Where Are They Now?

By Joeri Loonen

Where are they now? (Switzerland – part 1)

Apart from the traditional big 5 (Finland, Sweden, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia) in Europe, Switzerland has made some siginificant progress the past few years and has established themselves as a genuine A-pool country. This upbeat is not only displayed on the national team level but as well in the Swiss Leagues (National Liga A and National Liga B). There are currently around 60 players which are either drafted or have had an NHL career playing in Switzerland, most of them being North-Americans. Where exactly are they playing now and what happened to them after they crossed the pond? An overview per NHL team

Anaheim Mighty Ducks

René Stussi
Drafted 1997, 8th rnd, 209th overall
Current team: EHC Chur

Stüssi was drafted after having a great season in the Swiss 2nd divison (NLB) as an eighteen year old. It wasn’t a surprise he would be playing in the highest league (NLA) soon. He signed at EHC Kloten the next season and had a good first season there with 17 points in 38 regular season games. But since then his progress stopped it seemed. The next season at Kloten he only managed 10 points and he had a short stint with top team ZSC Lions. A change of scenery didn’t help much since at EV Zug Stüssi only managed 12 points. Last season he signed at bottom team EHC Chür and there things didn’t go too wel. Despite a decent 14 points in his first season there, Stüssi this season has trouble finding his form, along with the rest of the team that is rock bottom. They were able to avoid relegation last seaons by winning their promotion-relegation games, but this season relegation seems to be sure for EHC Chur as they only managed to pick up 13 points from a possible 56 (5-20-3 record). Added to that is the fact that Chur has financial problems and is trying to offload several players from their roster. One of them being Stüssi, who is widely rumoured to join NLB bottom team EHC Basel/Kleinhüningen soon. Maybe Stüssi can pick up his form there, but a NHL future is not likely for him.

Buffalo Sabres:

Joel Savage
Drafted 1988, 1st rnd, 13th overall
Current team: EV Zug

Despite being a 1st rnd pick, Savage only managed to play 3 games in the NHL with the Sabres. He seemed destined to be a career minor leaguer and 5 seasons ago Joel decided to try his luck in Europe. He was very succesful for 2,5 seasons in Germany before he moved to Lugano in Switzerland where he wasn’t so succesful. Therefore he returned to Germany the seaosn after but was never able to record the point totals he used to in his first stint in Germany. Last season he had a disappointing return to Lugano where he only managed 16 points in 41 games. This season however Savage seemed to have rejuvenated and is currently on a point-per-game streak with 3rd in the league team EV Zug. Savage is part of the current success of EV Zug and will turn 32 at the end of this month.

Mark Astley
Drafted 1989, 10th rnd, 194th overall
Current team: HC Lugano

Astley has had two stints in the Swiss league. He first went there after his college period but returned to North-America after having played two seasons in Switzerland. When he returned he managed to record 77 NHL games with the Sabres. However 5 seasons ago Mark returned to Lugano in Switzerland who he is still serving. Mark has never been a huge scorer and is a steady defenseman. This season he’s suffering as well from Lugano’s inconsistent play that recently fired their coach. With many players on the team having been injured this season, Astley has remained fairly healthy this season but different linemates and the lack of chemistry because of that has limited Astley’s production to just 6 assists in 26 games.
Lugano is currently sitting in fifth place in the league with a 14-11-2 record.

Calgary Flames:

Chris O’Sullivan
Drafted 1992, 2nd rnd, 30th overall
Current team: EHC Kloten

Being drafted in the 2nd rnd, O’Sullivan never really made an impact in the NHL. After having played with Calgary and Vancouver in the NHL, Chris this season made his debut on the European ice surfaces with EHC Kloten. O’Sullivan is playing a solid game with Kloten but missed 6 games due to an injury. He’s currently recorderd 10 points (3+7) in 23 games for EHC Kloten who hold a 12-11-6 record at the moment. It won’t be a surprise if O’Sullivan returns to North-American however next year and can lock a roster spot as a depth defenseman with an NHL team.

