By Dayton Riemer – The Hockey Writers
In 2020, Germany was a newcomer at the World Junior Championship, joining the top-10 for the first time since 2014-15. The odds were against them after they were placed in one of the toughest pools in recent memory. In the round-robin alone, Germany had to face Team Canada, Team USA, Team Russia, and Team Czech Republic. Yet they held their own, upsetting the Czechs and sneaking three goals past the Americans before losing 6-3. They ended up in the relegation series, but they handily defeated the Kazakhs to remain in the top group for another year.
In 2021, however, the Germans are no longer the underdogs, thanks to the emergence of several top-flight prospects. Although they’ve lost some key players from last year’s surprising squad, they still have talent to spare, and it could land them in a playoff spot for the first time in World Junior history.
However, before then, they’ll have to get through a tough Pool A and a very motivated Martin Chromiak who will lead Team Slovakia and a determined Team Switzerland that won’t go down without a fight.
Head coach Tobias Abstreiter returns for his second World Juniors and will likely rely heavily on his small group of returning players. Germany has a much younger team in 2021, with 14 players on their roster born in 2002. The lack of experience will be a challenge, but the Germans have overcome bigger odds before, and their development program is slowly becoming one of the best in Europe.
Having every intention of sticking around for another year, here is the rundown of Team Germany’s 2021 World Junior roster.
Tobias Ancicka, Florian Bugl, Arno Tiefensee
Tobias Ancicka is the only returning goalie for the Germans, and he will assume the starting job after backing up Hendrik Hane last year. He steps into an unenviable role, having to face the barrage from Canada and Finland in the round-robin, but he has the experience to handle it. On top of making 23 saves against the Americans in 2020, he also started in 27 games last season with Lukko U20 of Finland’s Jr. A SM-Liiga, finishing with a .918 save percentage (SV%). While not the biggest frame at 6-foot-1, Ancicka is a workhorse and capable of robbing shooters.
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN) December 27, 2019
Newcomers Florian Bugl and Arno Tiefensee will fight for the backup job, a familiar situation for both of them. Last season, they split duties with the U18 team on the international circuit, with Tiefensee starting four matches and Bugl starting three. However, Bugl put up better numbers, finishing with a 1.62 goals-against-average and a .944 SV%.
He’s been just as dominant in Austria this season, posting a .923 SV% in 11 starts. Teifensee has the size advantage, though, covering much more of the net with his 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame, and it will be a close contest between the two.
Lukas Flade, Maximillian Glötzl, Simon Gnyp, Niklas Länger, Luca Münzenberger, Tommy Pasanen, Maksymilian Szuber, Mario Zimmermann, Steven Raabe
Fans were surprised when Moritz Seider announced that he would not attend the 2021 World Juniors. According to Detroit Red Wings assistant general manager Ryan Martin, “He has made the decision that he would like to continue playing with Rögle (in the Swedish Hockey League) as opposed to the World Juniors. We would have been supportive of whatever he wanted to do,” (from ‘Red Wings’ top prospect Moritz Seider to skip World Juniors’, MLive Michigan – 18/11/20).
Without him, the Germans will be in for a tough time on the back end. Seider, last year’s captain, led the defense in points with six and was chosen as one of the Top Three Players on the team. Replacing his impact will be near impossible, but Maximillian Glötzl is the most capable. He’s been called the biggest German talent on defense behind Seider, and he’s been the team’s best defender in pre-tournament games. He also wore an ‘A’ with the U18 team last year and played in six games at the U20 level despite being just 17 years old.
However, Glötzl will need some help, and shouldering some of the weight is Tommy Pasanen, who also stood out in pre-tournament competition. He’s played in North America for the past two seasons with the United States Hockey League’s Sioux City Musketeers and led the team with 69 penalty minutes last season. Together with Glötzl, the pair will give the Germans some grit and provide the blue line with some high-end skill they’d be missing with Seider’s absence.
Another behemoth on the blueline is Tommy Pasanen, who spent two seasons with Sioux City and is headed to Clarkson. At 6-foot-4, 220, he can run you over, but can also use his stick to strip the puck from you in the blink of an eye. His game can be quiet, but is very intentional.
— Julie Robenhymer (@JulieRobenhymer) July 20, 2020
Another name to keep an eye on is Maksymilian Szuber, who has been very effective at the U18 level, often leading the team’s defense in scoring. He’s playing at the highest level in Austria this season, and recorded four assists in 13 games. The 6-foot-3 defender is smart defensively and is not afraid to sacrifice his body for the play. Luca Münzenberger is another intriguing youngster. He played in every U18 tournament last season and is currently the captain of the Kölner Junghaie U20, where he has three points in six games.
