Had I told you in 2017 that Germany would win an Olympic silver medal, have an Art Ross, Ted Lindsay and Hart Trophy winner, and develop four NHL first-round draft picks within the next three years, you would’ve said I’m full of it. Yet, that is exactly what happened.
Team Germany beat Sweden and Canada en route to Olympic silver in 2018. Dominik Bokk was drafted in the first round of the NHL draft in the same year, followed by Moritz Seider in 2019 as well as Tim Stützle and Lukas Reichel in 2020. And Leon Draisaitl is the NHL’s latest top scorer and MVP.
But while there’s certainly more to it than luck, the road ahead remains a challenging one for German hockey.
To get a better understanding of the current situation, let’s go back to the 2014-15 season.
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Draisaitl had just become the first German first-round draft pick in 13 years. Becoming a third-overall selection by the Edmonton Oilers was an impressive feat. But Draisaitl was an outlier. He was only the fifth first-rounder in German history, the only drafted German in 2014, and to get there, he chose to leave the Adler Mannheim junior system to develop in the WHL.
What’s more, there was virtually nobody in the pipeline to replicate Draisaitl’s success. The German U20 and U18 teams were relegated from their respective world championship top division, the men’s team eliminated in the preliminary round. There wasn’t a single U18 player in the DEL, and only nine U20 players appeared in more than 10 games that season.
Something had to change. And thus “POWERPLAY26” was born.
POWERPLAY26 is a program developed by the Deutscher Eishockey-Bund (DEB), Germany’s ice hockey federation, that aims to reach an ambitious goal by 2026: to be a consistent medal contender at world championships and Olympic tournaments.