Swiss hockey prospects/state of hockey
First off I would like to say congrats to the Swiss WJ team, I think they played great and deserve a lot of respect. There has obviously been a lot more talented Swiss players coming through the junior ranks as of late. Niederetter, Baertschi, Josi, Sbisa, Weber and possibly Brunner are all young players who will make an impact or are in the NHL.
My question is, what is the current state of hockey like in Switzerland? I imagine the lockout has made the Swiss-A league that much more popular with so many NHL stars choosing to play there. How popular is hockey in Switzerland?
Also, I can imagine that the lock out could actually a bit troublesome for Swiss hockey as probably a number of young Swiss players who would be playing NLA in any other season found themselves in lower leagues, no?
In terms of popularity, hockey is barely on par with soccer when both are played. Obviously soccer gathers more interest while hockey has it's summer break, while hockey is the topic #1 during the winter break of the swiss soccer league.
In the swiss 2nd tier league, the NLB, there are currently 4 teams that average more than 2500 spectators per game. From the other 7 teams, there are 2 teams with less than 1000 spectators per game.
The swiss junior leagues are not overly popular. Only 3 teams average more than 100 spectators per game (one of them 280).
Our prospects may have become "worse", but they also have become more. And to be honest: There may still be some kind of a anti-swiss bias in the NHL. It's completely understandable, since guys like Michel Riesen or Reto von Arx never turned out as good (or at least as valuable for the respecting team) as they were projected. That may be an explanation, why guys like Andrighetto or Conz can be undrafted, even though they have talent.
I'm not really into up and coming swiss prospects to be honest. Names, that pop into my head are Mirco Müller and Phil Baltisberger, but that's it. I would ask someone else since I'm not exactly a reliable source in terms of prospects. :laugh:
Our current state in terms of fully developed players is a very good one.
Our wingers are pretty good with guys like Damien Brunner, Roman Wick or Julien Sprunger (and Guggisberg... GET HEALTHY, GODDAMNIT!). With top-end talent like Nino Niederreiter and Sven Bärtschi in the pipes, our wings won't be a weak spot for a long time.
Our main problem is and remains the center position. We may have a pretty promising prospect in Tanner Richard, that MAY make it to the NHL, but then there is Luca Cunti (a "busted" prospect that starts to flourish) and Kevin Romy (reliable defensive center, not NHL material, though). One may mention Andrey Bykow (Yes, the son of Vyacheslav Bykov plays for Switzerland), who can be used as a center, Andres Ambühl (Pretty mediocre, but always plays his heart out) and Reto von Arx (who doesn't want to play for the NT anymore). But overall our centers are worse than our wingers.
The defense is currently very good (for swiss proportions) with Mark Streit, Roman Josi, Luca Sbisa, Rafael Diaz and Yannick Weber all playing in the NHL. Up and coming we have Mirco Müller and Phil Baltisberger, both potential 2nd-3rd round picks with a late 1st as "upside".
Goaltending... Well, there obviously is Jonas Hiller. After him, we have some guys that could possibly succeed as NHL-backups/ AHL starters IF someone gives them a chance and IF their game translates to the NA rink (Genoni, Berra, Conz and Stephan).
Our development system only gets better as far as I know. During the next months, the town of Winterthur becomes one of the centers of swiss hockey development with the opening of the IZLB (Internationales Zentrum für Leistungs-, und Breitensport // International center for competitive- and mass sport). We hope, that the precise development of top tier talent (the by far biggest weakness in our development system) will be massively improved with the IZLB.
Here an article about that (poorly translated by google translate).
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