Manuel Alberg, Jakub Borzecki, Julian Chrobot, Samuel Dube, Florian Elias, Nino Kinder, Elias Lindner, Justin Volek, Jan Nijenhuis, John-Jason Peterka, Lukas Reichel, Filip Reisnecker, Joshua Samanski, Tim Stützle, Markus Schweiger
The biggest loss among the forwards is Dominik Bokk, who led the team in scoring last year with six goals and eight points. But it won’t hurt the Germans too much, as they will get back the trio of John-Jason Peterka, Lukas Reichel, and Tim Stützle who combined for seven goals and 16 points at last year’s competition – Stützle led the team with five assists. Since then, Stützle and Reichel were selected in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, and Peterka was picked early in the second. Their skills mesh nicely with each other and they will make Germany’s top unit one to be reckoned with.
Check out this offensive rush between Stutzle, Peterka and Reichel. Awesome stuff. And it all starts with Stutzle winning the puck deep in the defensive zone pic.twitter.com/qNz5nqGtdf
— Derek Neumeier (@Derek_N_NHL) May 25, 2020
The only concern is that Stützle has missed several weeks healing from a hand injury, and early speculation considered whether he would be ready for the tournament, or if the Ottawa Senators, who picked him fifth overall in October, would allow him to compete, as they are hopeful he’ll join them for training camp in January. However, with many NHL teams still figuring out their season and the German phenom still under contract with the DEL’s Adler Mannheim, Team Germany is banking on him to be their captain at the 2021 World Juniors.
Nino Kinder and Jan Nijenhuis are also returning from the 2020 tournament and will be expected to take on bigger leadership roles. Kinder had two points at last year’s tournament, then finished the season with 11 goals and 21 points with the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice. Nijenhuis has been playing in the Germany 3 league, where he has one assist in three games this season. He plays a solid defensive game that can be used on the penalty kill.
The Germans will have just four other 19-year-olds among their forwards: Manuel Alberg, Julian Chrobot, Filip Reisnecker, and Elias Lindner. Alberg may be familiar to some, as he played with the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack in 2018-19 and split 2019-20 with the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats and USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers. Reisnecker also played briefly in the OHL in 2018-19, appearing in 32 games for the Mississauga Steelheads, although he’s been much better since returning home to Germany.
— World Hockey Report (@worldhockeyrpt) November 6, 2020
The rest of the forwards are very young, which could prove to be a challenge for the team, but some potential stars are just waiting for their chance to show the world what they can do. Last season, Florian Elias finished third in the Germany 3 with 49 points and first in goals with 26, despite being one of the youngest in the league. He even gained some NHL draft attention despite being a relatively unknown prospect, although he went unselected most likely due to his diminutive 5-foot-8 frame.
Markus Schweiger has been the most prolific scorer of any German on the team this year, putting away five goals and 12 points in nine games in the German U20 league. However, at just 5-foot-6, he’ll be one of the smallest players at the tournament. Samuel Dube isn’t much bigger at 5-foot-8 but has some North American experience from his two-plus seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads before suddenly returning to Germany early this season. His speed and active stick can create highlight-worthy moments like the one below:
— Halifax Mooseheads (@HFXMooseheads) January 4, 2020
The Bottom Line
Lead by Peterka, Reichel, and Stützle, the Germans will have a top line that could rival any other country and will likely provide the bulk of the team’s offense. Glötzl and Pasanen are capable defenders who will anchor the blue line, and Ancicka has experience at the World Juniors to help him handle the starting job. The rest of the roster is filled with intriguing players who have found success all across Europe and now will get a chance to show the world their skills.
Although the team lacks size and is on the younger side, the German development program has continued to pump out NHL-calibre prospects. Finding chemistry won’t be a problem, either, as many of the players already play for the same teams in Europe. That combination could help them sneak into the playoffs by stealing a win or two from a bigger nation still trying to figure out its lines and get into a groove.
However, the trio of Ancicka, Bugl, and Tiefensee is arguably the weakest among Pool A goalies, and though they’ve shown to be capable starters at home, the World Juniors will test them like never before. The absence of Seider won’t help either, as the defense will take a significant step back without him in the lineup. Glötzl and Pasanen should be fine, but the rest could find themselves in over their head rather quickly as they struggle to contain Aatu Raty, Anton Lundell, Payton Krebs, Bowen Byram, and Kirby Dach.
Yet, as the 2018 Olympics and the 2020 World Juniors proved, you can’t count Team Germany out. They may not have many stars in their lineup, but their work ethic and tenacity are among the best in the world and they won’t take a loss sitting down. Teams will have to fight for a full 60 minutes to beat Germany, no matter the score, which can exhaust even the best of them. So, a word of advice for the top teams at the tournament: don’t take their ranking for granted – Germany wants to win, no matter who they face.