Watching the U18 worlds got me wondering once more: what could the DEB do to improve their teams and to develop more high-end prospects? It's been an issue for many years and usually comes up with the DEL's foreign player discussion as well. Sure, Leon Draisaitl looks like one of the world's top 50 hockey players right now, at age 21, but he is so incredibly talented, nothing could have gone wrong with him. Plus, he played the most important years of his junior development in Canada. When it comes to developing competitive junior national teams, a competitive junior league or NHL draft prospects, Germany fails consistently. Then you watch the Swiss who have somehow managed to shape teams on every level (including the men's world championship) that can compete against the big hockey nations year after year. They have done that with a population of just 8 million vs. Germany's 80 million. So, what could the DEB do? Development Program The USA have been doing this successfully for years. They have an under-17 team that plays in the USHL and an under-18 team that plays games against USHL and NCAA teams on an independent schedule. The rosters include most of the country's top prospects, and they are developed at the highest level. A nice "side effect" is that the under-18 team can just go to the world championships with a team that's been playing together all year. In Germany, it obviously wouldn't work the exact same way (at least not right away). Germany's top prospects are often 16 or even 15-year-olds like Dominik Bokk and Yannik Valenti, who are already regulars in the DNL. What might work, however, would be one under-18 and one under-20 team or, probably the more realistic option (since the under-20 team would have no one to play against), only an under-18 team. That team could play in the DNL. It might sound unfair, as the team would have "all the best players," but it probably isn't when you think about it. For the most part, the older players are the ones who score the most in the DNL and it would stay that way - Team Germany would have no players older than 18. Plus, even if they were dominant, what's the difference to a team like Cologne this season, who crushed just about everyone. Alternatively, Team Germany could play in the EBJL. Two Top Junior Leagues Germany currently has only the SchÃ¼ler Bundesliga and DNL. The SchÃ¼ler level is so low, any above-averagely talented player dominates it. Plus, the two leagues are under-16 and under-19, there's nothing in between and nothing above 19. So, how about an under-18 and an under-19 league, similar to the SuperElit and J18 Elit in Sweden. Only the very best 16 and 17-year-olds play in the U20 league, the rest stays in the U18. That way, the older players will stop dominating a league whose age range is just too big. The problem here is that Germany doesn't have enough talented players. So, this will be a long process that starts with investing (time and money) in animating more kids to start playing and then give those kids the best-possible development until they reach the U18 level. Fewer Foreign Players in the DEL I'm still not sure if this would work. Most likely, it would only really work if only 3 foreign players were allowed per team. That way, teams would have to start letting players like Mick KÃ¶hler in Cologne play in the DEL. Or, at least, current DEL2 players would have to be pulled up to the DEL, current Oberliga guys go up to the DEL2, and current DNL players move up to the Oberliga. No one can tell me 18-to-22-year-old Germans who just started their pro careers are more expensive than 35-year-old Americans. Here, the problems are obvious as well. Reducing the number that drastically would lower the league quality. That could even result in German star players like Patrick Reimer leaving the DEL for other European leagues. Plus, if that many Germans get pulled up to the pro ranks sooner, who is left to play junior hockey? Will the quality of both the DEL and DNL suffer? It's impossible to predict. Again, a long process. --------------------------------------- I thought it could be fun to discuss some ideas, thoughts and concerns here, so please chime in and let me know what you all think!