Where are they now? Switzerland, Part 5

By Joeri Loonen

St. Louis Blues:

Adrian Plavsic
Drafted 1988, 2nd rnd, 30th overall
Curent team: ZSC Lions

Adrian, not any longer Adrien, Plavsic is one of the most elegant players to be seen on the Swiss ice. After a long NHL career that started in 89/90 with the Blues and ended in 96/97 with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks he signed for German team Revier Löwen Oberhausen. There his experience in the NHL also with Vancouver and Tampa Bay was vey valuable and he scored 19 points in 36 games beforee Swiss giants ZSC Lions offered him a bag of money.
Currently Plavsic is playing for the team for the 4th consecutive season and he has established himself as one of the most important player on the roster. He scores 20+ points every season and his +/- belong to the team best every season. However when the Canadian with Croatian blood arrived in Switzerland he was far from a known player. That was to change though. We write April 1st 2000. Then he scored the 4-3 vs hatred rivals HC Lugano in the 6th game of the playoff final with just 10 seconds left on the clock to become an instant hero. With his golden shot that day he shook off a team’s 39 year frustration of being empty handed at the end of the season. Plavsic has the qualities to play in the NHL, but has settled down in Zürich it seems. His offensive game does not mean he’s not responsible defensively at all. With the puck he rarely bring himself into problems. Only citical note one can make is his ‘fairly’ low production considering his offensive style of play. He is still a bit wild in the offensive zone.
The player can be considered as the opposite of a typical Canadian player. While that might not be what was expected by ZSC Lions when they acquired him they can now feel lucky to have him on the team.

Tampa Bay Lightning:

Thomas Ziegler
Drafted 2000, 9th rnd, 263rd overall
Current team: SC Bern

Ziegler has been written off completely elsewhere on this site. A few facts.

* Ziegler was drafted as a 9th round pick which make his achievements even more impressive.
* Ziegler made the jump from Swiss hockey to the NHL within a single season which is quite remarkable since he isn’t the most talented Swiss player.
* Ziegler has never been a very productive player so don’t get fooled by his numbers.
* Ziegler has returned to Switzerland this season.

Ziegler was the 4th Swiss player to skate in the NHL on Februray 6th 2001 vs Minnesota Wild. However as a 4th line center he only got 6 minutes of ice time. 4 more games followed and highlighted his stormy first North-American season where he mainly skated for bottom IHL team Detroit Vipers. Ziegler didn’t do bad at all as a defensive center on the bottomfeeder. He had a productive spell alongside Nils Ekman but was mainly used on the penalty killing unit and hardly ever on the power play. Therefore his 27 points in 67 games can be considered decent considering circumstances. Despite his small size 6’0 and 177 lbs he isn’t a bad checker. His speed is decent and he has no fear going into the corner The comparison made by the local media that he was like a Swiss clock, as he always moved on no matter what happened, was in a way correct.
Currently he is playing for SC Bern and scored 7 points (3+4) in 23 games. His production so is not up to the likes of other returnees like Riesen and Von Arx, but as said before Ziegler’s task is not to put the puck in the net. His play so far in the Swiss league is good. Not stellar but not bad either. He missed out on the Olympic squad while the Swiss have more problems on defense than selecting forwards. Don’t write him off for a future in North-America again though. With Ziegler being a defensive center and also the ability to play at the wing he could claim a spot on the 3rd or 4th line in the future where players like Riesen and Von Arx (scorer and playmaker) would have to play on the top 2 lines basically which makes it much harder for them to return.

Toronto Maple Leafs:

Mirko Murovic
Drafted 1999, 4th rnd, 108th overall
Current team: HC Lugano

Murovic’ career has taken a different curve. After performing well with the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL where he in total managed 156 points in 206 games he was drafted by the Leafs in the third round and his performance in camp wasn’t too bad either. The Montreal born forward was voted rookie of the year on his team with Moncton. During the 2000 summer camp he had to fight for an NHL call-up spot with Alexei Ponikarovsky and by now we all know who won that fight. Ponikarovsky picked up his scoring more than Murovic did and in the end Murovic’ limited offensive output made the Leafs decide not to re-sign him. Murovic went on to play his final year in the QMJHL with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan where he scored 59 points in 54 games followed by 20 pts in 19 playoff games. Also he attended the New York Rangers camp but also there wasn’t offered a contract.
The forward, who also has a Swiss passport, then left somewhat desillusionised to Switzerland where HC Lugano were happy to offer him a contract. However with Lugano not playing up to expectations and a heavy loaded team with many veterans Murovic was not getting much ice time and was loaned out to SC Langnau Tigers where he played 9 games without registering any points or penalty minutes. Back with HC Lugano now he has been dressed 20 games and had 3 assists combined with 8 penalty minutes.

