Eisenschmid breaks out
by Derek O'Brien|22 MAY 2019
Markus Eisenschmid reacts to scoring the important 2-2 goal against Slovakia.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images

With established NHLers Leon Draisaitl and Dominik Kahun on the German national team, not many would have guessed that after six games, the team’s top scorer would be Markus Eisenschmid. Meanwhile he’s one point behind Draisaitl, having amassed seven points in as many games.

If you just asked, “Who?”, you probably didn’t follow the DEL this past season, but you’re not alone.

Eisenschmid played for the German U18 and U20 national teams but was never an offensive force on those teams, nor was he at his IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship debut last year in Denmark, never recording more than two points in any previous IIHF championship tournament. Likewise, in three American Hockey League seasons, he never posted more than 16 points.

This season, however, he recorded 54 points in 64 DEL regular-season and playoff games for champion Adler Mannheim and is now producing at a point-per-game clip at the World Championship. So what happened?

“Obviously I got a little bit of experience last year,” he said. “You learn that teams are coming strong, no matter who it is, whether it’s Great Britain or Canada. I’ve just gotta play my game and give it 100 per cent every single game.

“Personally, I think I’ve been getting better every single game, and I’ve tried to create things. I just feel more and more comfortable out there.”

Eisenschmid recorded an assist in each of Germany’s first three games against Great Britain, France and Denmark – games the team was expected to and beat. Then came the fourth game against Slovakia and the 3-2 win that has essentially put Germany in the quarter-finals. Everyone remembers Draisaitl’s dramatic game-winning goal in the last minute, but Eisenschmid figured in on the team’s first two goals – including scoring the equalizer on a one-time slap shot at 58:08 that set the stage.

In the team’s last group-stage game against Finland, the line of Eisenschmid, Matthias Plachta and Marc Michaelis combined to score the team’s 1-1 goal. It was Eisenschmid’s seventh point in seven games. However, the most important stat was the 4-2 win, however.

“You know, we didn’t get to this position because of one or two players, it’s everybody pulling together,” said Eisenschmid. “We win as a team and we lose as a team. We’d rather win, of course.”

Eisenschmid, 24, got a lot of ice time with Draisaitl the first few games of the tournament, particularly on the power play, but in recent games has been playing with a couple of Mannheim products, Michaelis, 23, and Plachta 28.

“I’ve known Marc for a long time,” he said. “We played together on the junior national team and against each other when he was in Jungadler Mannheim and I was in Kaufbeuren. I feel like it’s working pretty well, with Plachta too. We play together in Mannheim now. I think we’re a good line, we’re moving the puck well and moving our feet. We’re all pretty good skaters.”

After five seasons in North America split between the Western Hockey League and AHL, Eisenschmid returned to his native Germany last summer and had a breakout season in Mannheim as the team went all the way and won the DEL title.

“It was an unbelievable experience right from the start,” he said of the season in Mannheim. “I came right in and had a huge role on the team and it was clicking and everybody was working, especially in the playoffs. We had a good run and a great group of guys. It’s an unbelievable experience, especially if you’ve never won before.”

After a reflective pause, he added: “I like looking back on that. Obviously, it was a big confidence boost as well coming into the World Championship.”

In addition to Plachta, another Mannheim player with the German national team is 18-year-old defenceman Moritz Seider, who is projected by many sources to be a first-round pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Seider looked good in the early part of this World Championship but left the Slovakia game with an injury after being checked from behind into the boards and has missed the three games since.

“Moritz is a really smart player, first of all,” said Eisenschmid. “He’s really humble and mature for his age, which you don’t find very often. That’s why he’s the player he is. He’s got a ton of potential, lots of skill, and if he becomes the player he can be, he’s going to be a really good one.”

As for Seider’s current status, Eisenschmid said: “He’s feeling better, as far as I know.”

Seider isn’t the only good young German hockey player that’s got people talking. At age 24, Eisenschmid isn’t exactly a veteran on this team, but there are many younger players. Among forwards, Draisaitl, Kahun and Michaelis are all 23, Stefan Loibl is 22 and Lean Bergmann seemingly came out of nowhere to make the team at age 20.

Aside from them, 19-year-old Dominik Bokk, the first round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues last year, established himself in the Swedish Hockey League and was a force for the German U20 national team that won a promotion to next year’s World Junior Championship.

“Everybody can see that it’s improving,” Eisenschmid said about the state of German hockey. “It started with the Olympics, and I think German hockey has a great future. We’re starting to prove it internationally. More and more players are going to North America and I think there are better things to come.”

After the team’s first four wins, Germany has lost to Canada 8-1 and the USA 3-1. While the Germans had already secured a spot in the quarter-finals, they didn’t want to be going into a do-or-die quarter-final game with a three-game losing streak.

“We can’t be satisfied [with our position in the group] right now,” Eisenschmid said before the Finland game. “We already have four wins, but we just have to get back to the basics.”

After getting back on the winning track by beating Finland, the Germans now hope to continue that on Thursday in Bratislava against the Czech Republic.