To understand the importance of this tournament, just take a look at the grandstands from the weekend.

Then the U-18 world championship in ice hockey begins in the stylishly modernized ice rinks in Landshut and Kaufbeuren.

From this Saturday until May 1st, eight teams will be fighting for the medals down on the ice, up to 200 scouts are sitting in the ranks, diligently taking notes.

Makes one talent scout per player, many flown in from North America.

Some clubs from the elite NHL league are represented with seven of their own scouts.

Which hardly surprises Christian Künast, the sports director of the German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB).

The U-18 World Cup is "a top event, a top-class tournament, a show of talent," says Künast.

Most importantly, the tournament is one of only two opportunities a year to see all of the highly talented 16-18 year olds in one place.

In ice hockey, they traditionally come from just a few nations, which in turn are usually all there when the best U-18 team in the world is sought every spring.

In Landshut and Kaufbeuren this time the vintages 2004 and 2005 are auditioning.

But something is different, one of the best teams is missing: The Russian association was excluded from all competitions because of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.

More eyes are likely to be on Connor Bedard, a 16-year-old Canadian who has long had NHL executives in a frenzy.

Various highlight clips can be found on the Internet, in which Bedard ridicules opponents and scores dream goals – sometimes through his own legs.

In the current season he has scored 51 goals for the Regina Pats in the junior league WHL and prepared another 49 – in just 62 games.

And he is there against players up to five years his senior on the ice.

But no problem for Bedard, he is already so good that he recently appeared at the U-20 World Cup and scored four goals in two games.

It is a foregone conclusion that he will be the first to go on stage at the 2023 draft, the NHL's annual talent training, and will soon earn tens of millions of dollars.

The German team can watch Bedard up close on Sunday evening (7.30 p.m.) before they play Canada in the second group game.

Before that, the opening game against the Czech Republic is on Saturday (3.30 p.m.) and the opponents at the end of the group stage on Tuesday (7.30 p.m.) are the United States.

The DEB team is always an outsider, but for sports director Künast the participation and the organization of the tournament alone are a success: "We fought for a long time until we were back in the concert of the big ones last year.

And we saw how difficult it is.” At that time, the German selection was last, lucky that relegation was suspended due to the pandemic.

This year it will be like that again, which makes the situation more relaxed.

But that's not why it's a fun tournament, but "again a good way of showing where our youngsters really stand," says Künast.

"You will see that we still have some catching up to do in many areas."

“We are one unit on the ice”

This is especially true because the time of the German super talents is over for the time being.

In recent years there have been exceptional players in the U-national teams in Dominik Bokk, Moritz Seider, Tim Stützle, Lukas Reichel and JJ Peterka.

The U-18s and U-20s were promptly promoted back to the senior world championships.

This year they don't have any "top athletes," says national coach Alexander Dück, who doesn't get nervous: "We have players who are at a good level.

And more importantly, these are players who are good team players.

We are one unit on the ice.”

That this wins a lot of games is still not to be expected.

There is a lack of breadth among the young Germans compared to the top nations - Seider, Stützle and Co. were exceptions after all.

Which does not mean that the DEB is talent-free this time.

Julian Lutz, Luca Hauf and Roman Kechter have all played professionally.

They also want to use the U-18 World Cup to recommend themselves for higher tasks.

There are enough scouts there.