Dan Hodgson
Drafted 1983, 5th rnd, 83rd overall
Current team: ZSC Lions

The WHL player of the year 1984-1985 skated 4 seasons in the NHL spending his time with the Leafs (25 pts in 40 games) and the Canucks (49 pts in 74 games). Nevertheless after a fairly successful last season with the Canucks he left for Europe where he had a short 2 game stint in Austria before setting foot in Switzerland for the first time with Fribourg-Gottéron. There he made a that good impression that German top team München Barons offered him a contract. After a good debut season in the German DEL with 27 points in 22 games he returned to Switzerland in the next season and has yet to leave Switzerland again.
Having played for various teams in the Nationalliga B for 3 seasons signed for HC Davos in the Nationalliga A where he stayed for 4 seasons. This season is also his 4th as a member of the ZSC Lions. Last year was the first year where he didn’t produce at least a point per game.
The Canadian with Indian blood is a good playmaker and let his linemates take advantage of his good passings. His value will be most hailed by his linemates, more than by journalists probably. Hodgson prefers to play a fast game with quick passes and that’s his weakness as well. The opponent knows what to expect with Hodgson on the ice and therefore Hodgson should vary his style a bit more and also he should take a shot more often instead of opting for the pass. He is not a bad shooter at all which his 29 goals in 96-97 in Davos show.
With age becoming a factor slowly he will ahve to make of for the loss of speed with his cleverness and experience. These factors have made him from an offensive forward to a more defensive 2-way forward. As long as he remains healthy he’s still of great value and Hodgson isn’t to retire yet either. He is contracted one more season after this one by ZSC Lions. His production this season is no reason for retiremtent at all as he scored 28 points (11+17) in just 38 games. With ZSC Lions slowly climbing in the standings Hodgson could become an important player for them in the upcoming playoffs.

Vancouver Canucks:

Jean-Jacques Daigneault
Drafted 1984, 1st rnd, 10th overall
Current team: EHC Biel/Bienne

Old-timer Daigneault can look back on a long NHL career, but his time is about up. After not getting an NHL contract this season he mved on loan to Nationalliga B team EHC Biel/Bienne who were in desperate need for some defensive help. In the swiss 2nd league he did well enough to be offered a permanent contract till the end of the season. He will probably be a locker room player for the team and also a leader on the ice, question is where he will be playing next season if he hasn’t got any plans to hang up his skates.

Yannick Dubé
Drafted 1994, 5th rnd, 117th overall
Current team: EHC Olten

After his junior time, Dubé spent 2 seasons in the AHL but didn’t go for a third but instead moved to Europe where his skills would be more valuable most likely and his small physical presence would be less of a handicap. He domianted his first two seasons in Switzerland where he played with EHC Olten and Geneve-Servette in the Nationalliga B. He scored over 150 points in 2 seasons before crossing the northern border to Germany. There he played 3 seaosns with Bad Tolz in the German 2nd and 3rd league, and also there he was a fear for the opponent’s goalie, recoridng 237 points in just 152 games. This season he returned to EHC Olten, playing in the Nationalliga B. Despite being bothered by injuries and only having played 12 games this season he’s 3rd on the team in scoring with 24 points. Dubé, if injury free, could easily make the step up. It’s only a matter of time and interest till that moment happen.

