The Swiss know this is not their year. When the team has a Nico Hischier or a Nino Niederreiter, they can run with the big dogs at least for a little while, but this group will be a lot more pedestrian – though serviceable.
Up front, the team can trot out decent weapons, including undrafted Axel Simic, Philipp Kurashev (Chicago) and Valentin Nussbaumer (2019 draft). All three played at last year’s tournament, and Kurashev has shown a lot of growth in his game since then, becoming more of a complete player while still producing for the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts. Nussbaumer got off to a hot start with the rival Shawinigan Cataractes, though his scoring pace slowed down once opponents returned from NHL camps.
Defenseman Nico Gross (New York Rangers) is set to participate in his third WJC tournament, and he’s eligible next year as well. He’s been playing with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals and is developing well after getting a crash course in North American hockey last year in his rookie campaign. Gross, 18, can move the puck up the ice and help with the offense.
Elsewhere on the blueline, Tobias Geisser (Washington) returns to the fray, and he too has been getting experience on this side of the Atlantic. The big, two-way defenseman has been skating in the AHL with Hershey, where the points haven’t been there but the lessons have been useful.
When Switzerland has been successful in the past, strong goaltending has been a crucial factor, and that position will be interesting in Vancouver. Akira Schmid (New Jersey) has been an international workhorse but rarely got the support in front of him. He has bounced between the WHL, NAHL and now the USHL, where he finally seems to have a home with Omaha. Can he steal games for the Swiss, or is next year his time to shine?