A week and a half ago, I started a two-part article about the Minnesota Wild prospects eligible for the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championship. After the bombshell of Wild goaltender Josh Harding’s battle with MS hit, I decided an article that was developing in my heart and mind was more important than immediately finishing up the second part of my article. I will be completing part two in this article. So, without further ado, the rest of Minnesota’s prospects eligible for the 2013 WJHC.
Christoph Bertschy is an intriguing prospect, taken 158th overall in the 6th round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by Minnesota. This is his second year of WJHC action, having notched two goals and chipped in two assists for four points in six games for the Swiss last year. An extra year of experience is sure to give him an edge in this year’s competition. Last month, Bertschy was second in scoring for Switzerland with three goals and three assists for six points in five games in the World Junior A Challenge and finished sixth (tied for third) in tournament scoring while leading his team to the bronze.
Bertschy is currently playing with Bern of the Swiss-A league alongside a few noticeable names from the NHL such as John Tavares, Mark Streit, Byron Ritchie, Roman Josi and former Wild player Travis Roche. In 27 games, Bertschy has potted two goals, chipped in two assists and added 14 PMs for four points and a plus-1 rating. Christoph is a long-term project for Minnesota and, in all likelihood, may never crack the Wild’s lineup. However, if developed properly, he may surprise. Bertschy is certainly a skilled and talented young player playing in a league that has seen an elevation in talent level with the influx of locked out NHL players entering the league. If his great play in Swiss juniors can translate effectively to the pro level—even to European pro standards—his stock will certainly rise in the eyes of the Wild brass.
WJC Prediction: Bertschy has been invited to the Team Switzerland training camp and is essentially a lock to make the team. He will be heavily counted upon to lead the team to victory and his success at the tournament may determine how well Team Switzerland places.
Last year, Coach Dean Blais heavily relied upon his top line of Brandon Saad and Wild prospects Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle. All three of these talented young men are now too old to play and are going on to start what will (hopefully) be successful pro careers. This year, the Wild has another young prospect on Team USA—2011 2nd round draft pick Mario Lucia. Lucia, the son of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s hockey team head coach, Don Lucia, is certainly a prospect Minnesota hockey fans have long had their eyes on even before his name was called at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.
In 49 regular season games with Wayzata High School, Lucia potted 40 goals and added 47 helpers for 87 points and added five goals and four assists in five playoff games. Mario chose to spend the 2011-12 season with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL rather than the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede, who had his USHL rights. In 56 games, Lucia posted an astounding 93 points (42 goals, 51 assists) and added another 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 15 playoff games.
Listed as the Wild’s top left wing prospect by Hockey’s Future, Lucia is a very speedy winger with great size, an NHL-caliber shot and has been ahead of the competition at every level of play in his career. Mario was considered a lock for Team USA’s 2013 WJHC training camp until breaking his left fibula and suffering ligament damage in his left ankle during an off-season battle drill in late August. He was expected to miss the first three months of his freshman season at the University of Notre Dame, and possibly the World Juniors, but recovered faster than expected and has done well in his return, posting five goals and three assists for eight points and four penalty minutes in eight games with the Fighting Irish. Lucia was also selected as the CCHA Gongshow Rookie of the Week for his performance during the week ended December 3rd.
WJC Prediction: Not only is Mario already making an impact at the collegiate level, he’s ready for World Juniors and Team USA is certainly ready for him. Lucia is a likely candidate for the top line left wing spot and could see some great playing time alongside Canadiens prospect and 2012 3rd overall pick Alex Galchenyuk and Leafs prospect Tyler Biggs.
That wraps up the Minnesota prospects eligible for the 2013 WJHC. Since part one was published, both Mathew Dumba and Tyler Graovac have been invited to Team Canada’s training camp. Unfortunately, but not quite unexpected, Raphael Bussieres was not. Either way you look at this year’s WJC, Minnesota is sure to be well represented once again.