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Mark Masters

SPORTSCENTRE Reporter

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With Rimouski left winger Alexis Lafreniere the consensus top pick in this year's NHL draft, the real intrigue will start at No. 2.

Sudbury centre Quinton Byfield has filled the runner-up spot on many draft boards for much of the year, but is now being pushed by Adler Mannheim forward Tim Stutzle. In fact, TSN director of scouting Craig Button has Stutzle at No. 2 in his latest prospects list.

"He's pure excitement an​d plays the game in a similar fashion to Patrick Kane," Button said. "He's quick on his skates and has a fast mind. He's extremely confident and manages to do things in the game offensively that are completely unexpected."

Stutzle, a natural centre who ​played left wing this seaso​n against men in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, has ​a chance to become the highest ever German-born pick in the NHL draft. Leon Draisaitl, taken third overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2014, currently holds that distinction.

"First of all, it's a big honour for me to be ranked as high as right now," Stutzle said. "Leon is doing a great job and being ranked higher (in the draft) than him is also great for German hockey. But my goal is to stay longer in the NHL and not just getting drafted highest."

Stutzle, who stands 6-foot-1, 187 pounds, may end up playing for a Canadian team. As it stands, the Ottawa Senators own two top picks while the Montreal Canadiens project to have a lottery selection. In TSN's latest mock draft, Button has Ottawa taking Stutzle. 

TSN linked up with Stutzle via Skype on Monday from his family home in Germany. The 18-year-old spoke about his limited experience in Canada, meeting Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman, being mentored by Stanley Cup champion Ben Smith and his goal of playing in the NHL next season. 

The following is an edited transcript of the exchange. 

What do you think about the possibility of playing in a Canadian market? 

"It would be a big honour to get drafted by any team, I don't really care which team. I can't say a lot about Canada, because I've only been there twice, both times to Toronto. It's great there, for sure."

What was your experience like in Toronto?

"We had tournaments over there with the under-20 team with Mannheim and it was a great experience, but it was (smiles) very cold."

In Canadian markets there's a lot of focus on hockey and you'll get questions almost every day. There's attention in other markets, but not at the same level. Would you be comfortable with a lot of attention?

"I really like talking to media. I don't really have a problem with that. Canada, everyone loves hockey over there and some teams, the whole city loves hockey, and that's just great. It's good for hockey​."

When you come over to North America to play professionally, do you expect there to be much of a culture shock?

"I think the food is the biggest difference, but I can live with that so it’s no problem for me."

What's your favourite food?

"We have a pretty good Italian (restaurant) in Mannheim where we go to a lot right before games and I think that's, for sure, a restaurant I would miss."

What about German food?

"Schnitzel (smile)."

What would it be like to play with countryman Moritz Seider, a graduate of the Mannheim program, in Detroit?

"Mo is a great guy and a good friend of mine and we talk a lot. (Smile) I wouldn't say, 'No,' if I got drafted to Detroit, too. It would be great."

What has he told you about the Red Wings organization?

"He told me it's a great organization and Steve Yzerman is a great guy. I think it helped him out that he played one season in the AHL (with Grand Rapids) and getting everything known over there. He played a great season. I think he's going to play in the NHL next season, for sure."

Have you met Yzerman?

"Ah, yeah, when I was a bit younger we met in the arena when he was watching Mo."

What was that like? Were you nervous?

"Yeah, for sure. He's a legend in the NHL and a general manager and I hadn't really talked before to someone like him. It was a great experience."

What did he say?

"He didn't really know me because I hadn't played in the DEL, but he talked to my agent a bit and was asking how I was and how I feel and what I'm going to do next season."

Are you getting lots of calls from NHL teams?

"Yeah, there's been some. Once or twice a week teams call me and I talk a little bit to them, about 40, 50 minutes, and tell them about myself."

What's the toughest question you get?

"My comparable, the player I compare to myself, that's pretty tough for me, because I think another person needs to say it. That's always tough to say. It's just being yourself and answering the truth and then it's pretty easy." 

So, what do you tell them?

"My teammates always tell me Patrick Kane, but I don't really like to say that about myself, because he's such a great player. I think other people should make an opinion about that." 

You had success playing against men this season in Germany producing 34 points in 41 games. How soon until you're ready to play against men in the NHL?

"That's always tough to say, because I'​ve never played against NHL players. My goal is to play in the NHL next season, but there's a lot of hard work in front of me and we'll see what the summer is going to bring."

One reason you wanted to stay in Germany this season was to finish your schooling. Why was that important to you?

"Schooling was also very important for my parents, that I had something behind hockey. But playing against men, training with men, being around men, I think you grow a lot and it helped me out. Everyone wanted to make me better and I'm thankful for my teammates and I think my season went great."

If you didn't play hockey what would you want to do?

"When I was young I wanted to be a pet doctor. Right now, I would say I would be a soccer player."

Did you have any pets growing up?

"I have two dogs. Well, my parents have two dogs and it’s great."

What was your favourite moment in Mannheim this season?

"My first DEL game was very important to me, when I scored the first goal and when we clinched the playoffs. Those two were my most favourite."

What stood out about playing at the 2020 World Juniors in the Czech Republic where you had five points in five games?

"Playing at the World Juniors was a great experience with great guys. You could see where you're standing with your age group and it was a great experience. I think German hockey showed up."

You were sick and missed the last two games of the relegation series against Kazakhstan. Germany lost the second game before winning the third game. How tough was it to watch?

"We had a great group of guys, great team and I already thought that we'd get a win and would stay in the group, because we had a great team. It was tough for me, because I couldn't even go to the arena, because I was sick so I watched from my bed. It was tough to see when they lost the second game. I was looking forward to them winning the third game, for sure."

Germany has a lot of promising young talent including yourself. If you're there, what are expectations for next year’s World Juniors in Edmonton (and Red Deer)?

"I think we'll have a great team again and a bunch of great, young players. We were the youngest team (last year) and with a little more luck we would've got to the quarterfinals, so our goal is to get to the quarterfinals next year in Edmonton."

 

Your linemate this season, Ben Smith, won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks. What's the biggest thing you learned from him?

"I learned a lot from him not just on the ice, but off the ice. He's a great person and I had a lot of great people on my team. Ben is the one I looked up to the most, because of his professionalism, the way he prepares off the ice for the game. He's just a great person and I'm grateful for meeting him."

What's the best story he told you about life in the NHL?

"He told me he played for a lot of teams and got traded a lot so (smiles) he'd seen a lot of teams. The willingness (needed) to win the Stanley Cup is the thing he told me, which is great."  

What did you notice about the way he gets ready off the ice?

"​He's just a true professional, 100 per cent he loves his job like me, too. When I hadn't decided to stay in Mannheim he called me and we were on the phone and he told me what it was like in college, because I had a decision about going to college or playing for Adler Mannheim. So, that was great. Also, in the dressing room he's a great guy and pushed the young people in the weight room." 

What's it like for you in Germany now?

"Everybody is at home and I enjoy time with my family, who I can't see a lot (usually). So, it's nice. Everybody tries to stay home as much as possible so I'm just out to do my workouts and fitness stuff."

Connor McDavid is your favourite player to watch and he's the fastest player in the NHL. You're also a gifted skater. How did you develop that skill?

"First of all, I had a great coach when I was younger and we did a lot of skating. I played a lot of soccer, tennis and other sports so I think that (helped) too."

What would it mean if Leon Draisaitl wins the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP?

"It's great for German hockey. He performed very good this year and many young people look up to him and it would be unreal for German hockey."