World Junior Championship Preview: Team Switzerland

Switzerland

The Swiss have not had a whole lot of success in the WJC tournament, however they have certainly had quite a bit of talent represent their country.

Players like Nino Niederreiter, Nico Hischier, Roman Josi, and many more have donned the red and white, and propelled themselves from junior prospects to NHL stars. This year’s team is no different. Switzerland has only won a single medal in the WJC, that being a bronze medal back in the 1998 tournament in Finland, where defeated the Czech Republic in a shootout. After being relegated following the 2008 tournament, they won their way back into the top division in 2009. Since then, the Swiss are 19-23-7, with only one trip into the medal round. With a lot of CHL players on the roster, the Swiss have a very good knowledge of the North American game, giving them a little bit more of an advantage heading into the tournament.

Earn Their Keep

As mentioned before, Switzerland has not had any trips to the podium in over 20 years. Yet, the Swiss have always found a way to compete the against the world’s powers. Their first tournament back after regulation, the Swiss Superman, Nino Niederreiter led the team to the bronze medal game, where they were defeated by Sweden. In the 2013 tournament, they lost three games in group play, two by way of a shootout and the other an overtime loss to the Czechs. They advanced to the quarterfinals where they lost to Russia…in a shootout. That has been the trend for Switzerland. They will, most of the time, keep games close against the better squads. They have a very determined, and hard-working mindset that makes them play better in bigger games, however they just have not found the luck to make that next step to medal contender.

Who to Watch For

Akira Schmid

Schmid could be the game breaker in net for the Swiss if he can play up to his potential. The same potential that the New Jersey Devils saw, and drafted the Bern native in the fifth round of last year’s draft. Schmid is a big presence in net standing at 6’5″. He makes very simple and controlled movements in the crease, always staying composed and in position. He reads the puck very well, and his athleticism for someone his size is outstanding. Schmid play a couple games in the Tier II NAHL, and one game with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, but he’s played the majority of his season in the USHL with Omaha. Despite only having a 2-7 record with the Lancers, Schmid has 2.73 GAA, which is sixth among USHL goaltenders, and .905 SV% is fifth.

Nico Gross

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If you would guess on which Swiss player is going to lead the team in ice time, it is probably going to be this World Juniors veteran. A decent-sized defenceman with a heavy shot from the point, Gross has exceptional awareness in the offencive zone. This season in Oshawa, he has really shown his merit in his own end as well. He is a +15 this season, which leads the Generals. Gross has been a big help for the team’s scoring from the blue line. He has nine assists as 12 points so far this season, and is going to blow passed his total last season of 14 points. He has played in 10 games in the last two tournaments, only managing a single point. However, he is only a -1 on a pair of Swiss teams that were outscored in back-to-back tournaments.

Simon Le Coultre

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One of the real depth pieces on the rising Moncton Wildcats. The undrafted defenceman is very reliable in his own end, and likes to play the body when the opportunity presents itself. He will be presence on the Swiss penalty kill. He is also very good with the puck in the opposing end. He is very patient, and it is not afraid to move out of his position in order to create a scoring chance. He has scored 43 points in 127 games in his first two seasons in the ‘Q’. In 27 games he has 17 points, and his 10 goals has him tied for second in defenceman scoring. He only a pair of assists in last year’s tournament, and will look to improve those stats in this year’s WJC.

Nando Eggenberger

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There is another Oshawa General on the Swiss roster! Eggenberger is a very capable and consistent offencive weapon. He is a left-handed shot that can play on either wing. One positive about his game is how quickly and accurately his snap shot is down the right wing side. Also, his speed coming down the wing makes the opposing defence miserable. Last season, he played most of the season with HC Davos of the Swiss National A League, before signing with the Generals in the off-season. In 31 games with Oshawa this season, he has totaled 13 goals and 13 assists. Expect him to be on the top line for Switzerland.

Kyen Sopa

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The best intangible for Sopa coming into this tournament is that this is his draft year. That kind of pressure seems to bring out the best in players, which is good for the Swiss. Sopa seems to always find himself in the right place at the right time. A very hard-working winger, he is excellent play on the defencive side of the puck. Despite being only 5’9″, Sopa will play right in front of the net, and battle with the other team’s biggest defenceman. The Flawil native joined the Niagara IceDogs after an impressive year in Switzerland’s Junior A Elite league, where he scored 56 points in 41 games with Bern. He has scored 11 goals in his first 29 games.

Philipp Kurashev

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One of the most consistent scorers for Quebec the last three years in the QMJHL, Kurashev will be the go-to-guy for Switzerland throughout the tournament. The Chicago prospect has outstanding vision with the puck, always seems to be able to find the open man. He is very similar to Nino Niederreiter, as Kurashev’s speed is just as just as dangerous as his hands. He has averaged over a point-a-game in two and half seasons with the Remparts. He leads the team in scoring this season with 18 goals and 25 assists for 43 points in 33 games. He will need to be on his A-game if the Swiss want to hold their own, offencively, against the best Group A has to offer.

Roster

Goaltenders

Luca Hollenstein (EVZ Academy, National B League)

Akira Schmid (Omaha Lancers, USHL)

Gianluca Zaetta (EVZ Academy, National B League)

Defence

David Aebischer (Gatineau Olympiques, QMJHL)

Davyd Barandun (HC Davos, National A League)

Tim Berni (ZSC Lions, National A League)

Gianluca Burger (GC Kusnacht Lions, National B League)

Tobias Geisser (Hershey Bears, AHL)

Nico Gross (Oshawa Generals, OHL)

Simon Le Coultre (Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL)

Janis Jerome Moser (EHC Biel-Bienne, National A League)

Dario Wuthrich (EVZ Academy, National B League)

Forwards

Yannick Bruschweiler (GC Kusnacht Lions, National B League)

Ian Derungs (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL)

Nando Eggenberger (Oshawa Generals, OHL)

Jeremi Gerber (SC Bern, National A League)

Philipp Kurashev (Quebec Remparts, QMJHL)

Marco Lehmann (EHC Kloten, National B League)

Sven Leauenberger (EVZ Academy, National B League)

Nicolas Muller (MODO Hockey J20, SuperElit (Sweden))

Valentin Nussbaumer (Shawinigan Cataractes, QMJHL)

Sandro Schmid (Malmo Redhawks J20, SuperElit (Sweden))

Justin Sigrist (GC Kusnacht Lions, National B League)

Kyen Sopa (Niagara IceDogs, OHL)

Ramon Tanner (Biel-Bienne U20, Swiss Elite Jr. A)

Matthew Verboon (Salmon Arm Silverbacks, BCHL)

Luca Wyss (SC Langenthal, National B League)

Schedule

Dec. 26 vs. Czech Republic (4:00 pm ET/1:00 pm PT)

Dec. 27 vs. Canada (8:00 pm ET/5:00 pm PT)

Dec. 29 vs. Denmark (4:00 pm ET/1:00 pm PT)

Dec. 30 vs. Russia (8:00 pm ET/5:00 pm PT)

All stats found from eliteprospects.com

All records found from iihf.com

Featured Image Photo Credit – Pixabay.com

Author: Tyler Kuehl

Born in Michigan, Tyler was bred in Red Wings home. However, through many trips to Ontario, he developed a love for the Leafs and Canada itself. Tyler does hockey play-by-play around Michigan. As a former player, he can give insight inside the locker room and minds of players. He’ll be covering the Canadian Hockey League, as junior hockey is one of his passions. You can also catch Tyler on his hockey show, The Kuehl Podcast.