The 2021 World Juniors are well underway and so far, the excitement of everyone’s favourite holiday tradition has been delivered as advertised. Canada blew out Germany 16-2, and the United States followed up their 5-3 loss to Russia on Christmas Day with an 11-0 blowout of their own against Austria.
Team Switzerland, on the other hand, have performed at about the same level everyone expected them to. I predicted that the Swiss’ inexperience this year would result in more of a transition year than a competitive one, and that’s been the case so far. The Swiss have lost both games so far, falling 1-0 against Slovakia to open the tournament on Christmas Day before suffering a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Finns on Sunday. Without further ado, here are three takeaways on the Swiss front from the Finland game.
1. Thibault Fatton Deserves More Credit
Throughout the first two games, goaltender Thibault Fatton has been far and away the most impressive player for Switzerland. Manning the crease for an inexperienced and learning Swiss team, he remained calm and collected against the far superior Finns this year. While the Swiss kept it close in the first period, Finland ultimately took control of the game after the first 20 minutes and the dynamic remained that way until the final buzzer.
Fatton may have let in four goals, but all except for the first one were power-play tallies. Both teams racked up PIMs, but the Swiss had a harder time staying out of the box in the third period. Finland responded to a penalty to Swiss D-man Stefano Bottini with a goal from Aku Raty and then a penalty to Ray Fust with a goal from Kasper Simontaival. Fatton also allowed a power-play goal to Nashville Predators Prospect Jusso Parssinen, but let’s be real. Nobody was stopping this one:
Switzerland was outshot by Finland by a large margin of 43-14. Throughout two games where Switzerland struggled to generate any offense, Fatton remained rock solid and gave his team as much of a chance to win as he could, especially in the second game, where Finland was absolutely relentless on the O-zone pressure. Fatton remained level-headed and never really got rattled, which is exactly what they will need from him when they take on Canada and Germany in the coming days.
2. A Young Gun Breaks the Ice
After a shutout at the hands of the Slovakians on Christmas Day, the Swiss finally scored their first goal of the tournament. They had the first power play of the game following a roughing penalty to Finland’s Topi Niemela, and Ray Fust found 17-year-old Attilio Biasca at the top of the circle, who put it past Finland’s Roope Taponen to open the scoring. This lead, of course, was short-lived, as Anton Lundell tied the game less than a minute later.
It’s hard to gauge anything the Swiss have done offensively since there really hasn’t been a lot to show for it. But for what it’s worth, Biasca has looked like one of their better forwards through the first two games and could be worth keeping an eye on as we get closer to the 2021 NHL Draft. The Zug native won’t turn 18 years old until March, making him one of the youngest players on the team along with fellow 2021 prospect Lorenzo Canonica.
Biasca has 18 points through 19 games with Zug U20 of the Swiss league and one point in his short four-game sample with EVZ Academy of the Swiss League. With back to back games against the gold medal favourites in Team Canada and the COVID-depleted Germans coming up this week, it will be interesting to see how Biasca’s ice time will compare to his teammates.
3. A Transition Year for Team Switzerland
If I haven’t made this point clear enough, the Swiss earning so much as a win this year can be considered a successful tournament for them. With only three returning forwards, two returning defenseman and a brand new crop of goalies, the expectations for them shouldn’t be through the roof. Honestly, I’d go as far as to say they haven’t looked that bad given the low bar set upon them.
They’ve been able to stay in both games despite being the clear underdog against Finland and the arguable underdog against Slovakia. Also, because there’s no relegation round this year due to COVID circumstances, they won’t have to worry about a relegation tournament. It’s a pressureless tournament for the young Swiss players and it will give their younger guys a chance to come back stronger and more experienced next year.
The Road Ahead
Switzerland is back in action on Tuesday against Canada and then again on Wednesday against Germany. They’re the underdogs in both games, but you simply can’t write off any team at the World Juniors. Their best chance at a win will come against Germany, but if they get their big guns in Moritz Seider and Lukas Reichel back in time, it will be a difficult test for Switzerland.
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Alex Hobson is a third year broadcasting student at Niagara College. He has been writing about sports since 2005 and has been with The Hockey Writers since October of 2020. He covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, World Juniors, and the NHL Entry Draft, and is also part of the Maple Leafs Lounge Podcast, presented by THW. For interview requests or any other inquiries, you can follow Alex’s social media pages listed at the bottom of his articles like this one.