After Switzerland was overlooked in the 2009 NHL Draft, the small country with a population of around 8 million and only 26,415 licensed hockey players has managed to have at least two players chosen per draft since that down year.
The 2015 NHL Draft class competing in Switzerland will continue this story of success, while also having QMJHL star Timo Meier as a likely first round selection. This would mark the third year in a row that the Swiss will have a player born and raised in Switzerland being chosen in the top 30 of the NHL Draft.
The ’97 class has proven that it is one of the best and deepest groups of potential pro players that Switzerland has ever produced. Besides the late 96-born Meier, there are several other Swiss players who should have a decent chance of being selected and pursuing a career in North America with an NHL franchise.
Below are the top Swiss prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft who are competing in Europe, with nine competing at home and one that competed in Sweden.
1. Denis Malgin, C, ZSC Lions
DOB: 18-01-1997, Size: 5’9”, 176 lbs., Shoots: R
Clearly, the most skilled player out of Switzerland for this year’s NHL Draft, forward Denis Malgin impresses night in and night out with his strong hockey sense and offensive instincts. Malgin is a decent skater who uses his very good puckhandling ability to spark his team’s transition game with end-to-end rushes. The right-shooting forward just completed his second season in the National League B where he was playing against men, and has debuted in the Swiss National League A with the ZSC Lions this season. A lack of size and strength are the main knocks on the offensive forward’s game. Despite standing strong on his skates, he needs to learn how to handle the more intense and rougher North American game. Malgin’s playing style and playmaking abilities remind one of Scott Gomez in that player’s better days, but he is definitely a project for an NHL team that selects him.
2. Roger Karrer, D, GCK Lions
DOB: 21-01-1997, Size: 5’11”, 179 lbs., Shoots: R
Roger Karrer is the best defenseman out of Switzerland with the most offensive upside for the 2015 NHL Draft. The 5-foot-11 rearguard just completed his first season in the National League B with the GCK Lions and even got a taste of the NLA with the powerhouse ZSC Lions. A tremendous puck-mover, Karrer plays a calm, two-way game and is poised with the puck, always looking for his perfect pass option. Karrer owns a very good shot and, when combined with the fact that he shoots right, he would appear to be a perfect power play addition. Karrer was penciled in to play his first U20 WJC with Switzerland, but lost his roster spot with the team when the San Jose Sharks loaned Mirco Müller to the squad. For sure, he will be on Switzerland’s junior squad at the next edition of the World Juniors.
3. Jonas Siegenthaler, D, ZSC Lions
DOB: 06-05-1997, Size: 6’3”, 220 lbs., Shoots: L
Jonas Siegenthaler was one of the youngest players in this year’s Swiss National League A Championship, where he just finished his first season with the ZSC Lions playing a regular role in the team’s top-6 defensive group. A smooth skater with a fantastic combination of size and mobility, Siegenthaler impresses with a calm and composed game in his own zone. Already a veteran of three U18 World Championships, Siegenthaler also debuted this year on the big junior stage with the under-20 team. He handles the puck with care, but has only limited offensive abilities and has to improve his shot. Of this year’s draft eligible group out of Switzerland, Jonas Siegenthaler is probably the closest to being NHL-ready, but he needs to work on his game if he wants to take a bigger role than being a third-pairing defenseman.
4. Gauthier Descloux , G, Geneva-Servette HC
DOB: 23-07-1996, Size: 5’11”, 163 lbs., Catches: L
Gauthier Descloux is an athletic, butterfly goaltender with quick reflexes and very good skating abilities. He just finished his first season in the National League B, where he was the youngest goalie to play regularly while competing for Geneva’s partner team, Red Ice Martigny. Descloux played in his first World Junior Championship with Switzerland, where he captured the starting role on the Under-20 national team and had a good tournament. The highlight of Descloux’s season came when Geneva’s starting goalie, Robert Mayer, was suspended in the first playoff round, giving Descloux the chance to shine as he backstopped Servette to an important win on their way to the second round.
