Corey Abbott

Olympic Preview

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Olympic Preview: Pool C

Monday, February 10, 2014


 

Switzerland

 

Goalies:

 

Reto Berra (Calgary Flames – NHL) – Berra was originally taken in the fourth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the St. Louis Blues, but he never ended up playing for them. Instead he developed in the Swiss League.  He was named the league’s top goaltender in 2011-12.  With the Calgary Flames looking for goaltending in 2013 and preparing for Miikka Kiprusoff’s imminent retirement, they acquired Berra’s rights from the Blues as part of the Jay Bouwmeester deal.  After that, Berra helped Switzerland win the silver medal in the 2013 World Championship.  It was the first time they won a medal in the tournament since their bronze in 1953 and it helped set up his move to the NHL.  He's been splitting the goaltending duties in Calgary with Karri Ramo.

 

Jonas Hiller (Anaheim Ducks – NHL) – If Switzerland makes a run in the 2014 Winter Olympics, it will have to be thanks to Hiller.  The Anaheim Ducks starting goaltender is the most talented active Swiss player, not to mention one of the better goaltenders in the NHL.  He has a 2.34 GAA and .917 save percentage in 39 starts to help propel the Ducks to the top of the Pacific Division.  Hiller was also the Swiss’ top netminder in the 2010 Winter Olympics.  He led them to the Quarterfinals were he stopped 42 of 43 shots in a 2-0 loss to the United States.

 

Tobias Stephan (Geneve Servette – SWI) – The Dallas Stars selected Stephan in the second round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.  His NHL career only lasted 11 games as he went back to the Swiss League after the 2008-09 campaign.  He’s been superb is Europe, but should be regarded as the team’s third goalie behind Berra and Hiller.

 

Defensemen:

 

Severin Blindenbacher (Zurich – SWI) – Blindenbacher had a goal and 10 points in 26 AHL games with the Texas Stars in 2010-11, but he’s otherwise spent his entire career in Europe.  The 30-year-old is a regular participant in International tournaments and is a veteran of the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics.  He had a goal, an assist, and four penalty minutes in the 2010 tournament.  He has 13 points and 44 penalty minutes in 47 contests in 2013-14.

 

Rafael Diaz (Vancouver Canucks – NHL) – Diaz was never drafted by an NHL club, but he developed in the Swiss League to the point where he recorded over 30 points in back-to-back campaigns.  That accomplishment becomes more impressive when you factor in that the NLA has a 50-game season.  Diaz joined the Montreal Canadiens in 2011-12 and had become a regular on their blueline before the Canucks acquired him on Feb. 3 in exchange for Dale Weise.  He now has a goal and 13 points in 49 games this season.

 

Philippe Furrer (Bern – SWI) – Although New York Rangers took him in the sixth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Furrer’s experience with North American hockey is limited to international events like the 2010 Winter Olympics.  He represented Switzerland in that tournament as well, recording a point in five contests.  Beyond that and other international events like the World Championship, Furrer has spent his professional career playing exclusively in the Swiss League.  He has battled a concussion this season and has been limited to 16 games as a result.

 

Roman Josi (Nashville Predators – NHL) – Furrer and Josi have spent several seasons together playing with Bern, but while Furrer was never able to move past that level, the same cannot be said for Josi.  At the age of 23, he already has 141 NHL games under his belt with the Nashville Predators.  He’s been invaluable to the Predators this season with eight goals and 25 points in 49 matches this season.  He also ranks fifth in the league with an average of 26:15 minutes per contest.

 

Mathias Seger (Zurich – SWI) – Given that he’s never played in an NHL game and  wasn’t even drafted, it would be understandable if you had no idea who Seger was.  However, he was named the team captain over all of the NHL talent on this squad and there’s a reason for it.  The 36-year-old has dedicated his professional career to playing for Switzerland and has consequently participated in 15 World Championships.  That mark has only been matched by Finland’s Petteri Nummelin.  This will also be his fourth Olympic tournament.  He’s playing in his 15th season with Zurich of the Swiss League and has 16 points and 64 penalty minutes in 42 contests in 2013-14.

