Image Courtesy of https://www.kicker.de/757476/artikel
Welcome to the second edition of a new series called “Shift Work“. I’ll be bringing you some comprehensive breakdowns of a player’s game as we go over an entire game of tape from a player. We will be focusing in on that player’s shifts and getting a peek at what the average game of that player looks like. We will be highlighting a lot of things that scouts and evaluators look for when they are watching a player’s game. I couldn’t do this nearly as easy if it weren’t for collaboration with Prospect Shifts.
Prospect Shifts is an outstanding resource for talent evaluators and scouts alike as they condense a player’s game down into just their shifts. This shift-by-shift breakdown allows you to get a viewing of a player in far less time. Rather than watching a full 60-minute game with TV breaks and intermissions, you can get a quick viewing in within 20 minutes. The player is highlighted at the beginning of each shift and any important event such as a goal, assist, powerplay or penalty kill are all indicated in the bottom right corner of the video. It’s an excellent service but its certainly just one of many tools in an evaluator and/or scouts repertoire.
Today’s focus is one of the most intriguing players in the 2020 NHL draft, Tim Stützle. The German-born and raised prospect tore apart the DNL (German Junior Hockey) last year and this year he looks to show what he can do against men in the DEL (Top German league). He is following in the footsteps of 2019 sixth overall pick Moritz Seider and playing for the strong Alder Mannheim squad that won the DEL title last season, with the help of Seider. Stützle has played well in Champions Hockey League play and in his first four games in the DEL regular season, he has four points and a beautiful shootout winner. Stützle blends lightning-fast hands with excellent footwork and skating. He does everything at a high pace, pushing an opponent back on their heels before making a move like an NFL running back. His quick-twitch muscles are among the best in the draft class with the ability to change speed and direction with ease.
The game that we will be taking a look at today is from August 30th, 2019 during Champions Hockey League play. Stützle and his Alder Mannheim team took on the Vienna Capitals of the top Austrian league. This was one of the first games that Stützle played in a league with men. He held his own, found the scoresheet and put on a good display of his skillset. It was the beginning of Stützle putting the prospect world on notice that he isn’t a product of playing in a low-level junior league (DNL) in his draft-1 year. Let’s dive in!
Stützle (#8 in blue) begins the game as the second-line left-winger. When his first shift begins he is forced to play defensively with the puck hemmed into his defensive end. Stützle does a good job of covering the front of the net when vacated by the center and as the puck exits the zone, he is able to turn the defender around as he chases the puck down. He uses his elite skating to elude the defender and then fights through a bit of contact as he enters the offensive zone. When the puck gets sent to the corner and again Stützle is the first on the puck, directing to a teammate. As the puck battle ensues along the boards, he doesn’t engage physically but does a good job of supporting from below the puck. Once Vienna retrieves the puck, its sent to the far defensive player who attempts to skate the puck out of the zone. Stützle can gain ground on him quickly, forcing a dump-in from mid-ice.
Stützle’s (#8 in blue) next shift is on the powerplay. He receives the drop pass an immediately recognizes that he doesn’t have a lane and passes off to his defenseman. Once into the offensive zone, Stützle sets up on the left point. He moves towards the middle of the ice where he receives a pass. He understands that he has a massive chunk of ice available and attacks it without hesitation. He is able to get a good shot off that creates a bit of havoc in front of the net. He positions himself down the half-wall and then rotates back to the point as the puck works its way to the far side of the ice. He again attacks the middle of the ice and receives another pass. Utilizing the same look as the previous chance, Stützle passes the puck across the slot to a soft spot on the zone where his teammate is set up. The puck is deflected out of play but Stützle was able to create in the offensive zone whenever the puck was on his stick.
The next shift from Stützle is one that goes overlooked many times. With the play on the far side of the ice, many wingers will stick to their wall and wait for a pass or float to the defensive zone as he recognizes where the puck is going. Stützle does a subtle thing instead. He skates towards the center of the ice, understanding that there isn’t any danger along his wall. By doing this, he is able to get into a passing lane. As the Vienna player skates into his own zone, he turns to look up the ice for an outlet pass. At 12 seconds of the video below, Stützle is positioned directly in the lane for the outlet pass and covers more ground by keeping his stick in a good position as well. This forces the Vienna defender (#5 in yellow) to turn back and look to bank it off the boards and out, eventually leading to a stoppage in play because the puck goes onto the bench.
Following that quick shift, Stützle again does the unheralded thing and gets in on the forecheck quickly. While not a physical presence, he is able to pressure opposing players with his elite speed. He is able to get his stick on the puck and disrupt the flow of the Vienna puck retrieval and breakout. He understands that with all three forwards low in the zone, he is least engaged so he ensures that his team wouldn’t give up and odd-man rush by being the first forward back on defense. The overall awareness that Stützle shows each and every shift is impressive for a player in his draft year.
