If you look back 11 years to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics you would see a German hockey team, led by the likes of a 24-year-old Tomas Griess between the pipes and a total of seven NHL players throughout the whole roster. The Germans were placed in Group C with their round-robin schedule consisting of Sweden, Finland, and Belarus. After the group play, the team ended with no wins and four regulation losses, and a Goal differential of –9. This set the underwhelming Germany squad up with a match against Team Canada in the qualification round where they would lose 8-2 against the eventual Champions. After this Olympics, the thought that the Germans were a very low-end team compared to the other top 10 teams was confirmed in most hockey fan’s eyes. The thought was they were going to be similar to a team like Belarus or Khazakstan that was too good for the second tier of hockey nation but would always get destroyed in division A.
In-between the 2010 and 2014 Olympics we saw the Germans play in 4 world Championships with no real improvement in any of the years, their best performance coming with a 7th place finish in 2011 and their worst being 14th in 2014. The 2014 Olympics was one to forget for the Germans seeing as they failed to even qualify. This seemed like a big downhill swing for German hockey and the progression it was having to see as countries like Latvia and Austria qualified over. Little did the hockey world know the Germans would be back and with a new star forward.
In 2014, the Edmonton Oilers selected Leon Draisaitl. This turned around the German hockey program completely, the scouting report on Draisaitl was that he is a big high IQ centerman with elite playmaking and handling skills, this scouting report turned out to be extremely accurate as Draisaitl is an amazing offensive threat both on the Powerplay and 5-on-5 putting up 100 points in 2 of his 7 seasons. The German also won the Art Ross for the NHL’s leading scorer, Hart trophy the NHL’s most valuable player, and Ted Lindsay as best player voted on by the NHLPA. For the German to accomplish all this at just age 25 shows great promise for the future of not only his own career but the future of German hockey because now young German players have a superstar to look up to and model their game after. Draisaitl was truly the turning point to German hockey and their future. At just 25 I am ready to say that Leon Draisaitl is the best German Hockey player of all time, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
The 2018 Olympics was the biggest most exciting thing in German hockey to date. In 2018 the NHL announced that NHLers would not be attending the Olympics, for many countries, this was bad news because all their talent was in the NHL or a junior league in North America. For Germany, this was a great opportunity to show off the talent they have in the form of the DEL, the top German league, and using some of their top prospects. The roster the Germans brought what was viewed as a mid-tier squad with many insiders ranking them from the 8-10 range. The Germans struggled in the round-robin winning one game in OT and losing their other two games. They played, and beat, the Swiss team to make the quarters, then strung back-to-back wins together against Sweden and then Canada. The magic eventually wore off against the Russians and they fell short 4-3 in OT to the Russians. Nonetheless, the silver medal is an amazing feat for the German team and backs the point that they might be a powerhouse in the sport sooner than we all think.
The last thing I’d like to touch on that shows a potential powerhouse developing, is the influx of high-end prospects of German descent in the past few years, first in 2019, the Detroit Red Wings selected Moritz Seider with their 6th pick. At the time many people thought this pick was a head-scratcher by Stevie Y but now he is viewed throughout the NHL community as one of the top NHL affiliated prospects and a Calder candidate for the upcoming season. Seider is the real deal when it comes to NHL defense prospects and will be running the Red Wings’, and Team Germany’s blue line for many years to come. In 2020 the Ottawa Senators took Tim Stützle with their 3rd overall pick, making him tied for the highest German-born pick ever, with Leon Draisaitl. Stützle had an impressive rookie year putting up 12 goals 17 for 29 points in 53 games which is very impressive for an 18/19-year-old. Once Stützle has time to mature and fully adjust to the NHL I feel that he’ll be a high-end center in the NHL and compliment Draisaitl well as a second star on the German national team. Later in the 2020 draft, the Chicago Blackhawks selected another German, Lukas Reichel, at 16th overall. The 19-year-old is primarily a winger whose big strength is his speed and positioning down the wing, this adds even more depth to the Blackhawks’ forward core and adds some future winger depth for the German national team. Lastly, John-Jason Peterka, who was drafted 34th overall by the Buffalo Sabres, was viewed by many as a first-round talent that slipped to Buffalo early round 2. Peterka, a centre, is well known for his strength and edge work that lets him protect the puck very well and adds yet another forward piece to this young core of Germans. Lastly, Dominick Bokk, a 21-year-old winger, that was drafted 25th overall by the St. Louis Blues, with the Carolina Hurricanes being the team that has his rights now. Bokk has not found enough success to crack the NHL yet but is still young and projected to have a spot on the 2022 German Olympic roster, so don’t be shocked if he breaks out if given a chance with high-end players like Draisaitl.
It might not happen in the 2022 Olympics, or maybe not even in the 2026 Olympics, but with a foundation starting to get built of Vezina finalist Philipp Grubauer, Art Ross, Hart, and Ted Lindsay winner, Leon Draisaitl, and a scary prospect core of Seider, Stützle, Reichel, Peterka, and Bokk, with many more prospects that will be drafted in future years, I think we can see the German team compete with the top hockey nations sooner than anyone would’ve thought. If the Germans keep seeing the progression, they’ve seen over the past 10 years they might be golden at the world Championships soon. Take this Article as a warning, the Germans are coming fast and furious, so don’t sleep on them.