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World Juniors 2016: Switzerland team preview

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The Swiss barely survived relegation last year, and their reward this year is a more experienced team that should allow them to be more comfortable

Martin Rose/Getty Images

Switzerland is coming off of a year where they finished last in their group and needed a relegation round series win against Germany to stay in the top division. But, this wasn't a typical year for Group A.

No one suffered more from the emergence of tournament darlings Denmark than the Swiss. They had actually beat the Czech Republic and looked safe, but a loss to Denmark followed by a Czech win over silver medalists Russia (the Czechs also beat Denmark) put Switzerland in the relegation round.

The good news this year for the Swiss is that they have a lot of their team coming back for another year. Even with the Nashville Predators not loaning first-round pick Kevin Fiala (who is currently in the AHL), Switzerland is returning three of their top six scorers from a year ago and both goaltenders who played in games.

Roster

Player Pos League Current Team (NHL)
Gauthier Descloux G Swiss NLA Genève-Servette
Loren Van Pottelberghe G SuperElit (SWE) Linköpings U-20 (DET)
Ludovic Waeber G Swiss NLB Red Ice
Marco Forrer D Swiss Elite Jr A EV Zug U-20
Andrea Glauser D Swiss Elite Jr A Fribourg-Gottéron U-20
Edson Harlacher D Swiss NLA Kloten Flyers
Fabian Heldner D Swiss NLA HC Davos
Roger Karrer D Swiss NLA ZSC Lions
Simon Kindschi D Swiss NLA HC Davos
Jonas Siegenthaler D Swiss NLA ZSC Lions (WSH)
Chris Egli F Swiss Elite Jr A HC Davos U-20
Nico Hischier F Swiss NLA SC Bern
Auguste Impose F QMJHL Quebec
Tino Kessler F Swiss NLA HC Davos
Denis Malgin F Swiss NLA ZSC Lions (FLA)
Timo Meier F QMJHL Halifax (SJ)
Dario Meyer F WHL Edmonton
Julien Privet F Swiss NLB Visp
Noah Rod F Swiss NLA Genève-Servette (SJ)
Kris Schmidli F Swiss NLB GCK Lions
Pius Suter F Swiss NLA ZSC Lions
Calvin Thürkauf F WHL Kelowna

Strengths

The biggest strength for Switzerland is their experience. In all, they are returning 10 players (two goalies, three defencemen and five forwards) from last year which is a big help compared to last year. Eight players in camp also play at the top level of the Swiss league, where Canadiens prospect Martin Reway and draft eligible Auston Matthews are playing. Four are playing in the CHL.

Getting Denis Malgin, Noah Rod and Timo Meier back is huge for the Swiss. Meier was the first-round pick of the San Jose Sharks last year. Rod was a second-round pick in 2014, also by the Sharks and Malgin was a fourth-round pick of the Florida Panthers. All three had a point-per-game pace in last year's tournament.

They also have other players drafted in Jonas Siegenthaler (2nd round, 2015 - Washington) and goaltender Joren van Pottelberghe (4th round, 2015 - Detroit). Ironically, van Pottelberghe, who plays in the Swedish Junior league was the only goaltender to not be on the team last year.

Siegenthaler has played in the NLA for two years and is the leader on the Swiss blueline.

Keep an eye on Nico Hischier. He was the youngest player at last year's U-18 championships and is a top prospect for the 2017 Draft. He already plays in the NLA notching his first goal earlier this year.

Weaknesses

Once again, Switzerland is in a tough pool. They play with Canada, USA, Sweden and Denmark and their survival may once again come down to how they do against the Danes. Their goaltending doesn't inspire much confidence either, even if they are a year more experienced.

Both returning goaltenders, Ludovic Waeber (2 games, 5.25 GAA, .857 sv %) and Gauthier Descloux (5 games, 3.16 GAA, .878 sv %) are back but have not been drafted. The only drafted goaltender, van Pottelberghe, is also in the mix.

Even with the experience, it may not be enough but as Denmark and Slovakia proved last year, you can make a run to the semi-finals riding a couple of great players and Switzerland definitely has that potential.

X-Factor

Rod, Malgin, Meier and Siegenthaler need to be good for Switzerland to stay alive, so they aren't really x-factors. I will go with 16 year old Hischier. Already playing in a men's league (1 goal in 12 games) is huge for him. He was playing very well in the U-20 Swiss league (22 points in 15 games.)

As Denmark and Slovakia showed, you need a hot goaltender and if one of Waeber, Descloux or van Pottelberghe can step up, it would go a long way.

Fiala wasn't on the preliminary roster, but if he does get released, to get the 2014 first-round pick would be another huge addition for Switzerland. Nashville, however, doesn't plan to make him available.