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RULE THE ROOST

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To make it short and simple: From winning a medal to relegation: Nearly everything is possible for our Swiss team in such a short tournament like the World Championship.

Photo  Thomas Roost

The most likely scenario is that Switzerland will qualify for the quarterfinal with a small margin or will not qualify for the quarterfinal with a small margin.

Why is that? Well. the top nations are still some steps ahead of us – which doesn’t mean that we can’t beat them in single games. The bottom-nations are approximately playing on our level but if I had to put money on our side or on their side, I would put it on our side. I suppose there are extremely small advantages on our side, the chances to win these games are maybe 52% to 48%, but this, of course, also means that we can very easily lose to them. As an example: Let’s talk about the weakest opponent, according to some media outlets: Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan has a lot of players from the KHL and this league is from the point of view of their level the 2nd best league in the world, right after the NHL. In addition, they have three very good North-American forwards with  a Kazhak passport, Brandon Bochenski, Nigel Dawes and Dustin Boyd… plus… maybe, there is still hope for a late addition to their roster, offensive defenseman Kevin Dallman.

Rest assured that all four of them would be really good import players in our league. So, it’s just logical that Kazakhstan clearly has enough good players to hurt us, no question about that. I don’t want to go deeper into other bottom-half teams but still want to indicate some high-level players of those teams, which we don’t have in Switzerland: Nikolaj Ehlers and Jannik Hansen, Denmark, Mats Zuccarello, Norway, Leon Draisaitl, Germany. They also have Tobias Rieder, but, fair enough, we have Nino Niederreiter). Latvia has a lot of decent KHL-players. This is just to name a few. I guess we have no reason at all to declare ourselves a clear favorite when playing against these teams. One exception, however, would be Hungary. Against them, we would be the clear favorite, but we won’t play them.

Now, let's focus on our team: What do I like about it? Where are my question marks? I like that, with Nino Niederreiter, we have a player who can create havoc around the crease on a high level. Nino is a power-forward at the NHL-level. I also like our two snipers Sven Andrighetto and Lino Martschini. Andrighetto usually finds his way onto the scoresheets. He is an opportunistic player and we don’t have many of them. I also love that Lino Martschini is with the team. Finally, we have a player who really can shoot the puck. In his case, I don’t care about his size, he is simply too good to get overlooked. He has speed, he is smart, he is not afraid and he can shoot the puck. Despite his size of 168 cm (5’6’’), he is a player for international tournaments in my eyes. We also have some other decent forwards with good speed but I think that we are just slightly better in this respect than other bottom-half teams if at all.

My biggest question marks, however, are the goaltending and the defense. In today’s hockey world, there is simply no good hockey-nation without at least two very good goalies. We are missing a couple and what is left could be a decent goalie-package but it’s definitely not for sure. Zurkirchen is a smallish goalie who had a good season in our top league, Mayer was No.4 or maybe No. 3 in the Habs depth chart at the top of his career and Berra is No.3 in Colorado. I guess that all other nations will show up with goalies that have a similar or even better CV. This does not have to be negative, although I have question-marks. But I also know that even average goalies can easily have great, hot tournaments; let’s just hope for the best! Our defense has some decent puck-moving players. Most of them can handle the puck to a certain extent and are quite mobile but what our defense definitely lacks is size, strength, and grit. Plus, some of our defensemen don’t think fast enough during the game sometimes. I’m afraid of lose-puck-battles in the slot area against powerful forwards with quick hands.

In addition, I noticed something a bit astonishing in terms of the Swiss roster compared with other teams. The US has 13 U23 players on their roster, including 18-year-old Auston Matthews, Canada has 8, Finland 7, Slovakia 5, Denmark 5, including 18-year-old Mathias From, Germany 2. Switzerland, on the other hand, has zero U23-players on the roster! Does this tell something? I don’t want to read too much into this but it’s still a bit surprising, especially after a lot of players declined an invitation. Are we simply not brave and confident enough to show up with some of our prospects on this stage or are these young players simply not good enough?

Enough complaints, enough question marks, let’s give our boys some credit and cheer for them; they need and deserve our support. Good luck also to our coaching staff for their first real tournament. Hopp Schwiiz!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Thomas Roost (@thomasroost) was born in 1960 and lives in Horgen, Zurich. Since 1995 he has been working as NHL-scout for Central-Scouting Europe, since 2010 also as scout for EHC Biel in the National League A.

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