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Wiederer Soaks Up First International Experience at Worlds

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers / sjsharks.com

HERNING, Denmark -- Manuel Wiederer isn't star struck on the biggest stage of his young hockey career.

Wiederer, who is representing Germany at the 2018 IIHF World Championship, is instead learning from his experience.

"It's a great experience," said Wiederer, just 21.

"It's been my first games, my first experience, in men's international hockey. I'm really proud and thankful to get the chance. It's a good experience. I'm just trying to learn a lot and pick up as much as I can."

It's a good strategy.

There's plenty for him to pick up.

The San Jose Sharks prospect is skating opposite the likes of Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen of Team Denmark and Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane and Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau of Team USA in the tournament.

He hasn't had wide eyes against some of hockey's biggest names.

"I think it works two ways," said Wiederer, who has played in five of six games with Germany.

"Of course you look up to them because they're the best players in the world and I just try to have respect, but not too much, because you have to play against them. I try to look at them and learn some things, pull some things out of their game and put them in my game."

It's a confidence-boost, too, sharing the ice.

"I think it is," said Wiederer, who has previously represented Germany at the World Under-18 Championship in 2014 and at the World Junior Championship in 2015 and 2016.

"I'm here for a reason. That's good for my game. I'm pretty happy I'm here."

He is there because of the strides he's made over the past two seasons.

Wiederer, selected in the fifth round (No. 150) of the 2016 NHL Draft, has developed quickly in the eyes of Germany head coach, and Sharks alumnus, Marco Sturm.

"I saw Manny at the Under-20 a few years ago. I had him because I was an assistant coach there," started Sturm, who amassed 128 goals and 273 points in 553 games over parts of eight seasons with San Jose from 1997-2005.

"This is the first time I've seen him again."

"He's made big strides already, especially this year. The year in San Jose really helped him grow. He's still a kid. He still has a lot to go. He's smart. You can trust him. He can play center and wing. That's how I've used him this tournament."

"I think if he keeps going with his strides and that work ethic and with that organization, I think he will be really good for them."

Wiederer had nine goals and 16 points in 52 games with the San Jose Barracuda, the Sharks' American Hockey League affiliate.

It was his first season of professional hockey in North America.

Sturm himself knows how hard that can be.

"It's different with the language and the culture," he said. "Obviously, it's different. Playing-wise, I think it's just the ice. You've got no time. Here you have a little bit more time, especially at that young age. I think the game is just a little bit quicker and a little harder, more physical. Kids can think, 'Whoa, what's going on here.' It could take him a little while"

"During the season I'm in contact with the San Jose guys. Over the months, you could tell he felt more comfortable, too."

Wiederer, who spent two seasons playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Moncton Wildcats and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies before joining the Barracuda, has a firm grasp on the adjustments.

Just like he has at the World Championship.

It'll help him down the road, Sturm suggested.

"Absolutely," he said. "It's been really good. Every game will help him. He made a tremendous step this year in San Jose. I think this will help him also for the future. It will help his game next year."

So too will watching those stars in the tournament.

And sharing the stage.

"I can play against all those guys now," Wiederer said. "I just try to get better every day and be more effective."

"And be better in every aspect of my game."

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