When the 2020 World Junior Championship started, I — like many others — had my eyes set on Tim Stützle when Germany played. At the time, the idea of Stützle potentially being a top-three pick had started gaining momentum and now we would get to see him play against his peers on an international stage. How would he perform?
Oh, Stützle sure demonstrated that he has tons of talent. But there was another player who became my personal favourite in the tournament. That player happened to be his one-day-older linemate.
John-Jason Peterka was, at the time, seen as a day-two prospect, meaning he was already seen as another German talent with big-league potential. With six points in seven games, four of them goals, he gave the hockey world reason to believe that he should be considered even higher up future draft boards.
Birthplace: Munich, GER
Date of birth: January 14, 2002
Weight: 192 lbs.
Team: EHC München (DEL)
Peterka has an interesting background. Coming from a team that’s part of a certain energy drink consortium, he played his last years of youth hockey in München’s Austrian farm team. They are, in turn, part of the Czech youth league due to a lack of quality opponents in their own country. So just by being part of the Red Bull’s Munich project, Peterka has played in three different countries in just the last year or so.
As seen by his stats, he crushed the opposition in the Czech U19 league, leaving EHC München with no choice but to make him a permanent feature in the lineup for the 2019-20 season. His 94 points won the scoring title by a landslide, 14 points ahead of any other player and a whopping 50 percent more than the player who ended up eighth in the scoring statistics. His 45 goals were also league leading.
You can argue that it doesn’t automatically make you a top-tier prospect by dominating an obscure Czech junior league, and you would be right. The teams and players he faced in that league will never see NHL daylight.
Peterka had the choice between following in Leon Draisaitl’s footsteps by playing for the team that drafted him in the CHL Import Draft, or stay put and follow a more recent example, that of Moritz Seider.
When Seider got drafted sixth overall by the Detroit Red Wings last summer, he created a huge precedent for German hockey. Apparently, you could stay at home without jeopardizing your chances to get drafted highly. This surely influenced players like Peterka, Stützle and Lukas Reichel to stay put and play pro league hockey at home for a year.
One year later, all three are being talked about as potential first-rounders, much in thanks to their performance in the WJC this winter. Led by former first-rounders Seider and Dominik Bokk, Germany surprised the hockey world by beating the hosts Czech Republic and rattling the United States for two periods.
The tournament still ended with a regulation battle against Kazakhstan, but Germany demonstrated that they were deserving of their spot in the top tier. And, as I stated before, no player was a more pleasant surprise than Peterka. His acceleration has always stood out on a German level. Now you could see that it held up against international opponents as well. His partnership with Stützle flourished and he demonstrated a physical, gritty side which must have been developed after playing in a pro league during the autumn. His 16 penalty minutes led Germany. Interestingly, he was more penalized in the WJC than he was in his whole season in the DEL.
Eleven points in 42 league games is a respectable freshman season for a recently turned 18 year old. Stützle and Reichel put up better numbers, but in more prominent roles on worse rosters. Compare Peterka’s stats with Swedish prospect Lukas Raymond’s, who was in a similar situation this year. When you play for the best team in the league, you will have to settle for a more limited role until you have proven that you are better than your teammates. There is no time to prioritize future development when you’re leading the league and fighting for a national title.
In the highlights above, you will see glimpses of the offensive skills Peterka provided throughout the year despite his limited role. He’s got standout speed when he cuts in on breakaways, a quick and precise wrister and a knack for finding the open space behind a goalie. Peterka uses his acceleration to quickly make up for any lost position in the transition game.
From the comparison with current Carolina Hurricanes’ prospect Bokk, you can see that Bokk was more highly touted in his draft year than Peterka is now. When drafted, Bokk was coming off a point-per-game season both in the Swedish SuperElit junior league and with Germany’s Under 20-squad. Peterka may slide further down draft boards than Bokk did due to comparisons with Stützle and people forgetting his point production against his own age group one season ago. It is also worth noting that Peterka is more compact built than Bokk was at the same age, distributing the same weight on a three to four inches shorter body.
Elite Prospects: #30
Future Considerations: #41
Hockey Prospect: #14
McKeen’s Hockey: #17
NHL Central Scouting: #7 (European skaters)
If the Ottawa Senators lose the draft lottery, they could — with two top-five picks and a later first-rounder — have their eyes set on pairing the two Germans for the foreseeable future. Stützle and Peterka demonstrated great partnership in the World Juniors. In a formidable piece on German hockey development, Peterka jokingly said that he and Stützle complement each other so well they might as well be brothers.
They are the German version of Sweden’s Raymond and Alexander Holtz. They are the crop of a nation’s talent pool who, simply by being the best in their age group, have formed an outstanding partnership where one has taken on the role as the finisher with the other being the setup man.
I am ambivalent that Peterka had such a great showing in the World Juniors. He is the sort of player I would love to see fall to the Montreal Canadiens in the second round. On the other hand, I would probably not feel that way if he didn’t have that tournament on his resume, so it is sort of a moot point.
As it is now, I don’t see him making it past the 20s’. One team will bite on his combination of explosiveness and scoring ability and hope that he can continue on his trajectory to becoming the best German goalscorer since Marco Sturm.