By Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com
Deep interest in the top division of the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior Championship currently being played in British Columbia goes beyond the fans from participating nations. German fans and junior hockey officials are surely watching, too, wondering how their team will fare against the best teams next year after being promoted from Division I, Group A.
The Germans won the 2019 DI Group A gold in December as the host team with four regulation wins, one overtime win and no losses. They finished a plus-17, scoring 22 goals and allowing only five.
Leading the squad was Dominik Bokk, who had eight points. Curiously, the 2000-born winger reached that by scoring only a single goal. It was enough to lead all scorers for the tournament, though.
Tied for second for both the German team and the tournament were forward Justin Schutz, a 2000, and Moritz Seider, a 2001 defenseman. Both had seven points. Schutz had two goals, Seider one.
Germany was so thoroughly dominant that the team had one more player, for a total of four, among the top 10 scorers in the WJC. Nicolas Appendino recorded a pair of goals and three assists.
The Germans also has the WJC best goalie. Hendrik Hane won four games, posted a .949 save percentage, and a 0.98 goals-against average, all tournament bests.
Appendino, a 1999 defenseman, who plays for the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League, is one of more than a half-dozen players on the German roster who are on North America junior hockey rosters this season. That list includes: Leon Gawanke (1999 defenseman, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League), Colin Ugbekile (1999 defenseman, Fargo, USHL), Moritz Wirth (1999 defenseman, Minnesota Magicians, North American Hockey League), Taro Jentzsch (2000 forward, Sherbrooke Phoenix, QMJHL), Sebastian Streu (1999 forward, Regina Pats, Western Hockey League), and Yannik Valenti (2000 winger, Vancouver Giants, WHL). Goalie Florian Mnich, a 2000, is playing in the NAHL for the Corpus Christi IceRays.
Several from the German team have been drafted by NHL teams. Gawanke was taken by the Winnipeg Jets in 2017’s fifth round; Bokk is a 2018 first-round pick of the St. Louis Blues; and the Florida Panthers have rights to Schutz, who was drafted in the sixth round last June.
The 6’4” 185-pound Seider hasn’t been drafted but could go in the first round in 2019. He was the youngest player on Germany’s gold-medal team and has tremendous potential. At the WJC he was named the tournament’s best defenseman, had the overall best plus-minus (+8), led all blueliners in scoring, and was named his team’s top player. He’s known as a smooth, two-way defender who is “the best German defence prospect since Christian Ehrhoff,” according to Larry Fisher from The Hockey Writers.