Germans show much promise at midterm

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Lost in the excitement of a returning National Hockey League season, the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia featured some of the draft’s top talent.

That talent featured German hopefuls Frederik Tiffels of the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks and Dominik Kahun of the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves, who were able to show that they’re amongst the best their country could offer this year.

Still, the biggest story is that none of the German prospects Future Considerations has ranked amongst Germany’s elite were included on this team.

It was felt that this could be attributed primarily to head coach Ernst Hoefner’s desire to bring size and experience to Ufa, but there was more at play in the background. Many of Germany’s top 2013 draft-eligible prospects either play for the DNL’s Mannheim-Heilbronn Junior Adler or are busy suiting up for any number of pro teams and put simply, were not released by their organizations for Team Germany’s official training sessions.

Hoefner had little time to actually work with most all of these young men and felt too much was at stake to bring a number of internationally inexperienced 17-year-olds who had no knowledge of his systems to a tournament of this magnitude and prestige. The majority will nonetheless play a role in Coach Jim Setter’s plans as he prepares for the U-18 tournament in Sochi, Russia this spring.

Still, those that didn’t have the luxury of representing Germany at the World Juniors haven’t been forgotten.

Junior Adler defenseman Tim Bender remains Germany’s top-ranked prospect and he was Germany’s last cut. The 1- year-old defenseman has 13 goals and 24 points in 23 games and boasts a plus-29 rating. The six-foot, 170 pound defenseman with a heavy shot may appear to be of a primarily offensive nature, but is actually an all-rounder who can take and dish out the rough stuff with the best of them in his class.

Following Bender closely are two Krefeld Penguins prospects, 17-year-old winger Kevin Orendorz 18-year-old Patrick Klopper both of whom continue to dress for the DEL club and get a fairly regular shift. Both have seen time in the organization’s DNL team in the nation’s top junior league, where Klopper has eight points in four games. Orendorz has just under a point-per-game there and has thrown his six-foot-two, 190-pound frame around.

More importantly, both youngsters have proven to be right at home playing against men, many of whom are ex-NHLers or ex-AHL stars, as the German DEL features the largest amount of North Americans of any league in Europe. Of these two forwards, Orendorz is considered to have the highest upside, even if Klopper has been seeing more and more time on the third line and in special team situations.

Kaufbeuren’s Markus Eisenschmid, who had an injury earlier in the season, has been coming on of late. Although he hasn’t shown the offensive dominance expected of him at the DNL level, where he has 15 points in 14 games, the six-foot, 170-pound forward has been taking a semi-regular shift for the big team in the second league and has six points in 29 2nd Bundesliga games. He continues to be considered perhaps the best offensive player of this age group and is thoroughly expected to have a top-six role for the U18 team this spring, although he is being taught the necessity of playing a defense-oriented and two-way game at the pro level.

Of interest now is also his teammate Hans Detsch, who not only has 12 goals and 21 points in 11 DNL games, but has also taken a regular shift in the 2nd Bundesliga, where he has 10 points and 20 penalty minutes in 34 games.

Also worth mentioning is Erik Gollenbeck, who has 41 points and a plus-36 rating in 24 DNL games for Mannheim. He is smaller and slight of frame, but has a skill set and skating attributes that generally separate him from most players in this class.

He continues to look like a lock for the World Under-18 Championship this spring. It’s hard to get a read on what potential the kid may have one day as he started off strongly and there’s little doubt that he possesses above-average on-ice vision, but now he’s just one of many scorers for a Mannheim-Heilbronn club that has only two losses in 26 games and features six of the league’s top scorers.

His five-foot-seven, 165-pound frame does not allow one to think he’s physically mature enough to be playing with men at this stage, even if his skill set will need to be tested against better competition in the months to come.

Much like the World Juniors allowed Kahun and Tiffels to get that elite level of competition in, the World Under-18’s will give many German youngsters to prove their wares and showcase their skills before draft day.

By Chapin Landvogt

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