October 3, 2020

Stutzle on the 2020 NHL Draft and the Rise of Germany

Germany, historically, may not be high on that list of hockey hotbeds.

However, that’s changing rapidly and the 2020 NHL Draft could be a turning point, with three German prospects earning first-round chatter.

The face of that is Tim Stutzle, a player who has shot up draft boards this year with his play against men in the DEL and against his peers at the 2020 World Junior Championship.

And he touched on this rise of German hockey.

“Young players can play in the big leagues and get to know everything and get to know the veterans, learn from those guys every time, and play and train against men every day, I think that helps,” Stutzle told media in a conference call last week.

“I think Leon (Draisaitl) really showed everything off. He was an unbelievable role model last season.

“I think Germany is definitely on the right way. Also, with the National Team getting young guys and building a group of under-24, under-25 guys, training with them, and getting a little bit closer to the pro level. I think that’s very important too.”

That professional experience in the DEL is a large part of what has vaulted Stutzle into top-three consideration. In his rookie season, he collected 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) in 41 games.

He was honoured as the DEL Rookie of the Year for his efforts.

“I think everybody helped me a little bit,” explained Stutzle. “I was honoured to play with Ben Smith and Tommi Huhtala. Two veterans, unbelievable players in the DEL. Benny played in the NHL a long time and the AHL too.

“(Andrew) Desjardins won a Stanley Cup. A lot of fun with those guys and I could learn every day from them. It was very good for me. I felt amazing and I had a great experience in Mannheim, for sure.

“I learned a lot from the veterans, from those guys playing there for a couple years already. With me, I had a busy day, not like the others. They went home after practice. I went to school. It was kind of crazy… I had a lot of fun. I had a great experience practicing every morning all the time, every time. It’s not normal, a young kid as me.

“Normally, they go to school in the morning. I had practice and went to school after… Everything was definitely 100 percent more professional. Every player watched what they eat, nutrition, what they do before games, I think you can learn so many things from those guys. For me, an unreal experience, 100 percent.”

At the World Juniors, Stutzle, along with fellow 2020 NHL Draft-eligibles Lukas Reichel and John-Jason Peterka, took the world by storm.

While Germany finished ninth, the young players stood out.

Stutzle collected five assists in five games, showing off his playmaking and vision at one of hockey’s biggest stages.

“For sure I think it was not my best tournament, the World Juniors, but I would say as a German group of guys, I think we performed pretty well,” Stutzle said. “(We) held up to some big nations as well. It was a great feeling to play for Team Germany.

“I think we had a very young team, so hopefully the next World Juniors we can cue up even more.”

Stutzle has now turned his attention to the NHL Draft, in likely the most uncertain draft in the NHL’s history. While it’s not what was expected, the excitement is still high for him.

“For sure I think everybody’s excited, every player is excited,” Stutzle said. “I’m going to watch the draft with my teammates and my family. I think my teammates were a big part of me last season and they helped me a lot so I think they need to be there too.”

As for what comes next, the DEL recently pushed the start date of the 2020-21 season, with no date set.

But for Stutzle, he may not have his sight set on returning to the top German league.

“Nobody knows right now what’s going on in Germany, when the season is going to start,” said Stutzle. “My goal is to play in the NHL next season. I want to go to the camp and make the team. That’s 100 percent my goal.

“We’ll see what’s going to happen, but my goal is to play (in the NHL) next season, for sure.”

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