When Tim Stuetzle gets drafted in two weeks, he will of course have his family with him. But the German upstart also wants to make sure that his DEL teammates from Adler Mannheim are also with him for the momentous occasion.
"My teammates were a big part of me last season," he said. "So I think they need to be in there."
And if the Eagles are smart, they'll make sure not to be late for the party, because Stuetzle is going to be selected early. Rimouski Oceanic left winger Alexis Lafreniere is the consensus favorite to go first overall to the New York Rangers, but after that it's a race between Stuetzle and Sudbury Wolves center Quinton Byfield. While Byfield has a slight edge, Stuetzle would be a dynamite third overall pick.
There would also be a nice German tie-in to No. 3, as that was the pick used by the Edmonton Oilers in 2014 when they snagged fellow countryman Leon Draisaitl. It was the highest a German-born player has ever gone in the NHL draft and Draisaitl paid off big-time for the Oilers, winning his first Hart Trophy this season.
If Stuetzle does end up going second, he'll become the highest-drafted German ever, but the kid has a lot of veneration for Draisaitl either way.
"Leon really showed everyone," Stuetzle said. "He was an unbelievable role model last season."
The one comparable that keeps coming up with Stuetzle, however, is Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane.
"My teammates always say that to me," Stuetzle said. "It's a big honor to be compared to him. I'm still far away, so there's a lot of work coming on, but definitely a big honor for me."
Stuetzle is an incredibly exciting prospect. He can play either center or left wing and the kid spent all of last season in the DEL, playing alongside former NHLers such as Andrew Desjardins and Stanley Cup-winner Ben Smith, Stuetzle's linemate.
"I was honored to play with Ben Smith and Tommi Huhtala, two veterans and unbelievable players in the DEL," Stuetzle said. "It's been a lot of fun learning from those guys every day. I felt amazing and I've had a great experience in Mannheim."
Stuetzle also got some excellent international exposure this past season when Germany played at the world juniors in the Czech Republic, staving off relegation and ensuring themselves a berth in the 2021 tournament. Stuetzle centered an all-draft line with fellow 2020 prospects J.J. Peterka and Lukas Reichel and the team had NHL prospects such as Detroit Red Wings first-rounder Moritz Seider and Carolina Hurricanes prospect Dominik Bokk to lead the way.
"It was not my best tournament, but as a group we performed pretty well," Stuetzle said. "We held up to some big nations and it was a great feeling to play for Team Germany. We had a very young team, so hopefully the next world juniors we can queue up even more."
While Stuetzle may be critical of his own performance at the tournament, NHL scouts were a lot more forgiving and there is a lot of excitement about the youngster's game based on the entirety of his 2019-20 campaign.
"He’s doing things in a men’s league that very few draft picks have done in recent history," said one scout. "Every game he’s a go-to guy. He’s got such great hockey sense and IQ, he’s got three-zone awareness, he’s good away from the puck, he’s great with the puck. He not only complements other skill players, he actually makes them better.”
If Byfield goes second to Los Angeles, that puts Stuetzle on track to go third overall to Ottawa, where the Senators have an opportunity to really cement their rebuild, as they also own the fifth and 28th picks overall, not to mention an astounding four second-round selections.
Stuetzle has been training with Adler Mannheim on-ice for a month already, with summer workouts before that. The DEL is tentatively thought to be starting around Nov. 13, but naturally all plans come with an asterisk these days. Regardless, Stuetzle says his goal is to play in the NHL next season and he wants to go to training camp.
Given the experience he has already banked in Germany's best league, it will be fun to see what the teen can do in North America once he gets the opportunity. Because he's ready to blow up in a big way.