The darlings of the 2018 Olympic games are back to prove that their Silver Medal run was no accident. Germany has come a long way in recent years, going from tune up game for the top teams to being competitive every time they step on the ice. I love single elimination because anyone has a chance to win on any given night and Germany has the talent to surprise people. With that being said, here is my projection for Germany in 2022.
1st Line: Leon is a no brainer, he has a Crosby-like quality where he has the ability to make any line mates better which is why I think he will skate between Kuhnhackl, a responsible two-way guy and Bergmann, a young up and coming talent that has shown an ability to put the puck in the net.
2nd Line: This is the new age line of German hockey, Reichel and Stutzle are both expected to be first round picks in the upcoming draft (Stutzle is considered a top 3 pick). Dominik Bokk is a lesser known commodity but after the World Junior Championships last year he found another gear in his game and started putting the puck in the net at an eye opening rate in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). Much of Germany’s success will ride on this line as teams will do everything to shut down Draisaitl.
3rd Line: Since our 2nd line will have an average age of a touch over 20 years old come the Beijing Games, we need a safety net line made up of established NHL talent just in case. Kahun has been a very reliable 3rd line guy that has the skill set to move up the depth chart, despite being born in Czech Republic, he has been playing with Germany for basically his entire life (more on this topic to come). Rieder has been more of a role player in his career and to complete this line Brooks Macek slides in, he was a Point per Game player in his final season in the American Hockey League (AHL) before joining the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
4th Line: The 4th line is comprised of some of the top talent in the DEL (top professional league in Germany) in Plachta and Noebels along with Manuel Wiederer of the San Jose Barracuda’s (Sharks AHL affiliate). This is a bit of a toss up as I went with guys who have previously represented Germany to fill out this roster.
13th: John-Jason Peterka is the third German prospect expected to go in the first round of the upcoming draft. He finds himself on the outside looking in more so because of how young this team already is, but he has more than enough talent to quickly jump up this depth chart, possibly even joining Draisaitl on the first line.
1st Pair: Moritz Seider will be the focal point of this defensive group, being drafted sixth overall by the Red Wings last season, Seider immediately made the jump to the AHL putting up some solid numbers as an 18 year old (now 19). Yegor Alanov is a young prospect with the KHL’s Dynamo Moskva, he is still a very raw talent but in an attempt to spread out the NHL experience across the back end, I think sometimes you need to take a risk on the young guys in the hopes of the reward.
2nd Pair: Korbinian Holzer is the only current NHL defenseman on this roster and he will likely be paired with the top German born defenseman in the DEL, Sezemsky to form a shut down pair.
3rd Pair: Abeltshauser is another player who has represented Germany on an annual basis at the World Championships over the last couple of years. The former Sharks sixth rounder will be expected to help youngster and Winnipeg Jets prospect (2017 fifth round pick) Leon Gawanke settle into his role in his first Olympic Games.
7th: The last name we will discuss on the back end is Kai Wissmann, the 23 year old is just starting to get his feet wet in the DEL as well as in International competition. It will be interesting to track his progression but if he can continue his solid two-way play I think that he will earn his spot on this Olympic roster.
The strength of this team is definitely between the pipes where I fully expect them to roll out a 1-2 punch of Philipp Grubauer and Thomas Greiss. Grubauer forced his way out of the shadows in Washington and into the Avalanche’s crease with his solid play. Greiss on the other hand has been solid for a couple years now but constantly finds himself in a time share on Long Island in Barry Trotz’s system. For this reason I think both will have a chance to show what they have in this tournament but it is certainly advantage Grubauer at the moment.
For the final spot on this roster, there are two names I want to bring up who I expect to fight for this honour, Mathias Niederberger and Daniel Fießinger (pronounced Fiessinger if I understand correctly). Both are considered among the best young goalies in the DEL and will likely compete for the third string role with Niederberger holding the International Experience edge.
BONUS: 2022 China Olympic Roster Notes
Instead of discussing the snubs this time, I wanted to do something a bit different and touch on a roster no one really knows anything about. The 2022 host country, China will be making their Olympic ice hockey (best on best) debut! While I will not even remotely pretend to have any knowledge of the Chinese hockey program, I will say this, keep an eye on the HC Kunlun Red Stars and their affiliate teams.
Kunlun plays in the KHL and one of their primary goals is to develop a roster for the Chinese Olympic Team. They want to do so by bringing over NHL caliber players (or close to) that are of Chinese Heritage in time to give them citizenship and to clear the International Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) process for players to declare their eligibility for another country. By giving them citizenship this puts any player trying to join the Chinese Olympic Team into the ‘two-year’ case as opposed to the standard four years and this process can only be done once in a lifetime per player.
From what I understand, the IIHF requires that any player must complete two consecutive professional season in the country they wish to transfer to, as well as compete for said country for 16 straight months of International competition. During this time span the player in question cannot play for any other country internationally, nor can they play professionally in any other country (this part is a bit confusing but this is what I understood).
So for example, if you look at a guy like Spencer Foo, after leaving Stockton (Flames AHL affiliate) he signed with Kunlun in June 2019 so that he could get a head start on the IIHF process and receive his International Transfer Card (ITC). This card must be approved and dated at least 16 months ahead of the Olympics which would make October of this year the absolute latest to get this approved. Reportedly, there are as many as 15 former NHL/North American skaters who have already signed with/committed to Kunlun to be able to play in the Olympics.
This is not to say that China does not have their own homegrown talent like Andong Song (Islanders), Peter Zhong (Arizona State – NCAA) and Kailin Chen (GTHL drafted by Niagara – OHL) to add to the roster. Outside of all of this, it is hard to properly figure out what this team will look like, but I will say this, I expect them to be much more competitive than any one is giving them credit for.
This wraps up our Group A analysis which to recap includes Canada, USA, Germany and China. The latter two teams will be no pushovers, Germany has a very nice influx of young talent and China has put in a lot of effort so far and will continue to do so to be a competitive team in front of their home crowd. Check back in as we will discuss the remaining two division starting with Russia and Group B for the upcoming 2022 Beijing Olympics!