Switzerland didn’t impress the general public with their showing in last year’s World Junior Championship. After starting off decently, losing only by the odd goal to a Slovak team that held its own against both Germany and Canada, things quickly went sour for the Alp country.
Together with neighboring Austria, Team Switzerland finished the tournament pointless after most notably losing by double digits to group dominant Canada. Could this year be better for the Swiss? It is possible, but in a group where the United States, Russia and Sweden seem destined for the first three spots, Switzerland will once again have to fight Slovakia for the fourth seed.
Team Switzerland final roster
|#||Player||Position||League||Current team (NHL)|
|#||Player||Position||League||Current team (NHL)|
|30||Loic Galley||G||U20-Elit||Gottéron U20|
|29||Kevin Pasche||G||USHL||Omaha Lancers|
|1||Noah Patenaude||G||QMJHL||Saint John Sea Dogs|
|6||Lian Bichsel||D||SHL||Leksands IF (2022)|
|4||Noah Delémont||D||NL||EHC Biel-Bienne|
|5||Damian Gehringer||D||SL||EVZ Academy|
|24||Noah Meier||D||SL||GC Küsnacht Lions|
|11||Arno Nussbaumer||D||SL||EVZ Academy|
|21||Dario Sidler||D||SL||EVZ Academy|
|26||Maximilian Streule||D||WHL||Winnipeg Ice|
|9||Brian Zanetti||D||OHL||Peterborough Petes (PHI)|
|12||Dario Allenspach||F||NL||EV Zug|
|25||Nicolas Baechler||F||SL||GC Küsnacht Lions|
|10||Jérémie Bärtschi||F||NL||EHC Biel-Bienne|
|17||Attilio Biasca||F||QMJHL||Halifax Mooseheads|
|14||Lorenzo Canonica||F||QMJHL||Shawinigan Cataractes|
|23||Christophe Cavalleri||F||NL||Genève-Servette HC|
|22||Keanu Derungs||F||WHL||Victoria Royals|
|18||Joshua Fahrni||F||NL||SC Bern|
|15||Lilian Garessus||F||NL||EHC Biel-Bienne|
|20||Marlon Graf||F||SL||GC Küsnacht Lions|
|7||Joel Henry||F||SL||GC Küsnacht Lions|
|13||Valentin Hofer||F||NL||EV Zug|
|19||Fabian Ritzmann||F||SL||HCB Ticino Rockets|
|27||Louis Robin||F||QMJHL||Rimouski Océanic|
For a team that surely will face a large number of shots, head coach Marco Beyer will have to rely on his defence to be up the task and keep the crease clean. If not, then whoever of the four goaltenders Beyer chooses as his starter will face a near-impossible task against sharpshooters like Matvei Michkov, Alexander Holtz and Chaz Lucius.
Last year, Noah Patenaude (the only goaltender on the roster with experience from last year’s tournament) demonstrated what a revolving door policy on defence can do to a goaltender’s confidence, as he conceded ten goals in the aforementioned game against Canada. Patenaude saved a whopping 42 shots but did not get another chance to feature for his side.
This year, there is at least a decent core on the defensive side, highlighted by 2022 draft prospect Lian Bichsel combined with three returnees Giancarlo Chanton and the two Noahs’: Delémont and Meier.
Keep an eye on fellow defenceman Brian Zanetti, born in Italy and currently playing OHL hockey in Peterborough. On this roster, he is one of just two players currently drafted by an NHL team.
Who will score the goals? A player like Shawinigan standout Lorenzo Canonica (who I banged the drum for in last year’s Team Switzerland preview) is a fine players at this level, but he enjoys far more being the set-up men than finishing off chances themselves. They’ll also be missing Simon Knak, who was eligible to return for this year’s tournament. For a team that, in all probability, will have to fight for clear goal-scoring chances, it is a problem that nobody on the roster is a projected sniper. The closest thing to a genuine scoring threat is current Victoria Royal Keanu Derungs, currently sixth in goal-scoring on one of WHL’s worst-placed teams.
Getting the puck clear of their own zone will be difficult enough. If players like Knak and Canonica can indeed create some magic, there is still nobody to bury the puck into the opposing net.
In 2021, Switzerland averaged 1.25 goals per game, playing in a weaker group. Chances are, the offence will look even bleaker this Christmas.
On a team lacking cutting-edge talent, there is only one way to go with the X-factor. Last year, two Swiss players were drafted, with the aforementioned Canonica being someone who could qualify as an overage player to look at in 2022.
However, Leksand based Lian Bichsel is a different kind of talent on a team like this. In May 2021, he left EHC Biel-Bienne’s Under-20 team for the chance to develop further in the Swedish Under-20 league. After impressing during summer camp, Bichsel instead received the chance to play with the first team in one of the best leagues in European hockey.
Leksand’s head coach has been quoted in Swedish media saying: “I’ve been blessed to coach a lot of talented youngsters, but I’ve rarely come across someone as talented as Lian Bichsel.” Their general manager, Thomas Johansson, goes another step further, comparing Bichsel to two-time NHL champion Victor Hedman.
Whether Bichsel becomes as big an NHL star as the Swede is written in the stars, but in an otherwise underwhelming Swiss talent pool he certainly stands out, being the first player with first-round draft potential since Nico Hischier.