 

Mark Streit (Philadelphia Flyers – NHL) – Although this might not be true in a couple of years with the rise of Nino Niederreiter, Sven Baertschi, and Damien Brunner, Switzerland has never been known for producing NHL-caliber offensive forwards.  So it seems appropriate that the all-time scoring leader among Swiss players is defenseman Streit (technically it’s actually retired NHLer Mark Hardy, another defenseman, but even though he was born in Switzerland, he grew up in Montreal and played internationally for Canada).  Now 36, Streit played primarily in the Swiss league until his late 20s.  He joined the Canadiens in 2005-06 and after a one-campaign adjustment, emerged as one of the NHL’s best offensive defensemen.  He’s recorded at least 45 points on four separate occasions and has an outside shot of reaching that mark again.

 

Julien Vauclair (Lugano – SWI) – Vauclair was taken with the 74th overall pick in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators and had some solid seasons in the AHL.  He even played for Ottawa in 2003-04, albeit in a single contest.  After his cup of coffee, he returned to his roots, playing for Lugano of the Swiss League and has been with them since.  The 34-year-old has nine points in 28 games this season.

 

Yannick Weber (Vancouver Canucks – NHL) – Weber had 18 points in 60 games with Montreal in 2011-12, but he hasn’t been able to replicate that level of success since.  He participated in just six contests in the shortened campaign, in part due to injuries.  He inked a one-year deal with Vancouver over the summer, but in November he was placed on waivers and went unclaimed.  The Canucks had him spend nearly a month in the AHL.  He has excelled offensively in the OHL and minors, but has just 37 points in 147 career games in the NHL.

 

Forwards:

 

Andres Ambuhl (Davos – SWI) – Ambuhl has spent almost his entire career playing in the Swiss League for Davos and Zurich.  He was never drafted by an NHL club and the closest he ever came to advancing to that level was the campaign he spent with the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack.  After recording 14 points and 37 penalty minutes in 64 AHL contests in 2009-10, he returned to the Swiss League.  The 30-year-old has eight goals and 28 points in 46 games in 2013-14.

 

Matthias Bieber (Kloten – SWI) – After serving in the World Championship for three consecutive years, Bieber has earned the right to serve his country in the Olympics for the first time.  The 27-year-old has spent his career in the Swiss League, which has a 50-game season, and he’s recorded at least 20 points in four of his last five campaigns.  That being said, this has been one of his better seasons with 15 goals and 32 points in 46 games.

 

Simon Bodenmann (Kloten – SWI) – Bodenmann made his Swiss League debut with Kloten back when he was still a teenager and he’s gradually established himself as a major player on the team.  He set a new career-high in 2012-13 with 28 points in 49 contests and he probably would have done even better this season if he didn’t miss a significant portion of the campaign due to an injury.  As it is, he still has nine goals and 26 points in 34 contests in 2013-14.

 

Damien Brunner (New Jersey Devils – NHL) – As mentioned above, Switzerland isn’t known for producing many skilled forwards capable of holding their own in the NHL level.  Brunner has proven to be an exception to that rule.  From 2009-10 through 2011-12, Brunner scored a remarkable 66 goals and 164 points in 132 Swiss League games.  In 2011-12, he led the league with 60 points, nine ahead of his closest rival.  That prompted the Detroit Red Wings to offer him a one-year deal for the 2012-13 campaign.  The lockout forced him to spend an additional 33 games with Switzerland’s Zug, where he scored 25 goals and 57 points in just 33 contests, before finally making his NHL debut.  He’s been hot-and-cold in North America, but has averaged out to be a solid offensive forward.  For now, he’s the greatest scoring threat Switzerland has.

 

Luca Cunti (Zurich – SWI) – Cunti made an attempt to make a career for himself in North America.  After being selected in the third round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Cunti left the Swiss League to join the USHL Chicago Steel at the age of 18.  He followed it up with a season in the QMJHL where he scored 20 goals and 45 points in 57 contests, but after that he returned to the Swiss League and has remained there.  He’s one of Zurich’s best players with 18 goals and 42 points in 43 contests this season.