5. Calvin Thürkauf, C/LW, EV Zug
DOB: 27-06-1997, Size: 6’1”, 198 lbs., Shoots: L
Calvin Thürkauf is a reliable two-way forward who can line-up on the wing or at center. He stands strong on his skates, already owns decent size and strength and is hard to knock off the puck. A power forward in the making, Thürkauf is not afraid to go into the hot areas and battle for the puck. He did receive his first taste of men’s hockey when he played in the National League B playoffs with the SC Langenthal. He needs to compete with more determination as he is looking for his first playing time in the National League A with EV Zug in the upcoming season.
6. Damien Riat, C/RW, Malmö IF
DOB: 26-02-1997, Size: 6’0”, 172 lbs., Shoots: R
After already spending two years of his hockey career abroad with the Notre Dame hockey program, Damien Riat moved to Sweden to continue his development in the SuperElit League with Malmö IF. He passed on a chance to play in the QMJHL with the Val-d’Or Foreurs as he wished to stay closer to the Swiss Under-18 national team. Riat is a decent skater with good offensive instincts who is a dependable two-way player. He hasn’t made the expected progress on the physical side of his game and still has plenty of room to get stronger, as he prepares for his first full season with Geneva-Servette, where he signed for the upcoming season.
7. Auguste Impose, LW/RW, Geneva-Servette HC
DOB: 18-06-1997, Size: 5’10”, 187 lbs., Shoots: L
It could be easily said that Auguste Impose is one of the fastest and most explosive skaters in the 2015 NHL Draft. Blessed with incredible foot speed and athleticism, Impose can burn defensemen with his speed simply by skating past them. The small offensive forward owns soft hands and a good shot, but is missing the proper hockey sense in his game as he tends to overplay certain situations in the game. After being one of the top scorers in the Swiss Junior League, Impose is looking towards his first full season in the National League A with Geneva-Servette.
8. Simon Kindschi, D, HC Davos
DOB: 11-05-1996, Size: 6’3”, 216 lbs., Shoots: L
Simon Kindschi played his first full season with Davos in the National League A, where he did see a regular shift with former Phoenix Coyotes draft choice, Beat Forster. A big defenseman with very good strength, Kindschi is a typical stay-at-home defender as his physical play is the main aspect of his game. Despite moving his body well on the ice with decent mobility, he lacks a certain quickness in both his legs and hands which hurts his offensive upside. Kindschi played in his first U20 World Junior Championship and should take a core role for next season as one of the returning players for Switzerland.
9. Luca Hischier, C/RW, SC Bern
DOB: 16-02-1995, Size: 6’2”, 192 lbs., Shoots: L
Luca Hischier has the size and all the tools to be a very good offensive forward. A quick skater with soft hands and smooth puckhandling skills, Hischier has to realize that he has arrived on the pro level and needs to step up his work ethic and determination on the ice. He just completed his first full season in the National League B on a loan with the EHC Visp Lions, but was sent back to SC Bern’s junior team when the playoffs started due to the aforementioned lack of effort.
10. Jason Fuchs, C, HC Ambrì-Piotta
DOB: 14-09-1995, Size: 5’9”, 174 lbs., Shoots: L
After one season with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the QMJHL, Jason Fuchs decided to continue his development in Switzerland with HC Ambrì-Piotta in the National League A. The diminutive forward is a slick skater with very good hands and strong playmaking abilities. Fuchs didn’t have a smooth transition from the juniors to the pro level, however, as he struggled with Ambrì-Piotta and had a limited role with the team. An offensive forward who should be able to lead a team’s attack, Fuchs is looking to bounce back in the upcoming season.
As strong as this year’s draft class is for Switzerland, the weaker it will be next season. Among the 98-born players, Switzerland can expect a strong goaltending group with Matteo Ritz of Lausanne HC as the front-runner, and only GCK Lions forward Marco Miranda, who has only shown flashes of being a player who might be taken into consideration. Ritz impresses with a good combination of size and athletic ability, while Miranda reminds at times of Nino Niederreiter, although he doesn’t yet have the physical aspect in his game that Niederreiter had at that age. Livio Stadler and Dominic Volejnicek, who both played alongside Miranda at the Under-18 World Championship, are other players to keep an eye on for the 2016 NHL Draft. But so far, the Swiss are lacking prospects with a high upside, and need to work hard in the coming season to make a big jump in their development.