Switzerland Top 10 draft prospects for 2010

By Rafik Soliman

The 2009-10 season was a very successful one for Swiss hockey. Not only did they upset big national teams on every level of play, they also finished in the top six at both junior levels and the senior level.

Swiss hockey has taken a big step forward talent wise as well. Nino Niederreiter, who just cracked the Swiss senior national team and will play at the World Championship in Germany as an 18-year-old, is a great example of a young Swiss player knocking at the NHL’s door. Niederreiter became the youngest player in modern era to play for Team Switzerland. An NHL team will probably make him the highest ever drafted Swiss-trained player.

Niederreiter who plays for the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL, and Alain Berger who dressed for the Oshawa Generals from the OHL, but missed most of the season with a broken leg which he suffered in an exhibition game just before the World Junior Championship, are probably the two top prospects with a Swiss passport for the upcoming draft. But there are some players back home with an outside chance of getting drafted by an NHL team.

1. Gaëtan Haas, Forward
EHC Biel/Bienne 5’11, 157

Haas was one of the last cuts for the Swiss U20 World Junior Championship team as an underager. The two-way forward was among the leaders and helped the U18 national team to a sensational 5th-place finish at the 2010 World Championship. At the age of 17, he already competed in 14 games of the National League A, scoring 2 goals and 1 assist during those games. He also helped the EHC Biel/Bienne to avoid relegation, when he just returned from the U18 World Championship and went straight to the Game 7 of the relegation round.

2. Joel Vermin, Forward

SC Bern 5’10, 174

A pure scorer who scores close to a goal per game in the Swiss junior league, Vermin co-lead the U18 national team in scoring with 3 goals and 2 assists in 6 games. A clever hockey player who mostly is at the right place at the right time, he tends to disappear in games that are a little bit rougher. Vermin needs to bulk up to survive the North American game. He saw action in 12 National League A games with the later Swiss Champion SC Bern, although only with limited ice time.

3. Benjamin Conz, Goaltender

SC Langnau Tigers 5’10, 198

Despite his strong performance at the World Junior Championship, which saw him capture the “Best Goaltender” Award, Conz is no bet to get drafted. His great atheticism and his good reflexes won’t make it up for his smallish stature and the trend in the NHL is clearly in drafting bigger goaltenders. For development purposes, Conz played for three different teams in both the National League A and B. He started the season as a backup with the HC Genève Servette, to whom his rights belong, then got loaned to the SC Langnau Tigers as a co-starter to get some playing time. He finished the season as a backup with the HC Lausanne in a seven-game battle for the last place in the National League A.

4. Lars Neher, Forward
Kloten Flyers 5’9, 163

A hard-working forward who has a great nose for the net. This season he made his debut in the National League A for the Kloten Flyers. He just got three shifts in an important game and saw not much ice time. With his junior team he reached the finals, but fell short, got twice shut out and finished second with the Kloten Flyers.

5. Mauro Jörg, Forward

HC Lugano 6’0, 192

Mauro already was in his 2nd season as a member of the National League A team of the HC Lugano and played 44 games this season, scoring 1 goal and adding 7 assists. He scored 3 goals and 1 assist at the World Junior Championship and helped the Swiss finish 4th in the tournament. He possesses nice hands, but something lacking in the drive to score goals. He tends to pass more instead of shooting.

6. Ryan McGregor, Forward

GCK Lions 5’9, 157

A solid two-way forward, McGregor just captained his Junior Team, the GCK Lions, to the national title. His next step will be to come over to North America. He decided to skip the opportunity to play for the National League B Team of the GCK Lions for a chance to play in the NCAA. He’s good at face-offs and is usually the guy who takes crucial draws late in the game.

7. Lukas Meili, Goaltender

GCK Lions 5’10, 163

Backstopped the U18 national team to an upset over Canada and a sensational 5th-place finish. He also was the starting goalie for the Swiss Junior Champions GCK Lions and posted two shutouts in a best-of-three sweep in the finals. He also played 11 games in the National League B, with the GCK Lions, where he posted a 3-7-0 record for a team who only won 10 games and finished last.

8. Devin Muller, Forward

EV Zug 6’0, 187

Muller was among the scoring leaders in the Swiss junior League with 63 Points in 37 games, but seems to be a little difficult to coach as he always has been among the last cuts for the junior national teams. That way he missed the U18 World Championship, although healthy and ready to play. An offensive forward with nice hands, helped the EV Zug juniors to a 3rd-place finish in the championship.

9. Tristan Scherwey, Forward

SC Bern 5’9, 168

Although he has a small stature, Scherwey plays a big man’s game. With speed he tries to hit everything that moves. After winning the Swiss junior title last season, Scherwey this season was a member of the National League A Team SC Bern which won the championship this season. Scherwey played 36 games for Bern and scored 3 goals and 3 assists. In three playoff rounds to the championship, he contributed 2 goals and 1 assist in 13 games and made an impact with his physical play.

10. Samuel Walser, Forward

Kloten Flyers 6’2, 187

Walser already has NHL size and was once touted as the best 92-born Swiss player. His development didn’t go as expected and he dropped in the rankings. It seems like he grew too fast and sometimes it looks like he has troubles to handle his body? This season he even missed the cut for the U18 national team.