Source: Ryan Taplin, Metro News Halifax
6'5 - 212 lbs
18 years old
Bad Tolz, Germany
Drafted 6th round, 163rd overall in 2010
This season: 30 GP / 3 G / 9 A / 12 Pts / -16 / 20 PIM
Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
As I showed up for the Halifax Mooseheads training camp, I didn't really know what I was looking for in Abeltshauser. I didn't follow the Moose that closely last season other than watching a few frustrating games leading to the team missing the playoffs (in a league where 16 of 18 teams advance). I knew he was a tall but lean offensive defenseman.
I posted a pre-season look at him and it turns out that my analysis of him, even if only based on a few games at camp, would turn out quite accurate overall. Here's a look at how his season has gone so far and how his skills have developed this season.
Season: Abeltshauser had a tough time gelling with his teammates at the start of the season, for both good and bad reasons. Before the regular season began, he took part in the Sharks' rookie camp (rooming with Brandon Mashinter) after which he participated in the YoungStars Tournament in Penticton, BC. I was unable to watch the YoungStars games because they were so late at night for me (4 hours ahead) AND at the time I started work at 5am.
Abeltshauser contributed well in his first game of the tourney, assisting on both Nick Shaus tallies in the third period of an attempted comeback against the Canucks squad (on which Abeltshauser's Moose teammate Sawyer Hannay was playing). Abeltshauser also played in the final game against the Oilers youngsters but didn't factor into the scoring. All in all, a great experience for him. Ryan Pinder from nhl.com wrote a great piece on Abeltshauser and Dominik Bielke, another towering German prospect of the Sharks. Well worth a read.
He was cut by the Sharks later that week and returned to a Mooseheads road trip on the weekend. After playing only a few games, Abeltshauser was sidelined with a "lower-body injury" and missed a few games as a result. I'll be selfish and say that this couldn't have happened at a worse time, because he was injured a couple days before I was set to meet with him for an interview. Let's just say that from that point forward, the prospect of an interview went downhill and I ended up not being able to get it.
On October 18th, majority Mooseheads owner and former NHL player Bobby Smith relieved Coach Cam Russell from the bench, leaving him with only General Manager duties. Smith was to take over the coaching duties himself. In Smith's first game behind the bench, Abeltshauser scored a thrilling game-winner against the Bathurst Titan with 3.8 seconds left, one of his three goals on the season, two of which are GWG.
The Bobby Smith move was a short-lived delight however as the Moose lost their next four games. The next big change happened when Smith released defenseman Garrett Clarke from the Mooseheads on November 1st. This had a huge impact on the team and Abeltshauser himself. It meant a fair deal more ice time for Abeltshauser in all situations. Clarke is eligible for this year's NHL Draft and had been mentioned as possibly going as high as early 2nd round if he could turn his season around. In brief, Clarke has a reputation of taking undisciplined penalties and playing with an edge. He is extremely talented but wasn't able to use it much based on the role he was given. End result: bittersweet news for the Mooseheads, good news for Abeltshauser.
The Mooseheads, now through 34 of 68 games, continue to struggle. They are at the bottom of their division and if not for two far worse teams in the Q (Rouyn-Noranda and Baie-Comeau), they might be in danger of missing the playoffs AGAIN. To make matters worse for the Mooseheads, Abeltshauser is off to try out for the German WJC team, for which he is basically a lock. This means he will miss about three weeks of junior games with the Mooseheads. It will be a great experience for Abeltshauser though, his first WJC.
Skills: While Abeltshauser seems to play with the exact same philosophy now as he did at the start of the season, I've found that he's become more confident in his offensive play. When the season got underway, he was quite hesitant to jump into plays and a hesitant offensive defenseman is as useful as trying to vote Paul Bissonnette into the ASG. He has a great ability to read plays in the offensive zone and his point totals do not reflect the amount of quality chances he's created for himself and his teammates. He is a strong asset on the PP and adapts very quickly. He takes the big shot when he has the room and chooses the simple dump or pass when advantageous. If he has NHL potential, it lies in his PP ability. As I Fan-Shot a little while ago, this is what Matthew Wuest (capgeek.com and Metro News Halifax) had to say about him:
Konrad Abeltshauser is quietly playing well. Scouts have their concerns with him, but if he isn’t playing in the NHL six years from now, I’ll be shocked. He’s big enough, mobile enough and smart enough to be effective at the next level, like a Jonathan Ericsson in Detroit.
I find Abeltshauser at his weakest in the neutral zone, especially when defending. He can be too anxious to break up plays coming towards him and sometimes tries to cut off odd-man rushes himself, leaving nasty situations for his D partner. He will often attempt to intercept a play between the red line and his blue line which can work sometimes but Abeltshauser has a hard time reading when it is best. I think this is a coaching failure on the part of the Mooseheads because it's no secret he struggles at neutral zone defense. I don't know what coaching he receives but a simple series of video lessons could help him be a tad more conservative defensively without sacrificing his offensive instinct.
In the defensive zone, Abeltshauser is actually effective when he's not playing catch-up after a rush. While he doesn't use his size for physicality, he uses it well for body position and has a good stick. If he used his body more in a physical manner he would dramatically improve his defensive game. He can be a little too passive at times. He does however have a good read on defensive positioning and goals are rarely scored on him for being beaten 1 on 1.
Here's to hoping Konrad Abeltshauser has a strong WJC and season for the last half of the Q year. This experience will be familiar to him, having been a heavy underdog in all competition since he came to North America. I follow him throughout the season and if you'd like updates, follow me on Twitter @thestevedave.
All feedback is appreciated.