2022 IIHF World Juniors Preview: Germanyby Jack Gaffney December 26, 2021 0 comments
In the World Juniors, Germany has been a team constantly in and out of the top division for the bulk of the last 20 years. When they take the ice today against Finland, it will be the third year in a row they have been in the main tournament. Marking the Germans longest stretch of doing so since their run from 1992-1998. Better so, was that their sixth-place finish a year ago was their best in 40 years. Not a traditional hockey power, but there is reason for optimism about the future of hockey in the country.
With Tim Stützle and Lukas Reichel off to the NHL, a group they played with is set what is likely their last rodeo. Tobias Abstreiter meanwhile, hopefully, isn’t in for his last ride. Germany’s head coach since 2020 has seen a resurgence in the nation’s U20 program. While a gold medal would be a major surprise, continuing to go in the right direction feels expected.
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Florian Elias will the X-factor for Germany this year. Last year, he, along with Stützle, and John Peterka combined for 29 points. Elias is the only member of that trio back for this year’s World Juniors, and this go-around he is the captain. Sadly, Elias has not been able to be an elite scorer in the DEL just yet, having just five goals in just over 50 games. Last year, however, he nearly averaged a goal a game in the World Juniors.
In Germany’s tune-up against Slovakia, they had Elias as the team’s No. 2 center. Above him was Joshua Samanski, who is around on par with Elias production-wise in the DEL. Lined up with Samanski were Justin Volek and Markus Schweiger, the latter is one of four forwards here from the DEL2. With Elias were the duo of Bennet Roßmy and Jakub Borzecki. Borzecki is an interesting case, from the standpoint that he has citizenship in Germany, the United States, and Poland.
Outside of Roßmy, the lone other 18-year-old player on the roster for Germany is Thomas Heigl. This year he has split time between the Alps, DEL, and German3 leagues. As is the case with the defenseman group below, just about every forward here is set for their final World Juniors.
Kicking things off with the blueliners is the lone drafted skater on the team, Luca Münzenberger. The Edmonton Oilers’ third-rounder is also the lone player currently in the ‘States, playing for the University of Vermont in the NCAA. Münzenberger is also a returnee, putting up a minus-four rating and no points a year ago. Look for the left-shot defender to take a spot on one of the top two pairs. Come to think of it, there’s seven left-shot defenders for Germany, which is certainly noteworthy.
Maximilian Glötzl and Maksymilian Szuber are another pair of returnees who create a solid top three for Germany to build around. The pair of 19-year-olds both reside in the DEL currently, but do not share playstyles. Szuber is has a bit more kick in the offensive side of things, while Glötzl is the more physical of the pair. Fabrizio Pilu and Adrian Klein also can kick in on the offensive end as well. Klein is additionally the only defender who will be on this roster in a year from now, as every other defender is set to age out. With that in mind, expect these five, plus Arkadiusz Dziambor, to give it their all.
The gentleman starting in between the pipes for Germany this year is Florian Bugl. Last year he led Germany into the playoff round and came oh so close to stealing a game vs Russia. Alas, that game was lost 2-1, but Bugl impressed after starting the World Juniors a year ago in quarantine before a nice run. This year with Red Bull Juniors in the Alps League, Bugl has continued to play well. He went 10-6 with a .908 save percentage and a 2.58 goals against. Another good tournament should do Bugl some good, especially since he went undrafted last year.
If Bugl were to run into any trouble, Germany has enlisted a pair of 6’3″ teenagers as his backups. Starting off is Nikita Quapp, who served as the U18 team starter a year ago. Currently, he is in the DEL having a so-so go of things. Quapp however was a draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, so keep an eye out if he gets some playing time. Behind Quapp is then Niklas Lunemann, who is ripping it up in the German U20 league. As of now, he has a goals-against average just below two in 15 starts.
Player to Keep an Eye On
Florian Elias, 19, Center, Adler Mannheim (DEL)/2022 NHL Draft Eligible
As stated above, Elias has not been a big-time goal scorer yet in the DEL. For Germany to have the mindset that they will improve off of their 2021 run, Elias has to lead the way. He can do so as well, four goals in five games a year ago tell that story quite well. Despite winning the DEL rookie of the year, Elias also went undrafted in last year’s NHL Draft. He is on 19 so there is still time, but a good performance, starting out today, could do wonders to ensure that doesn’t happen again.
Situated in Group A, Germany has some stiff competition to deal with in Round Robin play. Although Canada and Finland will likely get the better of the Germans, it would be hard to envision them missing out on tournament play. If Germany were to successfully win their opening-round matchup, it would be the first time they’ve done so since 1981. So in short, no pressure whatsoever. A medal finish feels out of the cards, but if Germany can make it out of the first round, that would be a huge win.
Prediction for Germany: Non-Medal Finish
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