I have recently read articles stating that Jerome Flakke, the Leafs' fifth-round pick from the past draft, will be playing for the WHL's Prince George Cougars.
However, my sources from Germany tell me this is untrue, and he will remain with the Cologne Sharks in Germany's top division, the DEL.
Personally I agree with this move, and argue it is no slight to the WHL or the Cougars. By remaining with the Sharks, he will be amongst former NHLers and playing against grown men. This will help him progress and adjust to a potential career in the NHL a bit more quickly.
The DEL has more North American players than any other European Pro League, as they are allowed to place 10-12 imports on their rosters. The Sharks are coached by Doug Mason, who has NHL experience, and is known to assist young players development by actually playing them.
Couple those positives with the fact that Cologne has former NHLers on their roster, and a youngster like Flaake can definitely gain some advantages—more so than if he moved impetuously to North America.
Other young Leaf prospects were playing against grown men and former NHLers in their respective countries before they crossed the Atlantic. Jiri Tlusty was playing with Kladno in the Czech Extraliga, and Kulemin had been playing with Magnitogorsk of the RSL. Both of those leagues are, for the most part, populated by adults—a number of them with some NHL experience.
Both those players benefited from this, and you can expect to see both take regular shifts for the Leafs this season. Tlusty was sent to the Soo of the OHL when he arrived, but this was more about helping him to adjust to a Western culture than improving his skills, which he already had in abundance.
Flaake, on the other hand is from Germany, and I am sure he speaks English very well, as almost all German youngsters I have spoken with have a good command of the language—especially the hockey players.
I believe a year with Cologne will serve Flaake well. Perhaps next year, he will move to the AHL's Marlies before attempting to make the big team. He definitely has great offensive skillsm, as witnessed by his shredding of the German junior ranks the past couple of years.
I will be writing articles featuring the DEL this coming season, most likely focusing on Leasf prospects Flaake and Dusseldorf D-man Korbinian Holzer.