Dixon Ward
Drafted 1988, 7th rnd, 128th
Current team: SC Langnau Tigers

Ward’s career has been one of ups and downs, and basically nothing in between. He was one of the few rookies in the NHL that can make the jump right from Univeristy in the NHL as he did with 52 points with the Canucks. However Ward couldn’t build on to his successful first year and some mere years followed where he was sent down to the minor leagues and got several new homes in Los Angeles, Toronto and Buffalo.
In Buffalo it was where he had his next success. In his first full season he registered 45 points in 96-97. Again the following season he didn’t repeat his performance as his points total halved and the one-hit wonder tag was on him again. But like a rollercoaster Ward bounced back in Buffalo’s success season 98-99. 44 points and a spot in the Stanley Cup final were the result. Though once again it was only a temporary upsurge as the following two seasons he only found himself scoring around 20 points with Buffalo and Boston which he was traded to.
With the body starting to feel the exhausting way of life of an NHL-player, he was a free agent at the beginning of this season and wasn’t signed. Sc Langnau Tigers finally offered him a contract halfway the season. With the team not satisfied with their import forwards Gauthier and Bonin, Ward had to sparkle the struggling team. And Ward did so as he reached another peak. Right from the start the old soldier has been showing no sense of a worn out body and has been shooting and hitting as if his life depends on it. His performance in just a half season with 22 points in 19 games and 36 penalty minutes was enough to satisfy the SC Langnau management and could also please the fans as he was voted into the All-Star team recently. Ward will be an important factor why SC Langnau will stay in the highest league most likely, however considering his past, it’s hard to say if he can do the same next year again if he stays with the team.

Washington Capitals:

Reginald Savage
Drafted 1988, 1st rnd 15th overall
Current team: EHC Visp

After being drafted by the Caps in the first round, Savage can be considered a bust. Being a top minor leaguer he never really was able to perform the same at the NHL level with Washington and Quebec. After the 97-98 season which he spent with three different IHL teams (Kansas City, San Antonio and Orlando) he decided to play in Italy. With almost 90 points in less than 50 games under his belt he moved back to North-America where he had two very successful seasons with the Crunch of Syracuse. Last season he was awarded the AON/AHL Man of the Year award.
This season he’s back in Europe, where he signed a contract with EHC Biel/Bienne from the Nationalliga B. Though Savage didn’t impress really and only managed 23 points in 26 games and that left the management unhappy. They weren’t reluctant so when EHC Visp wanted to take Reginald on loan to replace the injured Swede Stefan Ketola (had a car accident) just beofre Christmas. He will stay with EHC Visp, playing in the same league, till the end of the season. The acquisition of Jean-Jaques Daigneault (read above) meant one import had to make room for him and Reggie was the player to do so. He is still under contract untill the end of next season with EHC Biel/Bienne.

Winnipeg Jets:

Harijs Vitolinsh
Drafted 1993, 9th rnd, 228th overall
Current team: HC Thurgau

Originally selected by the Montreal Canadiens in 1988, Vitolinsh had just a short stint in the NHL and basically in North-America. Nevertheless he could be a solid 3rd or 4th liner in the NHL or a top minor leaguer. The Latvian natinonal team veteran saw his country make the jump from the bottom division to the A-pool after the Sovet-Union fell apart. Vitolinsh, after his North-American career, skated one season for Rapperswil-Jona before playing one season in Sweden with Rögle BK. Then he returned to Switzerland where he servd EHC Chur for 5 seasons and never disappointed. He helped EHC Chur promote to the Nationalliga A in 99-00 (which was production-wise his worst season with ‘just’ 69 points in 53 games opposed to the 84, 93 and 83 in the years before). He played one season with EHC Chur in the top league notching 18 goals and 36 points in 49 games and saw EHC Chur won the promotion/relegation games to save their spot in the Nationalliga A this season.
However Vitolinsh is not part of the team that is currently bottom of the league. He decided to leave and signed for Nationalliga B team HC Thurgau. As could be expected, Vitolinsh is the clear #1 in scoring on the team that is playing in the bottom region of the league. His 36 points in 29 games edge the #2 on the team in scoring by a massive 15 points. Vitolinsh will continue to grab his points this season and will hope to peform some miracle with Team Latvia during the upcoming Olympics and World Championships in Sweden, where his team can expect huge support from the hockey-crazy Latvian fans who will massively make the short trip to Sweden.
During the Olympic qualification Vitolinsh will be one of the guys the Latvians put their hopes into along with Irbe, Ozolinsh, Zholtoks, Skrastins and Belavskis. A lack of effort can never be found with Harijs, question is whether the Latvians finally become more consistent in their international outings then they have been in the past as that would be the key to the success for them.