German prospects: Q&A with Youri Ziffzer

By KH Ehelechner

Youri Ziffzer, born 08/21/86 in Singapore, stands 6’2” and weighs 186 pounds. He started his hockey career as goalie in Klostersee in Bavaria and joined the Jungadler team in Mannheim 1993. He finished last season with a 1,80 GAA including two shutouts and a post season record of 0.5 GAA for the highly favorite junior elite league team of Mannheim.

He played two games at the 2004 IIHF World U18 Championship Div I B in Asiago, Italy and was voted best goalie of the tournament with a save percentage of .970 and a GAA of 1.00.

He was ranked 11th by CSS among European goalies for 2004, but he didn’t opt in for the upcoming NHL entry draft. He recently spoke to Hockey’s Future.

HF: What else are you doing now except relaxing?
YZ: Right now I’m concentrating a bit more on school and attend summer preparation with the Mannheim Junior team. It means four times a week a workout and three times a week endurance training where I run.

HF: You can look back at a quite successful season with the Mannheim junior team, what were the highlights?
YZ: I would have to name the third consecutive win of the DNL championship first where I was able to finish the series with two shutouts. On the other hand there is the 4-3 win after penalty shots in Cologne where I turned all seven shots away.

HF: You have played a great U-18 Division B world championship in Asagio in Italy, which impressions did you have of this tourney?
YZ: Yes, the world championship turned out great for me, because I was voted best goalie, as it did for the team because we won every game. Besides that I will always remember that the whole village turned crazy at this championship because regardless where you went, you’d always be asked for an autograph or a picture. Over all I met a whole lot of very nice people. In addition to that did we have a great team spirit and each and everyone fought for each other and supported each other.

HF: What was the biggest difference in comparison to the German elite junior league DNL?
YZ: The biggest difference with no doubt was the speed. It was quite a bit faster at the tournament than in the DNL. We had to work hard for every win, even if the results don’t look like it.

HF. Which team was the strongest competitor?
YZ: It was France for sure, we won just 2-1 and at the end we had to take a lot of pressure. But Japan wasn’t easy to play either, they were exceptional fast, they moved the puck very well and were very dangerous at breakaways.

HF: You had with Helmut de Raaf one of the best former goalies in Germany as coach, what did he expect most from his players?
YZ: He favors technical skills and discipline of a player. He wants you to give 100 percent at each and every practice and also get prepared at top level.

HF: Where was he able to help you most to succeed?
YZ: Most likely with my technical skills. But also how to cope with played games and situations which I had to discuss with my defense. He taught me how and when to mention and discuss it with my teammates so we would all progress.

HF: CSS ranked you 11th at their European goalie list for the upcoming NHL entry draft in Raleigh. As one can see you didn’t opt-in this year. Didn’t you see enough chances to be drafted or was there another reason?
YZ: I talked about that with my agent Klaus Hille and his partner in North America and they recommended to wait for next year’s draft and when it comes along I should be drafted in an earlier round. They told me that there would be some interest of teams but this way I can rely on next year’s draft.

HF: Could you imagine yourself playing in North America or do you have other plans?
YZ: Of course, I did have the opportunity to play at the QMJHL this coming year but I decided against it because I would like to finish school here which takes me two more years. It probably would not have worked out in Canada or I would have had to quit it altogether.

HF: What league are you aiming for?
YZ: My goal in North America is the NHL of course but I can also imagine playing in the minors for two to three years, to get a better chance.

HF: What is your goal for the new season?
YZ: My goal is to develop as I did the last couple of years and that I can attend the U-20 WJC in the US and try not to be relegated.

HF: Which hockey player is your favorite and why?
YZ: It is Mike Richter. He is a great goalie and always gives 100 percent regardless of the score or the way the game goes. He is a great example also off-ice and he does a lot for charity.

HF: Where would you believe you have to work at to become better?
YZ: In my opinion I have to work on everything to become a better goalie.

HF: How would you evaluate your decision to go to Mannheim?
YZ: It was the best decision I could have made. Everything in Mannheim is perfect, school, practice the surroundings, just everything. Its more fun the anything else.

HF: Could you recommend other players to follow your steps or isn’t it that relevant?
YZ: I would recommend it to anybody who is ready to give everything for his sport and have fun at the game.

HF: Which team would you like to play for five years from now?
YZ: It would be my dream to play in the NHL five years from now, and then it wouldn’t matter which team it is. I’d just be happy and most probably proud if I’d ever accomplish that.