For the past two years, the under-20 national team of Switzerland has been desperately trying to reach the quarter-finals of the World Junior Championship. But, after two WJC's with heartbreaking losses in the decisive preliminary round game, and despite Swiss Ice Hockey’s success in avoiding relegation, the team saw a major coaching staff overhaul during the summer.
Though some have called Switzerland a rising hockey power over the past few years, that ascension seems to have halted. Of course Switzerland had two Top-15 Picks over the last two years in the NHL Entry Draft, but both Nino Niederreiter (NYI) and Sven Baertschi (CAL) left Switzerland at the age of 17 and made the biggest progress in their development in North America.
For the third year in row the Swiss will play in the top division of the IIHF under-20 World Championship and the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation is looking for a third consecutive top-six finish of their oldest junior team. First year Head Coach Manuele Celio has selected a squad who has very good chances to reach this ambitious goal, then again only one game can decide over a successful tournament or a big disappointment.
is the top ranked Swiss prospect going into the 2011 NHL draft. (Photo courtesy of www.hcap.ch)
Five years after the Swiss got promoted to the Top Division, they are looking to establish themselves in the Top-Six of the World Group. Although avoiding relegation is still the main goal for the U18 Swiss, with the group constellation at this year’s tournament in Crimmitschau & Dresden (Germany) chances are there, that the Swiss can again sneak into the Quarterfinals and repeat their last years 5th place finish. While the heavily favored United States is totally out of reach for the Swiss, as are the Russians, the Slovaks and the Germans are beatable and are "must win" games for the team.