The 2018 Winter Olympics was a special tournament for Germany.
So close, yet so far. After knocking off Canada in the semifinal, Germany found themselves within a goal of shocking the dominant Russians in the championship game. Despite the loss, the silver was the best the team had ever achieved in Olympic competition and the start of a bright future.
Since then, many top prospects have come through the German junior system, most notably Tim Stutzle. Germany's U-20 team is in the top World Junior Championship tournament this coming year Germany also finished fourth at the most recent World Championship, the team's first final-four spot since 2010 when the Germans played host to the tournament. Overall, things are looking up for the country's national team as a whole.
But the 2022 Olympics are going to be a struggle. The Germans can't use the 2018 tournament as an example as to why they'll contend in 2022 because that tournament wasn't best-on-best. So the fact they'll be placed in a group with Canada and USA means their best shot at a victory should come against China.
Still, there's hope. Here's a look at how the roster could shape up:
Each team is permitted a roster of 22 skaters (14 forwards, eight defensemen) and 3 goaltenders.
Dominik Kahun - Leon Draisaitl - Dominik Bokk
Frederik Tiffels - Tim Stutzle - Tom Kuhnhackl
Mattias Plachta - Nico Sturm - Tobias Rieder
Noebels-Macek - Lukas Reichel
JJ Peterka, Michaelis
The obvious offensive beacons for this team will be Draisaitl and Stutzle. Draistail is a top player in the NHL, but you know that already. Stutzle has always been the top player internationally when representing his country and with some more NHL experience under his belt, he'll be at a prime spot in his game once the tournament begins.
After that? The club has some solid depth options. Kahun has never become a high-scoring NHLer, but he and Draisaitl have chemistry dating back to before their World Junior Championship days. Bokk, a winger in the Carolina Hurricanes organization, is just starting to come into his own after a strong rookie campaign in the AHL and impressed in limited men's national team activity during the 2018-19 season. The Olympics will be one of the biggest challenges of his young career, but he's ready.
Fellow NHL prospects Reichel and Peterka are still early in their careers and likely won't play big roles. But players like Kuhnhackl, Plachta and Tiffels, three of the better non-NHL affiliated players in the German system, will do a lot of the secondary scoring.
Korbinian Holzer - Moritz Seider
Marcel Brandt - Leon Gawanke
Marco Nowak - Jonas Muller
Yannic Seidenberg, Fabio Wagner
This is where the concerns start creeping in. Seider is an obvious plus for this team and should carry heavy minutes after being the top defensemen at the World Championship and in SHL action last year. But after that? It gets a bit ugly. Holzer is a guy with NHL experience and looked good at the recent World Championship, but does he have the pace to slow down the top guys on Canada and USA?
From there, the lineup is mainly filled with veterans, but not many that will instill confidence against faster, stronger teams. Gawanke, a Winnipeg Jets prospect, will be worth watching, though. At 22, he's still rather young, but he moves well and has a quick wrister to generate offense. Veterans Muller and Seidenberg can add experience anywhere in the lineup, but this position, as a whole, is Germany's weakest.
Philipp Grubauer, Mathias Niederberger, Felix Bruckmann
Grubauer was one of the top goaltenders in the NHL last season and should get a hefty role as Seattle's first-ever starter. Grubauer has shined in various international tournaments and his near-perfect play is one of the main reasons why Germany even made it to the 2018 tournament in the first place. He's the undisputed No. 1 for Germany and at 29 years old, he should get another chance in 2026, too.
You might notice the admission of Thomas Greiss. Greiss hasn't played with Germany since 2017 and the current management told German news outlets earlier this year that Greiss is not welcome after social media activity showed him sharing far-right content.
So, the other two spots will go to loyal men of the national team program. Niederberger has his fair share of tremendous big-game moments with the Germans and Bruckman has spent years as a reliable backup. Niederberger likely will get the start against China, with Grubauer going the rest of the way.
If any position is going to steal a game for the Germans, it's the crease. For the first time since Olaf Kozlig's tenure with the national team, Germany has a top-five goaltender in the tournament capable of winning important games.