2011 NHL Draft Prospects: No. 7 Sven Baertschi
May 12, 2011 1 Comment
Last summer, every media outlet was hailing what might be the greatest Swiss hockey player ever: Nino Niederreiter. This year, even more media outlets are hailing Sven Baertschi, who might be even better than his Swiss counterpart. Ranked seventh by NHL Central Scouting, the small left winger has been helping lead his Portland Winterhawks to a first-place berth in the Western League playoffs as the top seed in the Western Conference.
“Sven is definitely a different player than I am,” Niederreiter confessed to The Portland Tribune. “He’s way more skilled and really fast. He’s a great guy off the ice, too.”
“He’s unreal out there,” said Portland right wing Ty Rattie. “He knows how to put the puck in the net. He’s got a great shot and is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met. He works hard off the ice. He’s one of the best practice players I know and that’s going to be huge in his career … and he has a good one ahead of him.”
Praises aside, Baertschi has been tearing it up for the Winterhawks. After struggling to put up points in Switzerland’s B-League last year, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward posted 34 goals and 85 points for the Winterhawks this season – leading all rookies. His plus-23 rating also speaks to his ability to play on the defensive side of the puck. Oh, and remember that stereotype that Europeans don’t play physically? Seventy-four penalty minutes for Baertschi helps to dispel that notion with this kid.
“It’s fair to mention him in the same breath as [Ryan Nugent-Hopkins] over the course of the night,” wrote Gare Joyce of ESPN.com of Baertschi’s performance in the CHL Prospects game. “He has great speed and a great hockey sense. He was the target of a lot of after-whistle abuse from frustrated Team Cherry defensemen, stuff that should have and would have drawn penalties in any other game. Still, it was a good indication that Baertschi isn’t very much fun to play against.”
Baertschi’s strengths include his vision, skating, hockey sense, stickhandling, and defensive play. His positioning and awareness without the puck is off the charts – a skill that many draft-eligible players fail to focus on during their development. And although the Swiss is short by NHL standards, he is built fairly solid. Every player can use more size, but scouts should not be worried about him being a bit small.
“Sven is a great hockey player, he’s got phenomenal hands,” teammate Joe Morrow said in an interview with NHL.com. “He and Nino have similarities, but they do play their own style of game. Nino is a little more physical and a little bit bigger. I think if Sven adds a few pounds, he can turn into a pretty good power forward, if not a finesse player like he is now.”
Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.