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Rule the Roost

This year’s U18 World Championship probably missed so-called generational talents: No McDavid, no Crosby, no Laine, no Matthews, no Ovechkin, no Malkin. The one who was probably coming closest to those players would have been Swedish d-man sensation - and front-runner for the first overall pick in 2018 - Rasmus Dahlin, but he was not on the roster, as he was already playing with the men’s team. 

by Thomas Roost

Another player who might have been mentioned in one breath with these NHL superstars was Russian winger Andrei Svechnikov, brother of Detroit Red Wings draft pick Yevgeni Svechnikov. Andrei showed that he will be a potential top-5 pick in the 2018 draft but compared to the very best in our game he did disappoint a tiny little bit. He must improve his intensity level and he sometimes played slightly too lazy but yes, he is ultra-skilled and man… he really can shoot the puck! 

Players who probably raised their chances of improving their rankings are Finnish defender Miro Heiskanen and Finnish forward Kristian Vesalainen. Vesalainen definitely showed the pretty part of his face in this tournament. Another defenseman I really liked was smallish US-boy Quinton Hughes. Canada disappointed. Surprisingly, they had quite a lot of not fast enough skaters on their team, so they were not able to deal with the speed in the games against the top nations. Of course, there were also a lot of other really good players at the WJC one should mention but I actually want to concentrate on our Swiss team in this report.

Earlier in the season, I was concerned about our team and I was not ruling out a relegation to the second division as it was not clear which players we would be able to add from the North American junior teams and, additionally, the performance of our team last summer and also at Christmas was frightening. However, I also noticed that players like Justin Sigrist, Nando Eggenberger, Tim Berni, Davyd Barandun, and lately also Tobias Geisser really made progress this season. Later it became clear that also Nico Hischier and Philipp Kurashev would be on the roster, so I really started to look forward to this tournament. The question mark, which remained in my head, was the goaltending position. 

Now, if we only look at the results, we might have some reason to be slightly disappointed with the outcome. Our team managed just one win against Latvia, the team who was relegated later on. One of the biggest mistakes in analyses is to overrate the results and underrate the performance. Results always depend on performance, but another important factor is puck luck. So let’s stay with the performance because this is the only part we can influence. I did like our team’s performance. They dominated Latvia, they played so-so against Finland but the result does not really reflect what happened on the ice. Finland was just a bit better but not by a lot. The game against Canada, on the other hand, was very tight, the result doesn’t indicate this. The main difference in the games against Finland and Canada was… not surprisingly… goaltending. However, the coaches then decided to give Akira Schmid a chance and our goaltending improved immediately. To be fair to our other goalie: He played rock solid in the crucial first game against Latvia. 

As I was saying, I really liked the performance against Canada. In the game against Slovakia, I did hope for points but got disappointed. But again, I was not disappointed by the performance of the Swiss. This was a really good hockey game. Slovakia had a very good age-group this year and played very well. Our team played well against Slovakia but didn’t have the necessary puck luck. In my view, the logical result would have been a 4-3 win for the Swiss. Of course, such an assessment is always subjective and just based on indications. The puck luck we didn’t have against Slovakia returned in the game against the US. In the first period, our team was lucky that the result was still somewhat tight. Goalie Schmid played well and then… later on… we started to catch up and in the very end, it was a really tight game, played on a good level.

Now let's move on to some performances of individual players. I will start with Nico Hischier. He confirmed everything we had already known about him: High-end vision and smarts, very good skating, and very good skills. He is a player who always seems to know in advance what he will do with the puck; he just thinks faster than other players. In this tournament, his kind of plays sometimes became a disadvantage because his linemates sometimes couldn’t keep up with his surprising, smart plays around the net. I believe that he becomes even more effective the more he gets the chance to play alongside high-end players. On the downside, I have seen Nico Hischier playing more dynamic and with a bit more energy earlier on this season but he was still far away from having nothing left in his tank in this tournament.

I also liked power forward Nando Eggenberger. Kurashev was good, Sigrist and Simon Le Coultre were okay. On the back-end, we had decent d-men with Geisser, Gross, and Barandun. However, to be honest, I was slightly disappointed with their performances as they did not live up to the high praise I expressed to them earlier on this season: they played a bit too smooth and not really dominant enough to meet my high expectations. Maybe I slightly overrated them in my earlier reports, maybe I painted them as something they are not, or maybe they just had two not very good weeks. 

To make a long story short: I liked the performance of our Swiss team in Poprad. The naked results do not tell the whole story.

Photo: Thomas Roost

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About the Blog

Rule the Roost

Thomas Roost, CHRO and Executive Board member in a intl. tourist company, NHL-scout for Central Scouting Europe since 1995, scout for SC Bern from 2007-2010 and EHC Biel since 2010.

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