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Reset the Expectations: Switzerland not a top contender, but could cause headaches at world juniors

The Swiss will be without a few of their top talents, but that doesn't mean they can't sneak up on the opposition.

Last year, Switzerland upset a punchless and flu-ravaged Sweden in the quarterfinal before getting waxed by the Finns in the semis and the Russians in the bronze-medal game. That fourth-place finish may have overstated the team’s potential moving forward. This year, the Swiss won’t have scoring center Philipp Kurashev, for example, as he has aged out. And that offensive void looms large.

It means a lot more pressure up front on Valentin Nussbaumer, the Arizona Coyotes prospect who has made progress in the QMJHL after a tough 2018-19 rookie campaign. On the surface, the Swiss don’t have a lot of weapons at their disposal right now, so goals will be tough to come by.

On the back end, you can’t get more experienced than New York Rangers prospect Nico Gross, who will play in his fourth world juniors. Gross has always been a steady defenseman, but he hit a new level of confidence over the summer, and the result is an unlocked offensive side that has him on pace for his best season yet with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals.

In net, the Swiss will be experienced, but there’s also a wild-card element to the proceedings. New Jersey Devils prospect Akira Schmid has the size and potential to be a great stopper, but he has struggled with USHL Omaha this year and his 2019 WJC was a mixed bag. Fellow returnee Luca Hollenstein may not have NHL potential, but he was the goalie of record in Switzerland’s shutouts of Sweden and Denmark last year.

The biggest loss – for reporters at least – is affable quote-machine coach Christian Wohlwend, who took a job with Davos in the Swiss League. His replacement is Thierry Paterlini, who has been an associate coach with the under-20s before as well as the head of the under-18s. Like Wohlwend, he’s youthful, and it will be interesting to see if he can rally the troops as his predecessor did.

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