 

Ryan Gardner (Bern – SWI) – One of the veterans of the Swiss team, Gardner was actually born in Toronto and spent his junior years in the OHL before transitioning to the Swiss League in 1997-98.  He has stayed with the Swiss League since and although he was on Team Canada for three straight Spengler Cup’s from 2004-05 through 2006-07, he has played internationally for Switzerland since the 2008-09 campaign.  This will be his first Olympics, but he has taken part in three World Championships.  The 35-year-old has nine goals and 28 points in 44 games this season. Ryan comes from a hockey family as his grandfather was Cal Gardner while his dad Dave and uncle Paul also played in the NHL

 

Denis Hollenstein (Geneve Servette – SWI) – After spending two campaigns with the OHL Guelph Storm, Hollenstein went back to his native Switzerland to play with Kloten in 2009-10 and hasn’t looked back.  In 2012-13, he led all Swiss-born players under the age of 24 in both points (37) and penalty minutes (89) in 48 contests.  The only players in that age bracket who topped him in points were Canadian-born forwards John Tavares and Tyler Seguin, who were of course riding out the lockout in Switzerland.  Although he missed part of the 2013-14 campaign, Hollenstein has been superb with 33 points and 53 penalty minutes in 37 matches.

 

Simon Moser (Nashville Predators – NHL) – Moser was never drafted by an NHL squad, but he’s hoping to eventually play in North America’s top league.  After recording 21 points and 44 penalty minutes in 35 Swiss League contests in 2012-13, Moser attended the Nashville Predators’ training camp.  He earned a one-year, two-way contract and was assigned to AHL Milwaukee.  Although his deal gave him the right to return to Switzerland if he was still in the minors by Dec. 15, he opted to stay in North America.  He now has 25 points in 40 AHL contests and an assist with the Predators.

 

Nino Niederreiter (Minnesota Wild – NHL) – More than any other player, Niederreiter has the potential to become the nation’s first NHL-level star forward.  He became the highest-drafted Swiss player when the New York Islanders selected him with the fifth overall pick in 2010, but he never able to make an impact with that club.  Instead the Islanders shipped him to Minnesota where he’s finally gotten a chance to serve as a top-six forward.  The 21-year-old forward has more than held his own with 11 goals and 29 points in 59 contests.  Despite his youth, he should play a prominent role on the Swiss team.

 

Martin Pluss (Bern – SWI) – At the age of 36, this will be Pluss’ fourth trip to the Olympics.  He had three assists in five games with Switzerland in 2010.  At his height, he played in the Swedish Elite League and was one of the league’s top players.  He’s with Bern of the Swiss League now and is still doing his part with 13 goals and 33 points in 41 contests this season.

 

Kevin Romy (Geneve Servette – SWI) – Romy was taken in the fourth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers, but he never ended up playing in North America.  Instead the 29-year-old forward has spent his career in the Swiss League.  He’s frequently served his country in the World Championship, but this will be his first chance to play in the Olympics.  He has 10 goals and 18 assists in 45 games in 2013-14.

 

Reto Suri (Zug – SWI) – Suri was never drafted by an NHL squad, but he came close to playing in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s organization this season.  The Lightning tried to ink him last year, but the Swiss federation opted to protect Zug’s rights to Suri as he’s under contract with the Swiss League team through the 2014-15 campaign.  He still might end up making the move to North America, but for now

Suri's having the best season of his career with 12 goals and 36 points in 46 games.  It’s worth adding that Suri had eight points in 10 games during the 2013 World Championship, which put him in the same range as NHL stars like Claude Giroux.

 

Morris Trachsler (Zurich – SWI) – Trachsler has never been an offensive force and at the age of 29, that’s not likely to change.  That being said, he’s been solid defensively at the Swiss League level.  He’s also played in four World Championships with Switzerland and was part of their silver medal squad in 2013.  He has eight goals and six assists in 36 games this season.

 

Roman Wick (Zurich – SWI) – Wick spent the 2010-11 campaign in North America and even ended up participating in seven games with the Ottawa Senators.  However, he went back to Switzerland the following season and is in his second campaign with Zurich.  He never recorded a point with the Senators, but he was solid offensively in the AHL and is an elite player in the Swiss League.  In 2013-14, he has 22 goals, 24 assists, and 56 penalty minutes in 44 games.



Corey Abbott is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him Twitter @CoreAbbott.
Email :Corey Abbott



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