The CHL is well represented in Finland. Team Canada aside, there are 31 players on other national teams who play in CHL. That represents more than 15 percent of all the players of the nine other teams involved in this year WJC. Slovakia is leading the pack with 13 of his roster playing in CHL. Czech Republic has 7, USA 4 and Switzerland 3.
The three Swiss playing in CHL have all been selected to be part Team Switzerland. Three of them talked after their 11-0 win over Ukraine December 27th.
Born in 1984, Lukas Grauwiler, 5’10″/179, has yet to be draft by an NHL team. To improve his chances to reach his goal to make the NHL, the forward moved to the Mississauga Ice Dogs last summer.
“I decided to play in CHL because I wanted to be a better hockey player,” he said. “The game is quicker in CHL, the ice is smaller and you have to think faster than in National League of Switzerland,” he added.
Grauwiler also said that the game is harder in OHL than in his native country. “It is a challenge to try something new in your life. I decided to come in North America because I can go back any time in my country but I may never have a chance again to play in North America. I have to take the chance, when you have such an opportunity, you have to take it,” he said.
“I think the OHL is better for my development than National B League of Switzerland, where I played two or three years before coming here. Should an exhibition game organized between a National B team and an OHL’s one, I’m not sure who would win,” said Grauwiler.
He said he struggled during his first 10 games with Mississauga but is now playing well. He recorded 9 goals and 7 assists before he left his OHL team for Team Switzerland.
Grauwiler was scoreless in the 11-0 win of his team in the first game. This guy has very slim chance to be drafted by an NHL team but he showed he is quite solid over the shoulders.
Also born in 1984, Ramholt, 6’1″/186, was selected by Calgary in the second round of 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Before moving to Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL last summer, this defenseman played two years for the Zürich Lions in National A League of Switzerland.
Ramholt said to us his agent Allan Walsh recommended to him to move to CHL if he wanted to increase his chances to reach the NHL. “The game is rougher in QMJHL than in Swiss League. You have to take more hits and give more hits in North America,” he said.
Cape Breton Screaming Eagles are playing in Sydney, a small remote city of Nova Scotia. Used to living in Zürich, Ramholt usually hates to live in a little town.
“I’m a city man,” he said. “Nevertheless, he sees advantages to play in such a little place. “Players in Sydney have the chance to focus way more on hockey. You just hang around with your teammates. It helps a lot and the team gets better,” said Ramholt.
Ramholt did not struggle to adjust to the game played in CHL. He is already a key player of Cape Breton junior team. His +22 record places him among the leaders of the QMJHL. He hopes to play in the AHL next year.
“For sure, I won’t play a second year in junior,” he commented. Everything is open right now. I wouldn’t mind to play in Sweden where there is a great hockey culture,” he added.
This guy is one of ever highest NHL picks born and raised in Switzerland. He could be the next one from this country to join fellow countrymen Martin Gerber and David Aebisher.
Daniel Manzato, 6’1″/185, was born in 1984. The goalie was a fifth round pick by Carolina Hurricanes in 2002. He is already spending his third season with Victoriaville Tigres in the QMJHL.
Manzato has yet to sign a contract with Carolina. “NHL teams wait to look for what is to happen with the possible lock-out,” he said. Like Ramholt and Grauwiler, Manzato said he would make much more money if he had stayed in Switzerland. He said he chose to move to CHL because it is much better for his progression.
“I want to sign a contract with an NHL team and I will do everything possible to do so,” commented Manzato about his goal.
The Victoriaville Tigres are struggling this year. Manzato records an average of 4.00 GAA and a .877 save percentage. These are surely not the stats he would have liked to offer at this moment of his career. Due to a severe injury, Tobias Stephan, the number one goalie for the Swiss Junior Team, will miss the WJC. This is a great opportunity for Manzato to raise his level and show he has the stuff to deserve a contract offer from Carolina.
Simon Richard is the author of La Serie du siecle, Septembre 1972, a book about the Summit Series published in 2002. At the 2003 WJC, he collaborated for the Montreal newspaper La Presse. This year, he is collaborating with Radio-Canada.