Germans in Hockey and the NHL

So this is a bit of an expansion on a little thing I wrote about Germany and hockey that got me to be writing for Brotherly Puck. I have German heritage, like a lot of it, and kinda proud of the growing presence of Germans in the NHL.

The Past

The first registered hockey game in Germany was played on February 4, 1897, on Halensee Lake in Berlin. Hockey-like sports had been played during the winters mostly in the Alps and on lakes and rivers throughout Germany for centuries. It wouldn’t be until 1901 that Germany would see its first ice hockey club called Berliner Schlittschuhclub (roughly translated to Berlin ice skating club). It is still active today under the name Eissport und Schlittschuh-club (roughly translated to ice sport and ice skating club). Germany was actually the 6th member of the IIHF. In 1910 several German teams participated in the first Ice Hockey European Championship. The German National Team won bronze at the 1932 Olympic Games. They wouldn’t medal for another 44 years when they got bronze in the 1976 Olympics. And a little fun fact: during the 1936 “Nazi” Olympics in Berlin, the German Hockey Team had a Jewish player, Rudi Ball.

Now getting to the history of German NHL players. The first German to be selected in the NHL Draft was Orest Romashyna. He was selected 3rd overall in 1963 by the Boston Bruins. He is tied for the highest German ever drafted. The first German to play in the NHL was Udo Kiessling. Kiessling was a defenseman who played in 1 NHL game on March 13, 1982 for the Minnesota North Stars. Not a great start for Germany, but it will get better. The first German to have a real presence in the NHL was Uwe Krupp. He was selected in the 11th round, 124th overall, by the Buffalo Sabres in 1983. He would go on to play in 729 NHL games for the Sabres, Islanders, Nordiques, Avalanche, Red Wings, and Thrashers between the 1986-87 season and the 2002-03 season. Olaf Kölzig is widely considered to be the best German goalie. He played in 719 games in the NHL, all but 8 with the Capitals and the other 8 were with the Lightning, putting up a 303-297-87 record with a 2.71 GAA, a .906 sv%, and 35 shutouts throughout the 90s and 2000s. Kolzig is also the first German to win an NHL award, having. won the Vezina in 1999-00 and the King Clancy in 2005-06. Marco Sturm is the current NHL leader in points for German players with 487 points, 242 goals, and 245 assists, in 938 games played with the Sharks, Bruins, Kings, Capitals, Panthers, and Canucks. Sturm will most likely be 2nd in this regard after this 2020-21 season ends. Some other notable past Germans in the NHL include Christian Ehrhoff, Dennis Seidenberg, and Marcel Goc. These pioneers would inspire and help usher in this current wave of Germans.

The Present

First, I would like to talk about the growing presence of Germany as a hockey country. Since 2010, there have only been 2 drafts without at least 1 German player selected, 2012 and 2013. There are Germans sprinkled throughout the NHL, some notable ones include Tobias Rieder, Tom Kühnhackl, Nico Sturm, and Dominik Kahun. But we are witnessing the greatest German player to ever play in the NHL. In 2014, Leon Draisaitl was selected 3rd overall by the Edmonton Oilers, tying Orest Romashyna as the highest German ever selected. Draisaitl has proven to be, without a doubt, the best German player ever. He has the record for most goals in a season by a German, 50, most assists, 67, and most points, 110. He is the first, and only German player so far, to have a 100+ point season. He is the first German player to win the Hart, Art Ross, and Ted Lindsay. Also, the first German to win more than 1 award in a season. Draisaitl currently has 447 points, 176 goals and 271 assists, in 437 games all played with the Oilers. 2020 was a huge year for Germans, not only was Leon Draisaitl cementing his status as the best German player after cleaning up at the NHL Awards and leading the league in points, but the NHL draft in October would be a historic one. The 2019 NHL draft was historic enough with it marking the first time a German player had gone in the first round in back-to-back drafts. Dominik Bokk was selected 25th overall by the St. Louis Blues in 2018 and Moritz Seider was selected 6th overall by the Detroit Red Wings. 2020 would continue the tradition by being the 3rd draft in a row where at least one German would be taken in the first round, the first time ever. Tim Stützle was selected 3rd overall by the Ottawa Senators to tie Orest Romashyna and Leon Draisaitl for highest German ever drafted, and Lukas Reichel was drafted 17th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks to make 2020 the first ever draft where more than 1 German player was selected in the 1st round.

Outside of the NHL, German hockey is flourishing and showing great signs of growth. The DEL, Deutsche Eishockey Liga (German Ice Hockey League), is one of the top hockey leagues in Europe. In 2018, German hockey would take center stage at the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Without NHL players, smaller nations would be able to go farther than they ever had before. Germany took this opportunity. They beat Switzerland 2-1 in OT in the playoffs, then upset Sweden 4-3 in OT in the Quarterfinals. Then they upset Canada in the semifinals 4-3 to advance to the Gold Medal Game. Regardless of the outcome of the game, Germany was going to get its highest medal in men’s ice hockey ever. Germany would face another hockey powerhouse in OAR (Olympic Athletes from Russia). Germany had some older NHL players on their team, and a younger one as well, but Russia had a team almost entirely comprised of NHL talent. Players such as Pavel Datsyuk, Kirill Kaprizov, Nikita Gusev, Igor Shesterkin, Ilya Sorokin, Slava Voynov, and Ilya Kovalchuk just to name a few. Germany was actually winning the game until Nikita Gusev scored with 56 seconds left in the 3rd period. Kirill Kaprizov would score about 10 minutes into overtime. Germany had just won their first ever silver medal and almost won gold against an NHL caliber team in Russia. In this past World Juniors, Germany showed some positive signs, making it out of the preliminary round.

The Future

Unfortunately, it seems like there won’t be a 4th consecutive draft with a German taken in the 1st round. Along with that, NHL players will be going to the 2022 Olympics, so it will be harder for them to get back to the gold medal game. All we know for certain is that they will have. some great and promising players with Leon Draisaitl, Tim Stützle, Lukas Reichel, John-Jason Peterka, Moritz Seider, Tobias Rieder, and Dominik Bokk just to name a few. Leon Draisaitl is more than likely to continue to be one of the best NHL players for years to come. Moritz Seider is poised to be the future of the Red Wings’ blue line for years to come. Dominik Bokk is still young, but looks to be somewhat of a project after being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. Tim Stützle is looking really good and promising in his very young NHL career and could be the 2nd best German NHL player ever. John-Jason Peterka has looked great since the draft, still has some time before he makes the NH, but could be a very solid player. Lukas Reichel has looked good in the DEL and international play since the draft.

Written by Noah Caplan (@Phlyers24)
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