We have recently reported on the most likely candidates expected to go first and second overall, in the event the Kings win the lottery in those spots. The draft scenarios grow exponentially at the third pick. This is the last spot for the Kings to move up in the draft, with the lottery scheduled Friday, June 26. As Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yannetti and his staff review draft scenarios with Rob Blake, we expect this player to be high on their radar.
While Los Angeles has picked often from North America, the search for raw skill has pushed them around the globe. Consequently, three of the five first round picks they have made since 2014 have come from Europe (Adrian Kempe, Rasmus Kupari, and Tobias Bjornfot). Germany has started producing high-caliber talent for the league as well, with players such as Leon Draisaitl and Moritz Seider. From this draft class, a few prospects who represent the black, red, and gold are expected to go in the first round, but one stands out above the rest.
Date of Birth: January 15, 2002
Weight: 187 lbs
Stützle played the entirety of the 2019-20 season for Adler Mannheim in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL – the highest level of play in Germany). He accumulated 34 points (7 G, 27 A) in 41 contests.
In the World Junior Championship, a tournament dominated by 19-year-olds, Stützle stood out at the age of 17. His 1.0 point-per-game scoring was second on his team, and he had a hand in 25% of the goals scored by Germany. His five points in as many contests were all assists.
A Boy Among Men
As mentioned above, the DEL is the highest level of professional hockey in Germany. Consequently, Stützle was the youngest player on his team and fourth youngest in the entire league, yet he was 24th in points-per-game.
Opportunities to Adapt
Stutzle has different options for the future as far as where he plays. DEL’s 2020 Rookie of the Year was drafted in the CHL Import Draft by the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, as well as the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL Import Draft. Should the Kings draft him, they would have flexibility in determining the best path of development, whether he goes to Seattle (WHL), Sioux City (USHL), Los Angeles (NHL), Ontario (AHL), or staying in Germany (DEL).
Last season, Los Angeles had Lukas Parik and Tobias Bjornfot come across from Europe to join the WHL and AHL respectively.
Rankings by Independent Scouting Services
The Draft Analyst, Third. “Stützle is as close to a finished product as you’ll find in a 17-year-old forward. He plays both center and wing, although with Mannheim he’s be utilized exclusively on the flank. His quickness on or off the puck is evident from the second he hits the ice, and his reputation as a high-volume scorer does not limit his abilities to forecheck with tenacity or finish his checks with authority. He constantly stays in motion and tracks (and predicts) puck travel far more consistently than the averge first-year draft eligible. This acute sense allows Stützle to apply a tremendous amount of physical pressure on opposing defensemen, who even at their advanced age still commit critical turnovers in the face of his relentless hounding. He operates a very quick stick, and his hand-eye coordination helps him bat down elevated passes before softly corraling the puck flat on his blade. He takes smart routes to the puck and plays with his head up in order to identify gaps in coverage, which means there is more to his defensive game than you’d think. He exerts a lot of energy from whistle to whistle, but running on an empty tank doesn’t have him gunning for the bench at the earliest chance — Stützle likes to be involved in plays and create chances, and it seems like a set of tired legs won’t stop him from doing so.”
Future Considerations, Third. In their final rankings, they highlighted his puck skills as well as his ability to recover from mistakes due to his skating.
Last Word On Sports, Third. “Stützle has mainly played on the wing in the DEL, but with his size and playmaking ability, it is easy to see a future transition to centre. He might need another year of development, working at playing in the middle of the ice and bulking up, but when he reaches the NHL he could become a franchise-level centre. Stützle’s game is reminiscent of Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It should be noted though, that this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on talent level.”
See For Yourself
Here’s a highlight reel of some of Stützle’s play during the COVID-interrupted season.
While the adjustment from European to North American ice is always a concern, Stützle arguably demonstrated more by holding his own against grown men. Said maturity, combined with the wide range of leagues he’s eligible to play in next season, gives the drafting team a good chunk of clay to mold into a successful NHL player.
The scouting community has evolved considerably where hockey lineage, which was a factor in Kopitar’s fall to No. 11 in 2005, does not weigh nearly as much as it used to. Draisaitl and Seider, drafted third and sixth overall respectively, reveal the focus on skill.
Stützle’s skill is undeniable. He is the top ranked European skater, and many independent scouting services agree he is the third best player from the draft. He can play center or wing, so Los Angeles has the flexibility in position and developmental arc to put him in a position to succeed. Most importantly, the Kings benefit from adding another offensively skilled threat up front as Blake further puts his stamp on the team.
“His skating & imagination opens up so many opportunities and when he has the puck, he’s dangerous & threatening to opponents…”
— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) June 16, 2020
NOTE: David Hofreiter was the lead contributor in the gathering of information used in this article. You can find him on Twitter @Davidenkness to talk more hockey.