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Lian Bichsel: Brace For Impact

The 2022 first-round draft prospect brings size, skating and most importantly, a nasty physical edge to the blueline.
Lian Bichsel

Lian Bichsel

Back in the day it wasn't hard to find a big, nasty defenseman for your roster, but the era of Chris Pronger and Adam Foote seems far off when you look at today's game. And while everyone could use a Cale Makar or an Adam Fox, teams have also noted that to win in the Stanley Cup playoffs, you still need to have heaviness and some stopping power in your lineup.

Enter Lian Bichsel, the 6-foot-5 Swiss blueliner and 2022 first-round draft prospect.

"You look at teams like St. Louis and Tampa Bay in terms of what wins in the playoffs and he's a perfect example of a guy who helps you - big, strong, mean; he's a throwback," said one scout. "Not many kids play like him now and it looks like he likes to do it."

Indeed, call up some Bichsel highlight packs and you will quickly see the teenager levelling opponents on the regular. And this season he did so against men while playing for Leksand in Sweden's premier league, the SHL. But the great physical dimension Bichsel brings to the table was in fact learned; he only recently began throwing his weight around once he realized it would be a great weapon in his arsenal.

"It's important for me," Bichsel said. "It gives me confidence and that's my type of game, the physical part, when I can do it. Last season I needed to find my way in the game and now I think I do really well in that."

Bichsel is part of a nice cohort of big, physical blueliners in the 2022 draft class and it's nice to see those kinds of players coming back after some fallow years. Drummondville's Maveric Lamoureux, Gatineau's Noah Warren and St. Michael's Jack Sparkes also combine towering size and physicality, but the important thing with all four players is that they can also skate very well. That puts them all in line with 2021 first-rounders such as Corson Ceulemans (CBJ) and Nolan Allan (CHI). Bichsel will almost certainly be the first of the crew to go off the board in 2022.

"Allan's a better skater, but this kid is bigger and meaner," said the scout. "Those guys project pretty well for the playoffs."

Whichever team drafts him next month will likely have to wait a little bit however, as Bichsel has one more year on his contract with Leksand. But the experience he got this past season in Sweden was very beneficial after playing most of the previous campaign with Biel-Bienne in Switzerland's junior ranks.

"It meant a lot, coming from Biel and a junior team and making the step right away to the pro team," Bichsel said. "I needed to learn a lot - and fast - and I think I managed that really well. I wanted something new. I had options in Canada and Sweden and in the end, I chose Sweden."

Making the adjustment wasn't too difficult for Bichsel, though he did note that in the dead of winter, the sun would go down mid-afternoon and that would sometimes make him tired. Bichsel already spoke German, Swiss-German and English and he picked up some Swedish while playing for Leksand. He goes pan-European with the NHL players he watches too, citing Roman Josi (of course), Moritz Seider, Victor Hedman and Rasmus Dahlin as the most intriguing for him.

In terms of NHL interest, it could not be any higher for Bichsel right now as the defenseman interviewed with all 32 franchises at the draft combine in Buffalo.

"It was a great experience for me," he said. "It was a dream for me to be in the draft and the combine, and it was exciting for me."

When it comes to exciting prospects in the draft, Bichsel is a name to watch. He might not pile up the points like some of the other blueliners in the class, but he's going to be a fan favorite in the NHL one day because opponents are quickly going to realize they don't want to be caught in the trolley tracks by this Swiss train.

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