Germany sports few 2012 NHL Draft prospects

By Chapin Landvogt

Photo: Goaltender Mathias Niederberger of the OHL's Barrie Colts is one of a handful of German prospects that might have their name called at the 2012 NHL Draft (courtesy of CHL Images)


German hockey has produced very few NHL Draft prospects directly, although some players have been selected after apprenticing in the CHL leagues.  This year is likely no different for that country, with only a trio of prospects having any real chance of being chosen in the 2012 NHL Draft.

So, without further adieu, here's a look at the top three German prospects entering the 2012 NHL Draft being held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

1. Pascal Zerressen – D – Shoots: Left – 6'5" 218 lbs.
CSR European Rank #48
NOV 22, 1992

Pascal found himself playing quite a bit of hockey this past season, most importantly with the fairly regular role he earned in Krefeld at the ripe age of 19, no easy task for any defenseman in a men’s league. It was the first of his five-year contract with the team. There his ice time grew incrementally and so too did his duties on the team, although his role never really grew beyond that of a number five or six defenseman. At season’s end, he had collected two assists, six penalty minutes and a -4 rating. This wasn’t his only station this past season, however, as he also represented Team Germany at the U-20 tournament in December of 2011, where he starred on the first defensive pairing and garnered an assist and a +5 rating in five games. There he played in all situations and proved to be a key member of the team’s promotion into next year’s A Group WJC. He was also sent down to Krefeld’s B team, which plays two levels below the DEL. In eight games there, he assumed a very offensive role, putting up two goals and five assists in eight total games.

As a player, his size is naturally the first thing that jumps out to any viewer. He is tall and lanky, and moves as one would expect him too, although he has added over 20 pounds to his playing weight from this point last summer. His willingness to play physical has improved by default, but his positioning and timing still need some fine-tuning as he can still find himself too far away from opposing attackers. This is bound to change with practice and experience, and may come quicker than many would suspect. Pascal knows how to play within his limits and is a quick learner, often able to implement coaching instructions as soon as the next shift. His keeps his game simple at this point in time, but he has been an offensive defenseman throughout his junior career and even now continues to make a well-deduced first, crisp pass on most occasions. Over time, his power play minutes are also bound to increase as there is no doubt that his calling at the pro level will likely be that of at least a transitional nature, especially when the reach he exudes with his height and the length of his stick regularly lead to opposition turnovers.

At this juncture, it’s hard to tell if an NHL team will use a draft pick to add what is an enticing package of size and intelligence, but he’s certainly on more than a few maps and improvement in the coming years will likely lead to a shot at the pro game in North America at some juncture of his career.

2. Sven Ziegler – F – Shoots: Right – 6’1” 172 lbs.
CSR European Rank #52
JUL 31, 1994

The Eisbaeren Berlin hockey club has been the forerunner in the German ice hockey scene in recent years, both at the pro and junior level. The men’s team just won its second championship in a row and fourth in five seasons. A key to its success has been the successful development and reliance on its own players being nurtured in its junior system. Here’s where Ziegler slides in. Sven led his DNL team in regular season scoring on the strength of 26 goals and 45 points in 32 games and then added another five goals and 14 points in 9 playoff games. Unfortunately for Sven, his team lost the championship series in a hard-fought battle against Mannheim. Sven was also loaned to a 3rd division pro team (FASS Berlin) for 10 games, where he managed to put up an additional 10 points. His season was wrapped up with two goals and four penalty minutes in six U18 WC games.

Of decent size with a frame that still needs to fill out, Sven is considered a crafty winger who possesses strong puck-handling skills. His game is one based on smarts and hockey sense, as neither an abundance of speed nor power have played much of a role in his ascent in the rankings this past winter. His hands are smooth and he has displayed a nose for the net thus far in his young career. At this juncture, it is unknown whether he’ll continue playing within the Eisbaeren organization or perhaps venture to North America for a shot in Canadian juniors, something he’s expressed an interest in. That opportunity might depend on how things go this upcoming draft weekend.

3. Marvin Cupper – G – Catches: Left – 5'10" 179 lbs.
JAN 26, 1993

Like Eisbaeren teammate Sven Ziegler, the Cologne native fell short of a DNL championship after having had a very strong year for the Krefeld Juniors the year before. His season wasn’t necessarily the best it could be, but Marvin did receive the majority of starts for the Berlin Juniors and ultimately put up a record of 18 wins, 11 losses, one shutout, a 2.75 GAA and a .900 save percentage. He also gathered experience in Germany’s 3rd tier men’s pro league, where he had a tough time with the adjustment, sporting an unimpressive 4.60 GAA in 11 games. He entered the U-18 WJC tournament looking like Germany’s starter after having been just that the year before, but sputtered a bit with a humbling 3.92 GAA and .890 save percentage in 4 games. Nonetheless, he put up quite a dandy in defeating Russia 4-2 on the strength of 40 saves.