Later on, Stützle is over a minute into the shift and starts to scramble a bit. His stride is less fluid and he seems to be slightly anxious in the zone. His positioning is still good for the most part but it’s not as crisp as the defensive positioning and awareness as previous defensive zone stands. Stützle has a bit of a tendency, at least in this game, to take a bit of a long shift and when he does, defensive breakdowns and “scramble” plays like this can happen.
In the next clip, Stützle does a good job of picking up an errant pass and then maneuvering through his zone and avoids a turnover. Once the puck is on his defender’s stick, Stützle makes a bee-line for the neutral zone. He doesn’t receive the outlet pass but stays open and available for an outlet or release valve pass. He gets the release valve pass at the offensive blue line and again attacks the middle of the ice with speed. Making a pass through the defender’s feet on the tape of his linemate. This leads to a high-danger chance generated primarily by Stützle.
Stützle again acts as a facilitator on his next shift. With the puck going deep into the Capitals zone, Stützle supports down low on the backside of the play. When the puck comes around the boards, he recognizes that his teammate is driving the net and without hesitation he sends the puck to the front of the net, again creating a high-danger chance. He recovers the loose puck behind the net and keeps his feet moving as he tries to escape pressure. This draws a penalty and puts Alder Mannheim on the powerplay.
On the ensuing powerplay, Stützle again takes his position at the left point. Below we can see his constant movement and flow in and out of the middle of the offensive zone. He does this to allow his teammates a dangerous area to pass to while also eluding the stagnant penalty killers. After circling back once, he gets the pass from the defender on the blueline and then similar to the first powerplay, Stützle attacks the slot with speed. He fires a shot from the inner edge of the faceoff circle and roofs the puck. The key to this goal is Stützle’s awareness of what the goalie is doing. Due to the screen in front of the net, the goaltender peeks around the screen to the inside of the net. As soon as he does so, Stützle recognizes that the short side is more vulnerable and targets it.
As the second period opens, Stützle begins to play in his defensive zone. He breaks up the initial chance but can not corral the puck to get it out. He stays active and keeps skating, staying in between the puck carrier and the man at the point. Again, Stützle’s awareness pays dividends as the puck is eventually cleared down the ice.
The following clip shows Stützle’s transition game. He initially gets the puck just inside his blue line but doesn’t like the look of things and peels back quickly before turning up ice once more. This patience allowed the neutral zone to open up, giving Stützle more space to work with as he transitioned the puck up the ice. After entry, the play is broken up but the speed and patience are evident.
Below we get a chance to see Stützle’s board play. As mentioned, he isn’t a physical specimen in terms of strength so he relies on his quickness along the boards to get in and out of battles. We can see towards the end of the shift that he gets overpowered and leaned on until he goes down to the ice. Strength is often an issue for teenagers playing in a men’s league. He does do a good job of changing direction and providing an outlet when teammates were in trouble.
Stützle seems to have a good grasp on protecting the front of the net defensively as its always the area that he goes when the puck is in his end. On the breakout, Stützle and his line come in on a 3-on-2 with Stützle being the far man from the puck. After the puck gets over to the young German forward, he passes back to the front of the net knowing that from the angle he was on and being as in-tight as he was the best option was to pass.
Another shift with quick decision making. Stützle understands that with 13 seconds on the clock, there is a need to get the puck to the net. He does that with a good backhand pass that ultimately ends up being wasted by his teammate. Small plays like this are key to creating offense and Stützle makes those plays without hesitation.
After a couple of uneventful shifts where not much happened for either team, Stützle gets back on the ice and again displays his acceleration and straight-line speed. He chases down the dump in and then brings it to the corner. Although he is initially stooped up by the defender, Stützle does a good job of protecting the puck and getting it to a teammate close by.
This is a complete shift. Defensively, in transition and the offensive zone. in his end, Stützle comes back to the puck battle in the corner and fished it out of the pile. He then makes a good crisp pass to the blue line where his teammate transports the puck to the offensive zone. Upon entering the offensive zone Stützle realizes that he needs to provide a safety valve and follows behind the boards where two defensive players are drawn to that teammate. When Stützle collects the safety valve pass he does what he’s done all game, he attacks the middle of the ice. Although he doesn’t score, he does put on a display of good hands and footwork, staying strong on his edges and protecting the puck during the net drive.
As we can see in the next clip, his second to last shift of the game, Stützle has high-end puck skills and does a good job of staying relentless on the puck. With the flip pass out of the zone coming in still in the air, he kicks it out of the air and then tracks the puck down and steals it away from the Vienna defenseman before he could make a pass. Despite losing the puck to a good poke check, he opens up to receive a pass from his trailing linemate but fans on the chance.
I’ve broken down Stützle’s final shift of the game into two parts. The first part is a solid forecheck. He does an excellent job of using his speed and agility to not allow any time or space for Vienna’s players. He forces players to make a pass earlier than they want to and then catches up to the player breaking out of the zone, again forcing a poor pass in transition. Stützle uses speed and space on offense and takes it away on the forecheck.