Top 8 Switzerland prospects for 2009

By Alessandro Seren Rosso

Switzerland has for a while produced good NHL players, mostly in the goaltending position, like David Aebischer or Jonas Hiller. But now that Mark Streit has become an NHL point producer, Switzerland might count on skaters too, as witnessed by the good seasons by Luca Cunti (TB) and blue liner Luca Sbisa (PHI).  And the New York Rangers just signed center Andres Ambuhl as a free agent from HC Davos, the same team that Hiller came from.

The 2009 draft class out of Switzerland is not strong, however. It’s quite likely that no Swiss players will be taken. Nevertheless, here are some candidates.

Top 8 at a glance

1. Reto Schappi, C, GCK Zurich
2. Lukas Flueler, G, ZSC Zurich
3. Benjamin Conz, G, HC Geneve-Servette
4. Etienne Froidevaux, C, SC Bern
5. Alain Berger, RW, SC Bern
6. Lukas Stoop, D, HC Davos
7. Patrick Geering, D, ZSC Zurich
8. Gregory Sciaroni, W, HC Ambri-Piotta, NLA
1. Reto Schappi, C
6’4", 192 lbs, GCK Zurich, Sui-2
CS Final Rankings: 54th European Skater
A tall and skilled player, Schappi is the best of the Swiss crop. He’s a physically strong, two-way center with very good technique and good touch around the net, but he needs to learn to use his big frame to his advantage, and to play more aggressively. Not being a factor along the boards might result in some teams dismissing him, but his technique and physical ceiling are certainly factors well weighted by a number of NHL franchises. He has long legs and a wide skating stance. During this season Schappi showcased his talent in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament, in which he scored two against Team Canada, and in the WC U18, where he scored six points in as many matches. All in all though, he may be big enough but just not good enough to be considered NHL material.

2. Lukas Flueler, G
6’3”, 211 lbs, EHC Kloten Flyers, NLA
CS Final Rankings: 4th European Goalie

Flueler is a big-framed goalie who has North American experience as he spent one season with Ottawa in the OHL, but his performances weren’t great and he returned in Europe after one year. He has never been the WJC starting netminder despite being called twice, and in the 2008-09 season he served as backup for Finn goalie Ari Sulander, playing 26 regular-season games with a very good .916 save percentage. He has been overlooked in the last couple of drafts. Flueler’s game relies mostly on his size and he definitely has an NHL body that helps him dealing with traffic. He was called for the WC training camp but he didn’t make the cut and thus hasn’t earned a spot in the lineup.  Flueler, who will turn 21 in four months, has recently renewed his contract with Zurich through the end of 2011.

3. Benjamin Conz, G
5’10”, 198 lbs, HC Geneve-Servette, NLA
CS Final Rankings: 8th European Goalie

Conz has had a spectacular rookie season with Swiss top league team HC Geneve-Servette, starting for 28 games gaining the No. 1 goalie duties, which in Europe is very rare. He performed well in the post season too and he finished the season with a .909 of save percentage. Conz got the starting duties after a sensational 41-save shutout win against HC Ambri-Piotta on Dec. 7. For a comparison, Hiller was a backup until he turned 21, while Gerber played in Swiss second tier league up to 24. His performances at the last WC U18 have been so-so but more than 50% of goals he allowed came from power-play situations. He’s a quick goalie, but just 5’10 with good athleticism and reflexes. He has to work on his positioning as he plays too deep in his net.

4. Etienne Froidevaux, C

6’0”, 182 lbs, SC Bern, NLA
CS Final Rankings: 67th European Skater

Froidevaux is a midsized center with good experience for a European player of his age since he spent two seasons with SC Bern’s main team and has even played in the European Champions League in this season. He starred in the Division I WJC this winter in which he was Switzerland’s first line center, finishing the tournament with six points in five games and an impressive +12. Additionally, he got the first goal in the decisive match against Belarus, won 2-1. His passing skills and vision are very good, he needs to bulk up a bit and get some further work on his faceoff abilities, which are not bad.

Froidevaux is 20 years old.

5. Alain Berger, RW
6’3”, 198 lbs, SC Bern, NLA
CS Final Rankings: 63rd European Skater

Another big player, Berger is a right winger who seems really motivated pursuing a North American career as it’s rumored that he announced that he won’t get back to Bern for the 2009-10 season.  Berger showed good skating and stick play, but must improve on his physical play, aggression and reading of the ice. His frame and will to go to North America might cause someone calling his name on the draft day.

6. Lukas Stoop, D
6’0”, 187 lbs, HC Davos, NLA
CS Final Rankings: 86th European Skater

Stoop, which is pronounced more like a long “o”, is an agile, skilled offensive defenseman whose improvements in the last few years might translate in a draft call in late June. He spent the last two seasons in Davos, playing in the NLA against men and he had both good ice time and good performances as he scored a total of 11 points in 65 games, which are a very good stat for a youngster in Switzerland. His vision and skills are NHL material, but he has to improve his shot and his hockey sense as sometimes he overplays the puck a bit.

Stoop went undrafted in 2008.

7. Patrick Geering, D
5’10”, 176 lbs, ZSC Zurich, NLA
CS Final Rankings: 70th European Skater

A tough defenseman, Geering is a reliable defenseman who rarely joins the rush, playing a more defensive style. He isn’t in possession of elite level skills, but he makes close to no errors, gets rarely off position and never gives up, showcasing a strong mental side. He was overlooked in the draft in 2008, but his good 2008-09 season with Zurich’s main team and interesting performances at the Division I WJC might convince someone to draft him.

8. Gregory Sciaroni, W
5’11”, 189 lbs, HC Ambri-Piotta, NLA
CS Final Rankings: 91st European Skater

Capable of playing both wings and center, Sciaroni is a quick forward who knows how to put the biscuit in the basket and was named Top Forward at the last Division I WJC, where he scored 10 points in five contests as his team’s top scorer. The skills and the touch are there, but he might not get called because of his size and offensive ceiling, and also because he already signed a deal with HC Davos for the 2009-10 season.

Sciaroni is already 20 years old.