Despite having obviously cracked a bit under the pressure and expectations in this season that come with being on a team expected to win and the knowledge that talent-hunters are watching, both his professional club and a number of international scouts are high on his future prospects. To date, he’s shown an ability to be a real gamer, but hasn’t put it all together in the consistency department. Should things go well at the beginning of a game, he often becomes a wall. The opposite can be true if things don’t start as planned. He’s gathered a good bit of experience thus far not only in the DNL, but also at the international level and it is widely expected that he’ll contend for the starting spot for Germany’s WJC entry next winter. In general, his strengths lie in his quick reactions and his overall athleticism, while his technique will continue to need schooling. He likes to challenge shooters and isn’t the type to stand around in his crease and let everything just come to him. There’s much promise, but chances are that he’ll have to turn himself into something of interest for an NHL team next winter. Of course, one never knows if some of his top-flight performances have a team willing to grab him in a later round.

The remaining five Germans ranked by CSR for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft are:

Niklas Treutle – G – Catches: Left – 6'2" 185 lbs.
Hamburg Freezers (DEL) – 12 – 2.70 GAA – .908 S%
CSS European Rank #11 amongst goaltenders

Synopsis: Already 21, Treutle just barely slips in as being draft eligible due to his late birth date. The goalie has had a back-up role for two seasons running, but it is felt that he will one day be a starter in no less than the DEL.

Artem Klein – F – Shoots: Left – 6'1" 190 lbs.
Krefeld 2 (3rd League) – 19 8-26-34 8
Krefeld Penguins Juniors (DNL) – 41 16-38-54 26
Team Germany (U-18) – 6 1-1-2 4
CSS European Rank #82

Synopsis: The Russian-born Klein first learned to play hockey as part of the Avangard Omsk organization and took some huge steps this past season after having all of twelve points the year before. Looking like a late bloomer, there’s serious offensive potential in this fast-developing boy, who may be of more draft interest next summer. There’s no doubt there are a few KHL scouts who are quite aware of whom Artem is.

Christian Kretschmann – F – Shoots: Left – 5'10" 185 lbs.
Krefeld Penguins (DEL) – 5 0-0-0 0
Krefeld Penguins Juniors (DNL) – 16 10-10-20 14
Krefeld 2 (3rd League) – 17 4-6-10 8
Dortmund (3rd League) – 28 8-11-19 2
CSS European Rank #107

Synopsis: Small-framed center has strong offensive instincts and good hands. This overager was clearly too strong for the junior league and filled in aptly in Germany’s third pro league.

Dominik Tiffels – D – Shoots: Left – 5'10" 176 lbs.
Mannheim Adler Juniors (DNL) – 42 6-22-28 34
Team Germany (U-18) – 6 0-1-1 6
CSS European Rank #109

Synopsis: DNL Champion with Mannheim, Tiffels is one of those smaller players who does just about everything well, but nothing really spectacular. Has played a regular role for all of his teams and was a whopping +34 for his junior team this season.

Patrick Klopper – F – Shoots: Left – 5'10" 159 lbs.
Krefeld Penguins Juniors (DNL) – 39 25-36-61 62
Landshut Cannibals Juniors (DNL) – 3 2-1-3 2
Team Germany (U-18) – 6 0-0-0 2
CSS European Rank #117

Synopsis: Small, feisty, and dedicated, Patrick was a top-scorer in the DNL this past season and looks to have some above-average offensive instincts. Stood out a bit against Russia at the U-18 WC, but couldn’t get on the scoreboard in six games.

Stephan Kronthaler – D – Shoots: Left – 6'1" 187 lbs.
Landshut Cannibals 1 (2nd League) – 56 2-9-11 10
Landshut Cannibals Juniors (DNL) – 3 2-1-3 2
Team Germany (U-20) – 5 0-0-0 3
CSS European Rank #117

Synopsis: A play-it-safe, stay-at-home defenseman who is ready to be a physical force all over the ice. Played a solid, regular role in Germany’s second men’s league and is on the fast track to a job in the DEL. Very strong showing on the way to his men’s team’s league championship.

Other notables:

Goaltender Mathias Niederberger of the OHL's Barrie Colts is a German who is currently ranked 24th amongst North American goalies. He saw action in 49 games this past season, winning 29, losing 14 and tying three of them. He put up a healthy 2.68 GAA and .918 save percentage while pitching three shutouts. Mathias also saw time in 13 playoff games. He started in goal for Team Germany at the B Group U-20 tournament, where he finished with five victories, a 1.62 GAA and .921 save percentage. It’s very hard to tell where Niederberger would be in the eyes of the scouting community had he spent the season in Europe. Frederik Tiffels, younger brother of Dominik Tiffels, was the first European drafted in the 2012 USHL Entry Draft. It is uncertain whether or not he will spend next season in Muskegon. He is first eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft. Overager Sebastian Uvira spent this season with the Oshawa Generals doing just about anything the coaches told him, gathering 13 goals and 22 points along the way. He also brought his rough-and-tumble play to the B Group U-20 WJC, helping his country gain promotion. It is uncertain whether he’ll remain in Oshawa next season.

DEL = Deutsche Eishockey Liga (German Ice Hockey League)
DNL = Deutsche Nachwuchs Liga (German Junior League)
ELC = Entry Level Contract
2nd Bundesliga = Germany’s second highest professional league
3rd Bundesliga =  Germany’s third highest professional league

Written by Chapin Landvogt