Germany’s time is coming as a top-tier hockey nation. Its surprising run to the gold-medal game at the 2018 Olympics hinted at that, though it wasn’t a best-on-best tournament. Since then, however, we’ve seen Leon Draisaitl emerge as, give or take, a top-three player on the planet, one who is already doing things no German has ever done at the NHL level. We’ve seen Moritz Seider drafted sixth overall, and we’re about to see at least three German prospects go in the first two rounds at the 2020 draft – most notably Tim Stutzle, who could go as high as third.
Before long, we should see a ripple effect in international play as a bunch of top-flight German talents begin repping the nation in best-on-best tournaments. The 2022 imaginary Olympic squad could easily be Germany’s best ever. It’ll be time to mention the Germans in the same breath as the other perennial-contender countries before long.
“That’s the goal of German hockey, of the national team,” Stutzle said several weeks ago when I interviewed him for our 2020 Draft Preview. “Although German hockey is getting better and better, and it would be great if there would be some more players in the NHL from Germany, Leon is a guy who shows everybody what you do if you’re from Germany. And I think the DEL is getting better and better every year, with also (import) players from other countries. But young Germans are getting better, too. We have great players from 20 to 30 years old who play on the national team already, and it’s great to see that.”
Our imaginary 2022 NHL Olympic squad projections were supposed to stop at six teams, but the readers have spoken. By popular demand, this is the German roster. Ages as of Feb. 4, 2022.
FORWARD LINE 1: Tim Stutzle (20), Leon Draisaitl (26), Dominik Kahun (26)
Stutzle has played center most of his life but is comfortable at all forward positions and got a look on the wing in the German League this season. His speed will complement Draisaitl’s powerful puck-protection game.
FORWARD LINE 2: Tobias Rieder (29), Brooks Macek (29), Dominik Bokk (22)
The plan here is to have at least one established NHLer on every line, a versatile piece who knows what it’s like to face elite competition. That’s Rieder here. Macek is a good playmaker, and the prospect Bokk will ideally have crossed over to start playing in North America by 2022.
FORWARD LINE 3: Tom Kuhnhackl (30), Lukas Reichel (19), J.J. Peterka (20)
Reichel and Peterka join Stutzle in the new wave of 2020 draftees who could be crucial cogs in the German national program in best-on-best action for years to come. The veteran NHL checker Kuhnhackl can keep the line grounded defensively.
FORWARD LINE 4: Marcel Noebels (29), Nico Sturm (26), Patrick Hager (33)
Noebels and new NHLer Sturm bring great size, while the aggressive Hager plays like a big guy.
SPARE FORWARDS: Matthias Plachta (30), Lean Bergmann (23)
Plachta played for the 2018 silver-medal squad. He makes more sense if the team needs a two-way checker, Bergmann, who debuted in the NHL this season with the San Jose Sharks, can help if the team needs an offensive boost.
Final cuts: Leo Pfoderl, Markus Eisenschmid, Manuel Wiederer, Daniel Pietta, Frank Mauer, Daniel Fischbuch
DEFENSE PAIR 1: Yegor Alanov (21), Moritz Seider (20)
Since the Germans don’t have great veteran defensive depth after Christian Ehrhoff’s retirement, it’s OK to project out some upside for the top pair two years from now. Alanov’s puck-moving game has helped him rise to the KHL as a teenager, while the big, well-rounded Seider should be a horse, the team’s most important piece other than Draisaitl.
DEFENSE PAIR 2: Jonas Muller (26), Korbinian Holzer (33)
You’re not getting a ton of offense on this pair, but it can function in a secondary shutdown role, and Holzer is by far the most experienced D-man of the group against top NHL competition.
DEFENSE PAIR 3: Bjorn Krupp (30), Leon Gawanke (22)
Big Bjorn Krupp plays a similar stay-at-home game to his dad Uwe’s. Gawanke might seem like a stretch here because he hasn’t competed for Germany at a World Championship or the Olympics, but someone has to move the puck for this D-corps on the bottom two pairs. It can’t all be defensive defensemen, and he’s proven he can put up points in major junior and the AHL.
SPARE DEFENSEMEN: Moritz Muller (35), Frank Hordler (37)
Both won silver in 2018, but both will be a little old for the 2022 games. Best to keep them around as experienced backups who can play with poise in a pinch. Hordler is the pick over Muller if you need a bit more mobility and offense.
Final cuts: Kai Wissmann, Daryl Boyle
STARTING GOALTENDER: Philipp Grubauer (30)
Grubauer has repped Germany numerous times at the worlds, and he’s in his prime racking up experience on a Stanley Cup contender. Not a particularly tough choice given he’s much younger than Thomas Greiss.
Backup goaltenders: Thomas Greiss (36), Mathias Niederberger (29)
Greiss has always done his best work as a luxury backup who can start and flourish if the No. 1 falters. He’s a great safety net for Grubauer. Niederberger didn’t play on the 2018 Olympic squad but excelled at the 2019 worlds.
Final cut: Danny aus den Birken, Niklas Treutle, Timo Pielmeier
ROSTER AT A GLANCE
Spares: Plachta, Bergmann
Spares: M. Muller, Hordler
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