, the list with college commitments is long. However, a German defender played for a EJHL team over the last two years, the Valley Junior Warriors. His name is Georg Rainer Köttsdorfer, a 20 year old Rosenheim native. In his two seasons, he scored 46 points in 57 games for the Warriors. His junior days are now over, Köttsdorfer’s start in the pros is cleared. He signed a one year contract in Germany – with the Schwenninger Wild Wings of the highest German hockey league, the DEL.


John Hooks (20, F, Springfield Jr. Blues/NAHL)

John is gonna play another season for the Jr. Blues as an overage guy. The Brown Mills native played seven years in Germany in the past before his move back to the United States, where he played in Philadelphia in 2000-2001. The 6’1” and 215 lbs. Forward will most likely attend a NCAA Division 3 College in 2003.


High school boys …


Moritz Kettler (18, D, Notre Dame Hounds – Vigneron II/Midget AA)

Notre Dame, Saskatoon. A school with many hockey teams and a school which produced some players who made the NHL. A good place for young hockey prospects. A place where also some Germans developed. Axel Müffeler from Köln in 2000-2001 for example. Currently, Moritz Kettler is playing there. The Defender had a spot at the second Midget AA team at Notre Dame. Besides, his brother Max (like the Max & Moritz story from the Grimme brothers) attended also the Notre Dame School till last year. After one year in the fourth German league with Dorfen, Max will play Junior hockey in Canada next season, in the VIJHL or in the BCJHL.


Ian Helmrath (17, F) and William Helmrath (18, D/F, Northwood School/HS)

Up to the next brothers. Ian and William Helmrath, the two guys from Regensburg, Germany, attended the Northwood School. Located in the Adirondack Mountains at Lake Placid, New York, Northwood School was founded in 1905 and is a private college preparatory boarding and day school for approximately 150 young men and women in grades 9 through 12 and postgraduate. Hockey at Northwood has a tradition of outstanding achievement with a number of both players and coaches having gone on to renowned collegiate and professional careers.


Back to the Helmrath brothers. They played in the J.V. and Varsity B team for Northwood. Not as high as two other Germans who played there in the past. Forward Martin Hyun and defender Matthias Frenzel played in the first team at the end of the 90’s. William has one more year in Northwood, while his younger brother Ian will stay for two more years.


Martin Siemsen (17, F) and Ulrich Schuster (16, F, Stanstead College/HS)

One of Northwood’s opponents during the last season was the Stanstead College at the CanAm Tournament. Another School with two German hockey players: forwards Ulrich Schuster (from München) and Martin Siemsen (from Hamburg). Both guys are born in 1985 and will stay in Stanstead, Quebec until their graduation next year.


Daniel Bethe (17, G) and Sebastian Bongartz (17, F, Northbridge School/HS)

Goalie Daniel Bethe had a good season in the United States. He attended a program which sends German pupils to North America for one year. The Düsseldorf native left his last team which was based in Köln for the Northbridge High School in Massachusetts. Danny played in the most of the games and finished with a low 2. Goals against average. His performances were everytime on a high level. Due to this fact, he was also invited to the Team Massachusetts to play for them during the USA Selects Festival.


Next season, the 17 year old netminder decided to play in Ratingen for the pro and junior team. In addition, his long term goal is to backstop a NCAA Division I team. Joining Bethe to Northbridge was Sebastian Bongartz. The forward was also born in Düsseldorf and had a good season in Northbridge, too. He scored 58 points and was a teammate of Bethe at the USA Selects Festival as he also dressed for Team Massachusetts. Now, he’s back in Germany and signed for fourth league based Essen, a competitor of Bethe’s Ratingen.


Björn Reiser (17, D) and Leif Buckup (18, F, Caronport Cougars/SSMHL)

Another German guy who attended a High School last season was Björn Reiser. The defender from Nürnberg attended the Briercrest High School in Saskatoon, Canada, for the second year. According to his coach, “he is a great kid and we would love to have him back on our team here … he has developed each year and this year at the league all star game, he won the fastest skater competition, and the best puck handler! He has lots of hockey ahead of him!” And that’s true, because Reiser was one of the best defenseman in the whole league and also participated in the All-Star Game. Another guy, who attended Briercrest for two years was forward Leif Buckup. The 18 year old Berlin native had two average seasons there and signed with the Junior team of Iserlohn for the next season.


Jan Taube (18, F) and Marcus Hille (18, F, Hancock School/HS)

Like Bethe and Bongartz, two more Düsseldorf natives attended the student exchange program. They were send to Hancock High School, where also NHL and AHL goalie Dieter Kochan developed. Hille’s season wasn’t good and he scored only four times in twelve games. Taube, a sniper, had a two point per game average and scored 11 goals and 13 assists in 12 games during the league play and over 40 points including all exhibition games. Due to this fact, he was the team’s fourth topscorer and was named to the High School league All-Star team. In 2002-2003, Taube signed for Ratingen and will be re-united with his former teammate Daniel Bethe.


Girls, Girls, Girls …


North America isn’t a dream for mens only. There are also some girls who play hockey in Canadian and American teams. Wing Raffaela "Raffi" Wolf is a student of the University of Maine. It’s not important what she study, more imporant is the fact that Wolf is the all-time leading scorer (!) of the University where Paul Kariya is from. She played in Salt Lake City at the olympics together with Bettina Evers. Evers is currently the only German woman who plays in the National Women Hockey League. The Hannover native scored 13 points in 17 games for Telus Lightning. Besides, the first German woman in this league was Maren Valenti (St. Julie Pantheres), who also played for Freiburg’s mens hockey team in the second league.


Last but not least, we have Dinah von Niessen in Canada. She’s 23 years old and a student of human kinetics at the University of Ottawa. She also plays for the women hockey team, the Gee-Gee’s in the OUAA. And these girls won’t be the last hockey players in North America. Franziska Reindl, daughter of Germany’s olympic team General Manager Franz Reindl, will attend a American University and play hockey there next season.


German Heritage and the next season …


In 2002-2003, guys like Max Bergmann, Christoph Schubert and Dennis Seidenberg will play in North America. And there are still some more guys who are related to Germany. A dozen of players have a German heritage. Minor League Goalies like Karl Goehring or Kirk Daubenspeck, college players like Zenon Kochan or Brett Engelhardt. They are to much to list here. If there is anyone missing in the first list, please contact me and the one will be added.