For the past couple of years, Switzerland‘s NHL Draft class of ’97 was called one of their most talented and deepest in years. Indeed, it might be one of the best in Swiss hockey history, with this class having the potential to surpass the previous record back in 2000 of six drafted players.
In the present, the 2014-15 season has reached its halfway mark and the top-5 Swiss draft-eligible players for the 2015 NHL Draft have not disappointed so far, with all of them already getting their first taste of the pro game with their respective teams.
The top Swiss prospect for the upcoming NHL Draft is Swiss-born Denis Malgin. He started the season in the National League B (NLB) with the GCK Lions, the farm team of the NLA’s powerhouse ZSC Lions, and continued his progress as an offensive leader with that team. It was expected that Malgin would be the next-in-line for a call-up should somebody with ZSC be injured and not able to play. He received that first call-up when former Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick Luca Cunti went down with a minor injury. Malgin quickly impressed with his poised puck-handling and strong hockey sense. Cunti returned and Malgin was re-assigned to the GCK Lions for seasoning, but only until Cunti went down again with a severe shoulder injury which demanded surgery. This time the diminutive center didn’t look back and has stayed with ZSC, with his role with the team increasing with each game. Former NHL head coach Marc Crawford is smartly controlling Malgin’s ice time and giving him lots of offensive and power play time to help grow his game.
Denis is the son of the Russian hockey player and former Swiss National League star, Albert Malgin, who is currently the Head Coach of the Red Ice Martigny in the NLB.
The second-best forward from this year’s group of potential draftees is Geneva product Damien Riat, who is currently playing in Sweden with Malmö’s junior team but has already received a taste in Sweden’s Allsvenskan league with the Redhawks. Riat plays a fearless and intense game and is a leader on the ice with his solid two-way game and playing style. He left Geneva in 2012 to continue his development with the Notre Dame Argos program in Canada and has clearly absorbed the North American, run-and-gun game. He has made big progress over the last couple of seasons, so it should only be a matter of time until he receives consideration as a legitimate draft prospect. This summer, Riat was selected 44th overall by the QMJHL‘s Val d’Or Foreurs in the CHL Import Draft. Despite this opportunity, Riat decided to move to Sweden, in part to be closer to the Swiss Under-18 national team program.
The top goaltender out of Switzerland for this draft is ’96-born Gauthier Descloux, who is re-entering the draft after having been passed over in last year’s NHL Draft. Descloux is a quick-footed, butterfly goaltender with good reflexes whose playing style can remind one of current NHL goalie, Jonathan Quick. He is currently under contract with Geneva-Servette, which is coached and managed by Canadian Chris McSorley. At the moment, they have loaned him to the Red Ice Martigny of the NLB to give his development a boost. Descloux started his pro-career on fire, winning his first four games while posting a 2.20 goals-against average. He suffered a minor injury and missed most of November but came back healthy, just in time to prepare himself for his first Under-20 World Junior Championship, where he has started three of Switzerland‘s four games in this tournament.
Among the defensemen, there should be two names on the shortlist for the 2015 draft. Both are playing for the same organization, the ZSC Lions.
So far, the 6-foot-2 Jonas Siegenthaler has made the biggest noise of all the Swiss draft-eligible players. The smooth-skating Siegenthaler has earned a roster spot with the ZSC Lions and has impressed in the National League A by playing a regular shift while paired with former Arizona Coyotes‘ draft choice, Severin Blindenbacher. Siegenthaler keeps his plays simple and doesn’t try to do too much while playing the role of a defensive defenseman. He handles the puck with care, but lacks power both in his passes and especially in his shot, which gives him only limited offensive upside. But no doubt, it is very impressive how the 17-year-old is acting confident while playing against men.
Roger Karrer is the other top Swiss defenseman that should be taken into consideration. A two-way defender who has tremendous skating and rushing abilities, Karrer can guide a team’s offense or quarterback the power play. He is currently playing in the National League B with the GCK Lions and is seeing ice time in all situations. He has terrific offensive upside and potential, so it is only a matter of time until Karrer will get his chance to play in the NLA with the ZSC Lions.