is the top ranked Swiss prospect going into the 2011 NHL draft. (Photo courtesy of www.hcap.ch)
Nino Niederreiter made history last year, when the New York Islanders selected the Swiss-Forward fifth overall and making him the highest ever drafted Swiss-player. This year the story is looking to repeat itself, as Sven Bärtschi left his well-known surroundings to conquer the WHL. Bärtschi’s stock has risen over the season and Switzerland again is looking at a potential Top-15 Pick for the second year in a row. Besides Sven Bärtschi, several other prospects left gome to give scouts a better look at them in the heavily scouted CHL. They included Dario Trutmann, Lino Martschini and Dave Sutter. While those players are gaining ground in North America, there are still quality players in Switzerland who have a chance to get drafted at this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
This is the Top-10 out of Switzerland:
1. Gregory Hofmann, C/LW
DoB: 11-13-1992, Team: HC Ambri-Piotta, Size: 5’11 – 165lbs, Shoots: L
Gregory Hofmann completed his first season with the HC Ambri-Piotta in the National League-A and didn’t look out of place helping his team with his stellar two-way play. He is a sound skater and is taking his shifts to the limit as everyone could be his last. At 5’11 he has only average size and enough room in his 165-frame to bulk up and get stronger in order to survive the tougher North American game. Hofmann is a tenacious forechecker and seems to be very coachable. He is more the playmaking-type, but has untapped offensive-potential. Was among the leaders on the U20 team at the recent World Junior Championship and should take an even bigger role on next year’s team.
2. Alessio Bertaggia, LW
DoB: 07-30-1993, Team: HC Lugano, Size: 5’8 – 157lbs, Shoots: L
Bertaggia has often been the best player on a struggling Lugano-Team in the National League-A as he stood out with his passionate and fearless play. Despite his smallish frame, Alessio Bertaggia plays a big men’s game and doesn’t shy from going in the corners, battling for pucks, or laying out his body. He was an early cut for Team Switzerland at the U20 World Junior Championship and had a disappointing U18 World Junior Championship, despite his breakthrough year in the pros. He is a shifty skater with fine scoring touch and adequate hockey sense.
3. Samuel Walser, C
DoB: 06-05-1992, Team: Kloten Flyers, Size: 6’3 – 203lbs, Shoots: L
After a slow start to the season, Samuel Walser made the U20 team Switzerland and participated at this year’s World Junior Championship and from that point jump-started his season and excelled the second half. At 6’3 and 203lbs he has a perfect frame for a pivot and uses his long reach to compliment his two-way play. He is a comfortable and calm skater and while he doesn’t look flashy, he has respectable speed. Walser led his U20 Kloten-junior team to the finals, while playing with Kloten in the National League A-playoffs at the same time (where he also reached the finals). Walser only played one game in the junior-finals, which Kloten won, but the squad lost the next three games – all without him.
4. Dean Kukan, D
DoB: 07-08-1993, Team: GC/Küsnacht Lions, Size: 6’2 – 198lbs, Shoots: L
Dean Kukan won his second junior championship with the junior-team of the GCK Lions in as many years and played a complete season in the National League B against men. A mobile defender with good size, Kukan plays a very calm game. He was a surprise late cut for the U20 World Junior Championship. A two-way defenseman with good puck control and vision, he’s focusing right now more on safe-play than his play in the offensive zone.
5. Samuel Guerra, D
DoB: 05-11-1993, Team: HC Davos, Size: 6’1 – 190lbs, Shoots: L
A defensive defenseman, Samuel Guerra played a regular shift with the HC Davos of the National League A and also made the u20 team Switzerland for the World junior Championship as an underager. He is an average skater and has limited puck-moving skills, but is very reliable. Guerra has average size for an NHL-defenseman, but owns a long reach which helps his steady play in the defensive zone.
6. Benjamin Conz, G
DoB: 09-13-1991, Team: SC Langnau Tigers, Size: 5’10 – 198lbs, Catches: R
Benjamin Conz couldn’t repeat his All-Star performance at this year’s World junior Championship, but still was one of the main reasons why the Swiss reached the Quarterfinals. He made his debut for the senior Swiss national team on international level and didn’t look out of place, when he became the youngest goaltender in modern era to start a game for Switzerland. His strong positioning and great reflexes are make up for his lack of size and limited mobility. In his second complete season in the National League A, Conz backstopped the SCL Tigers to their 1st playoff-berth in Club-History. His calm play and ability to maintain focus even in the biggest pressure-period are other strengths.
7. Joël Vermin, RW
DoB: 05-02-1992, Team: SC Bern, Size: 5’10 – 179lbs, Shoots: L
Joël Vermin played his first full season in the National League A with the Swiss-powerhouse SC Bern and struggled from time to time. A slick stickhandler with soft hands and a decent shot, Vermin has shown flashes of brilliance but then also can disappear for the rest of the game. A very streaky player who can go red-hot and score in bunches, Vermin can also hit long dry spells.
8. Tanner Richard, RW
DoB: 04-06-1993, Team: SC Rapperswil-Jona, Size: 6’0 – 170lbs, Shoots: L
A playmaking forward, Tanner lead his junior-team of Rapperswil to a third place finish in this year’s championship. Tanner Richard is the son of former North America-pro and Canadian Mike Richard, but is born, raised, and trained in Switzerland. He has good hands, a nice wrist shot, and a high hockey-IQ. He loves to play at a high intensity and often takes the risky over the safe play. Tanner Richard was among the better players on a disappointing U18 team Switzerland at the recent World junior championship.
9. Christian Marti, D
DoB: 03-29-1993, Team: Jr. Kloten Flyers, Size: 6’3 – 187lbs, Shoots: L
You got to love the size of Christian Marti. He has a perfect 6’3 frame and knows how to move it with his decent skating. Loves to play the body and often is the winner, when battling in the corners for loose pucks. His defensive play is still raw and needs seasoning, and he is prone to making risky plays. With continued development Marti could be the prototypical shutdown defenseman with hidden offensive potential.
10. Yannick Herren, LW
DoB: 02-07-1991, Team: Kloten Flyers, Size: 6’0 – 198lbs, Shoots: L
Yannick Herren is a winger with pure scoring will. He has slick and soft hands with beautiful puck control. Herren is an average skater, needing a few extra steps to reach full speed. His skating style also looks more lazy than flashy. Played at this year’s U20 World junior Championship, but had only a limited role with team Switzerland.
Another notable player who played in the Swiss League, but is not on my Top-10 is Latvian-native Ronalds Kenins. Kenins is born on February 28th, 1991 and not only was the playoff top-scorer at this year’s championship run of the junior GCK Lions (he was a teammate of Dean Kukan and also won two junior titles in as many years), but did also participate with Latvia at both the U20 division 1 and the senior World Championship. Kenins is a dynamic and flashy forward who has an unstoppable drive to the net. Ronalds Kenins uses a foreign playing license, which are limited in the Swiss league. That explains why he has only 11 games in the National League B with the GCK Lions, who were only allowed to play two foreign players per game night.