OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC -- When Tobias Abstreiter, head coach for Team Germany at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship tells you how important 18-year-old defenseman Moritz Seider is to his team, believe him.
In their first two games of the tournament, Seider, who was drafted sixth overall by the Detroit Red Wings in June, played a combined 52:03.
In Saturday's 4-3 win over Czech Republic in which Germany held on to the lead after a late surge by the Czechs, he played seven minutes more than anyone else on the team.
"You can see that he means a lot to the team," Abstreiter said. "He had a lot of ice time. I mean, he played over 25 minutes in all situations and gives our team the stability we need whenever he's on the ice. He has a big impact on our team and we need the other players to step up to his level and do more."
With the 'C' on his chest, Seider is not just the team's leader on the ice, but in the locker room as well.
Abstreiter said it might be unusual to have an 18-year-old captain at this tournament, but when you look at his skills and on-ice leadership and add in his AHL experience with Grand Rapids, having played with the men's national team at the world championship in May and the fact that he was captain of the team last year at 17, there was no doubt that he'd wear it again this year.
"He is our leader in every way. There is no question," the coach stated. "There wasn't even anyone else we thought about giving it to. No way."
According to Seider, it's just a letter that allows him to talk to the referee, but he fully understands the impact of the example he sets.
After their 6-3 loss to the Americans on Friday, he was quick to point out all the good things they did and helped get the team refocused for a quick turnaround and a matinee match-up against the host team, Czech Republic, that could very well determine who advances to the quarterfinal and who is sent to the relegation round.
"I have to be a leader here and I try to do that every single day when I walk into the rink. We know we have to be prepared every single night. We played well against the U.S. for 40 minutes and did a lot of good things in that game. We even had the lead twice, but let's be honest, it's clear that it was going to be a tough game. They're a really skilled team and we made a lot of mistakes so I think the result was pretty fair, but we had to turn it around quickly and get ready for the Czechs.
"To get this win…" he continued. "This is why we've worked so hard the past couple years. We've been so close in the A division and to now get our first points in the world juniors, we're just so happy. I think we performed well as a team and blocked a lot of shots. We have a really young team, but the boys are going so hard. I'm really proud of them. It's nice to have those three points in the bank and give ourselves a shot at the quarterfinals."
With their final two games in the preliminary round against Canada and Russia, Germany will be relying not only on Seider's strong defensive game, but also his ability to contribute offensively.
"First, he is so good defensively. He has a strong stick and skates so well. Then with the breakouts, he can pass the pucks to our forwards and make some really good plays under high pressure and he just does a lot of things that are extraordinary for a player at his age. And, with the puck in the offensive zone, he's a scoring threat, too," Abstreiter said of Seider, who has five assists in five games.
"He's a big time player for us and he just performs better and better and feels more confident with each game," Abstreiter continued. "He made some big steps last season and, in the end at the world championship, you saw what he's capable of doing on a big stage like this. The best part is he will just keep improving."
That's the part that gets Steve Yzerman, general manager of the Red Wings, and the rest of his staff excited about Seider's potential -- he still has so much more room to grow.
Shawn Horcoff, director of player development, said Seider's upside is huge.
"He's a big body that can skate and defend and can produce points on the offensive side, too," Horcoff explained. "He can play in all situations. He's got some good grit to him. There's just a lot to like about him and he looks like a defenseman that we're going to be able to play in all situations and rely on for some big, important minutes. He's improved a lot already this year and earned more minutes and the more minutes you give him, the more comfortable he gets and the more comfortable he gets the better he is and it just keeps going and he just keeps getting better and better. He's been very impressive."
Seider said the biggest thing he's learned from the past four months is how much more intense and competitive the games are on the smaller ice sheet and how much tougher you have to play in the corners to win those puck battles.
"This is such a different role than any team I've played on the past two seasons," the 6-foot-4, 207-pound blueliner said. "I didn't play a lot of minutes in Mannheim or with the national team and I've been playing more minutes in Grand Rapids, but nothing like what I'm playing here. These games will be tough but I'm excited to put everything I've learned to use and help the team win."
This is Team Germany's first appearance at the top division for the first time in four years and their win last Saturday was their first at this level since 2013.
"We always have big goals and making the quarterfinals should be a realistic one. We had a tough game against USA, but we did a lot of good things and now we have our first three points against the Czechs and we can go in strong with our next games against Russia and Canada," Seider said. "They will be tough games, of course, but we have a really good team and people maybe aren't expecting that, but I think we can be a surprise," he continued. "I think we can beat everybody. It's not about what they're doing, but what we're doing and how we prepare for those games. Everything is possible."
After falling to the relegation bracket, Germany is facing Kazakhstan in a best-of-three series.
On Thursday, Team Germany shut out Team Kazakhstan, 4-0, in the first game and will play again Saturday.