German 2004 prospects: Top 10 ranking

By Chapin Landvogt

In the last few years, Germany has produced several fine draft picks after having gone the better part of a decade with only Marco Sturm and Jochen Hecht to showcase. In the last few years, several NHL teams (particularly the San Jose Sharks) have looked to Germany for some decent mid-to-late round picks, and the Sharks even having taken Marcel Goc in the first round in the 2001 draft. That draft also produced Dennis Seidenberg and Christian Erhoff, both of whom have since made fine first impressions in their respective rookie campaigns.

The 2003 draft saw several more Germans (Patrick Ehelechner, Eduard Lewandowski and Kai Hospelt) get taken in the middle rounds, each of which looking like viable NHL candidates in the upcoming years. This year’s draft possibilities coming out of Germany may too produce several mid-round gems, although no particular German prospect spent this season making the type of noise players like Sturm, Hecht and Goc did when it was their turn to hear their names called on draft day. As things stand at the moment, here are Germany’s top 10 draft day possibilities for 2004.

1.Frank Hordler (CSS European Skaters Rank: 71) Age 19 6’0″ 185
Defense – Eisbären Berlin – GP 46 1-1-2 PIM 20 +2

2.Markus Kink (CSS Europe Rank: 72) Age 19 6’1″ 202
Forward – Cologne Sharks – GP 51 0-2-2 PIM 53 -2

3. Thomas Greiss (CSS European Goalie Rank: 4) Age 18 6’2″ 192
Goalie – Cologne Jr. Sharks – GP 24 2.61 GAA .910 SV%

4.Philippe Schlager (CSS Europe Rank: 124) Age 17 5’9″ 173
Forward – Mannheim Jr. Adler – N/A

5.Robert Dietrich (CSS Europe Rank: 133) Age 17 5’11” 180
Defense – Peiting 3rd Division – GP 42 5-9-14 PIM 83

6.Anton Saal (CSS Europe Rank: 135) Age 18 6’0″ 185
Forward – Riessersee Jr. – GP 35 17-28-45

7.Yuri Ziffzer (CSS European Goalie Rank: 11) Age 17 6’1″ 176
Goalie – Mannheim Jr. Adler – N/A

8.Nikolai Goc (CSS Europe Rank: 137) Age 18 6’0″ 183
Defense – Mannheim Jr. Adler – N/A

9. Felix Petermann (Unranked by CSS) Age 19
Defense – Nuremberg Ice Tigers – GP 53 0-7-7 PIM 64 -7

10. Daniel Kreutzer (Unranked by CSS) Age 24
Forward – Dusseldorf Metro Stars – GP 54 26-28-54 PIM 84 +7

Of the players above, it would appear that Felix Petermann is closest to being an NHL-ready player under 20. After putting up 17-26-43 for Fussen in Germany’s third league in the 2002-03 season, he came to the Nuremberg Tigers of the DEL and promptly won the league’s rookie of the year award, logging long minutes for one of the DEL’s most successful teams. The lack of favorable placement for Petermann in this draft lies in the fact that he was not drafted last season, his year of eligibility, however he is most certainly one of Germany’s hopes for the future on the blueline and should be considered in the same class as drafted defensemen Dennis Seidenberg, Christian Erhoff and Christoph Schubert. It would be wise for an NHL club to take a flyer on this kid for a later round. He’s currently being coached by Germany’s new national team head coach, American Greg Poss.

After Petermann, if there are any teams that are looking for overage players who could most likely jump straight into the NHL, it might be wise to take Daniel Kreutzer. The 24-year-old has improved each and every season in the DEL and is an absolute fixture in the National team. He can play both the left and right wing and consistently finds himself on the first line playing next to Hecht or Sturm (should they be available) in all international tournaments. He’s a feisty player and could make for a rough-and-tumble third liner for some NHL team. In the meantime, he remains Germany’s top native-born player in the DEL, along with 29-year-old defenseman Mirko Ludemann.

NHL Central Scouting has chosen the top eight draft pick possibilities coming out of Germany. Frank Hordler had a nice season with Selb of the third division in 02-03 and then found himself garnering regular ice time on a very successful Eisbären Berlin team, under the tutelage of Pierre Pagé. His playing time and responsibility should only increase next season.

Markus Kink has been making some noise for several years now in Germany. After having statistically dominated the German Junior Bundesliga, he played his first full season in a limited role for the tradition club Cologne Sharks, for whom Uwe Krupp once laced up his skates. As the season progressed, Kink saw more and more playing time and was able to show his versatility, playing all three forward positions at various times. Some German hockey officials believe he has better hockey upside than Kai Hospelt, his teammate and 2003 draft pick of the San Jose Sharks. Thomas Greiss is another kid Germany has been talking about for some time now. He is expected to have a role with the Cologne Sharks DEL team this upcoming season and is Germany’s most promising goaltending prospect. For more information on Greiss, see KH Ehelechner’s interview with Thomas Greiss on the Germany page here at Hockey’s Future.

As for the other prospects filling out the ranks, Robert Dietrich will get a shot in the DEL next season, but appears quite raw at the moment. He’ll certainly need some developing time before being considered an NHL possibility. Each of Anton Saal, Philippe Schlager, Yuri Ziffzer and Nikolai Goc look to be promising in some respect, but are unlikely to actually be drafted. They’ll need some time to develop and only through play in one of Germany’s professional leagues will they really be able to show what heights they may be able to reach in the future. Next season will say a lot more about their future as NHL prospects than can be determined at this point. However, since family lines often play one role or another in the draft, some team may take a flyer on Nikolai Goc in a later round after brothers Sascha (currently the captain in Mannheim after stints with New Jersey and Tampa Bay) and Marcel Goc (a top prospect and former 1rst rounder for San Jose) have left their imprints in NHL minds. Both Marcel and Sascha have mentioned at some point that they believe Nikolai is the most talented in the family!

In summary, it’s possible that no Germans will be taken in the 2004 draft, but it’s more likely that at least Frank Hordler and Markus Kink will be taken at some point. Also, knowing there are some astute hockey minds in the scouting community and that many notable North Americans with contacts are busy in some capacity in German ice hockey circles, it should also be of no surprise if the names Martin Walter (Defense – Hamburg Freezers – 62 0-10-10 14 +15) and/or Michael Hackert (Forward – Frankfurt Lions – 65 11-15-26 67 +6) pop up at some point in the draft. Germany does offer some decent drafting possibilities if a team is looking for some diamonds in the rough as far as NHL serviceability is concerned. Next season, all eyes will be on Germany’s up and coming talent Christoph Gawlik, also hailing from the Mannheim Jr. Adler hockey factory. However, until then, several young German players will have their hopes for a lucrative NHL future tied firmly to the happenings of June 26 and 27.