Shawn Heaphy
Supplemental Draft 1989
Current team: HC Ajoie

Shawn dressed up once for an NHL game but has mainly been a minor league topscorer. Other than a short stint in Italy, Heaphy’s career in Europe has only been in the Swiss NLB where he has established himself as a prolific scorer averaging around 2 points per game. After three seasons with EHC Biel/Bienne and two seasons with Servette, the 31-year old is currently playing his first season with mid-table team HC Ajoie that have a 10-9-2 record.

Chicago Blackhawks:

Richard Laplante
Drafted 1985, 9th rnd, 179th overall
Current team: EHC Visp

Having only finished his junior career in North-American, Laplante can almost be considered a European having spent the rest of his career in Europe. A 5 year stay in Great-Britain followed by 2 seasons in Austria were followed by a single season in Italy. Currently he’s playing with NLB-team EHC Visp for the third year in a row. Laplante has been recorded over 1000 points in his career in Europe and is looking for more with Visp who seem to be the only compeition for top NLB-team Servette who have strengthened their squad consderably, with NLA-players, in an effort to gain promotion this season. EHC Visp is currently second in the league with a 15-5-1 record.

Arne Ramholt
Drafted 2000, 9th rnd, 291st overall
Current team: EV Zug

Ramholt returned to Switzerland after just one AHL season with Norfolk where he registered 11 points in 62 games. Ramholt’s aim is to get back to North-American but he’s not too keen on playing in the minor leagues. Currently the 9th rnd draft pick, who is a defensive defenseman, has registered 5 points in 26 games for EV Zug.

Reto von Arx
Drafted 2000, 9th rnd, 271st overall
Current team: HC Davos

After having left Switzerland as one of the topscorers in the league, the 9th rnd draft pick managed to get into the NHL with the Hakws where he played 19 games, he mostly played with Ramholt in Norfolk. Reto as well was looking for a pro-contract which he didn’t get and returned to his former team Davos where he contributed to Davos being one of the big surprises of the season. Not usual top teams Lugano or ZSC Lions are on top of the league but Davos, who have also acquired Michel Riesen, are currently in first place with a 18-8-3 record. Reto’s 13 points in 17 games certainly are a reason for their current position. Von Arx’s future is hard to predict. He could be a star player in his home country or a 3rd/4th line player in the NHL. Having turned 25 already time is running out for Von Arx if he wants to establish himself as a genuine NHL player.

Lars Weibel
Drafted 1994, 10th rnd, 248th overall
Current team: HC Davos

Drafted in the 10th rnd Weibel will probably never see any NHL action, nevertheless he’s one of the most solid goalies in the Swiss league, but a plethora of good goalies in the NHL organization’s systems would prevent Lars from having a good shot at locking a spot with an NHL team. Weibel is currently playing his 2nd season with HC Davos after he started his career with Lugano.

Columbus Blue Jackets:

Petteri Nummelin
Drafted 2000, 5th rnd, 133rd overall
Current team: HC Lugano

Nummelin was one of the top acquistions this summer in Switzerland. Coming off his debut season in the NHL with the Blue Jackets he immediately made an impact in Switzerland where he has currently recorded 21 points in 25 games. There were mixed reviews on his debut season with the Blue Jackets and with 16 points on an expansion team it can’t be considered a flop, but he received some criticism for his style of play. Nevertheless it’s not unlikely we’ll see him back in the NHL in the near future.

Raffaele-Pierre Sannitz
Drafted 2001, 7th rnd, 204th
Current team: HC Lugano

The Blue Jackets drafted this young Swiss forward after he registered 52 points in 35 games with Lugano juniors. This year is Sannitz’ first full time season in the NLA and he isn’t getting that much ice time as last season anymore on a heavey loaded team like Lugano. Currently he has 3 goals and 2 assists in 27 games for Lugano.

Detroit Red Wings:

Erik Hämäläinen
Drafted 1985, 10th rnd, 197th overall
Current team: SC Langnau Tigers

Hämäläinen has always been a very good defenseman in Finland and Sweden but never made the step to try his luck in North-America. This season is his first in the Swiss league and despite playing on a low league table team his 14 points in 29 games list him for 4th on the team. Erik is a typical European defenseman who is not very physical but has great hands. The 36-year old is nearing the end of his career but despite his age is of great value for Sc Langnau.