Haakon Hanelt Will Return To German League For 2023-24 Season

Photo: Kolner Haie

Washington Capitals forward prospect Haakon Hanelt has decided to play at home in Germany next season. He will play for Kolner Haie in the German League (DEL). Hanelt, a 5’-11”, left-handed forward from Berlin, Germany, was selected by the Capitals in the fifth round (#151 overall) of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. The pick was obtained from the Vegas Golden Knights in the Chandler Stephenson trade.

“I am very happy to play for the sharks from now on. After my time in Canada, it’s nice to come back to Germany. I’ll fit in quickly with the sharks. The KEC is a great club with a great history. This can already be seen in the many fans. Therefore, I am very much looking forward to the home games in the LANXESSarena.”

Hänelt played for the Gatineau Olympiques in the QMJHL over the past two seasons. In 69 games he recorded 33 points, but dealt with serious injuries in both seasons, which caused him to miss significant time.

RELATED: Haakon Hanelt: 2023 Annual Review And Forecast

Hanelt spent the 2020-21 season playing for the Berlin Polar Bears in the Deutsche Eishockey League (DEL). He was scheduled to participate in the 2021 World Junior Championship, but he and a good percentage of the German team contracted the COVID-19 virus two weeks before leaving for Alberta.

“All the players who were in Berlin got the virus. We were unable to travel to Canada. When the team arrived, there was still an outbreak…I was hoping I could get my place this year, but it looks like I’m not destined to play for my national team.” That was just the start of bad luck for Hanelt.

Hanelt was slated to participate in the 2021 World U-18 Championship in Texas, but was unable to participate. He would miss the tournament due to a shoulder injury he suffered that was similar in nature to the one that landed him on the operating table in November, 2021.

Hanelt made the move from the German league to North America to start the 2021-22 season.

“The main reason for coming to Canada is to learn to play on the smaller rinks. My goal is to play in the NHL. I will have a better chance of getting there by continuing my development by playing Canadian junior hockey,” said Hanelt.

“There were a few clubs that had shown an interest in attracting me to the country, but I felt Gatineau was probably the best place for me. I’m happy to be here and I hope we can win a championship.” Hanelt also speaks French, after having studied the language at school for six years.

Hanelt attended Capitals’ prospect camp at the end of September and participated in the Capitals main training camp before returning to the Gatineau Olympique in the QMJHL on September 28.

The 2021-22 season started well for the German winger, but a severe shoulder injury and subsequent surgery in November ended the regular season for Hanelt.

Hänelt played just seven games for the Olympiques before being sidelined with the shoulder injury. He recorded five points, but none in his last three games when he was dealing with the injury. Hanelt had time to come to terms with the idea that an operation was inevitable and his dream of competing in the 2022 World Junior Championship was once again not to be.

“I played despite the pain in my last three games. After missing the last U20 World Championship and the U18 World Championship, I had hoped I could play despite the injury, but I had to resign myself to correcting the problem now,” said Hanelt.

“When I found out I had a third missed date (tournament) in a row, it hit me hard. It took a few weeks to recover. I wanted to show what I could do on the biggest stage in junior hockey and redeem my missed experience last year. I can’t change anything now. I have one last hope for next year,” Hanelt told LeDroit.

Hanelt returned to play the final nine games of the regular season, recording a goal and four assists, as he worked his way back into shape for the postseason. He recorded two goals in six games in the playoffs.

Hanelt participated in Capitals rookie camp and main training camp in September. He played in the Capitals first preseason game against the Buffalo Sabres on September 25 before being returned to Gatineau (QMJHL) on September 26.

Hanelt did get to participate in the rescheduled 2022 World Junior Championship in August of 2022. He saw action in all five games played by Team Germany, recording a goal and an assist. His fortunes seemed to be changing.

Related: Haakon Hanelt: 2022 World Junior Championship Tournament Notebook

Unfortunately the 2022-23 season was very similar to the previous season. The season started fairly well for Hanelt until he sustained a foot injury in preparations for the 2023 World Junior Championship. The injury would have him miss the annual tournament (again) and have him miss a majority of the remainder of the regular season. He finally returned to get a few games in before the postseason, but never could find his previous form.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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6 Responses to Haakon Hanelt Will Return To German League For 2023-24 Season

  1. Prevent Defense says:

    Analysis? Is Hanelt a loss to the Caps and the Bears? Does franchise have rights if he comes back in future seasons?

  2. redLitYogi says:

    The Caps liked him well enough to spend a 5th rounder on him so they will probably keep an eye on him. It would be very cool if indeed things went so well for him that he could get into the NHL even in a bottom 6 role. If he does well in Germany, I would think the next best move would be to the KHL for a year or two.

  3. hockeydruid says:

    I don’t feel that this is a big loss especially looking at the draft we just had, With the exception of the 1819 season his stats are not overwhelming if fact they are rather sad. He wants to go home to play because he feels better there and could not play with the better players of the world. So good luck but nothing to cry over.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      I think there is also very little opportunity in Hershey at the moment, considering all the new forwards coming in this fall.

      • hockeydruid says:

        I agree and just hope that the “youth movement” extends to the big league club and that several Hershey players get a real shot at grabbing a position or at least bench time. Guess we will see what will happen starting tomorrow.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hanelt is another one that is a magnet to injuries. I’d rather have Stephenson

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