2022 World Junior Championship Switzerland Players to Watch

Switzerland does not have a multitude of superstars like Sweden, Canada, and the United States. They also don’t have the likes of Nino Niederreiter, Roman Josi, Timo Meier or Pius Suter to prop up their offence this time either. They will have to rely upon solid goaltending and a defensive system that has been known to frustrate opponents in the past in order to do anything substantial at the 2022 World Junior Championship (WJC).

Last year, Switzerland did not qualify for the playoff round after going 0-4 in the round-robin and getting outscored 20-5. They did not have anyone score more than one goal and their leading scorer was Dario Allenspach with three assists. This year will likely be more of the same as they do not have a game-breaker in goal or on offence. However, they do have a couple of NHL prospects on the roster that fans of the Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers will be watching very closely.

Simon Knak

Now entering his fifth tournament as Switzerland’s captain, Simon Knak will attempt to lead his country to a medal for the first time since 1998 when David Aebischer shut the door against Czechia in the shootout to win their first and only bronze medal at the WJC. In order to repeat that feat, he will have to do his best Michel Riesen impression and lead his team in scoring as the captain. Oh yes, Kevin Pasche or Noah Patenaude will have to be as air-tight as Aebischer as well, who put up an insane 1.58 goals-against average (GAA) and .958 save percentage (SV%) at that tournament.

Simon Knak, Portland Winterhawks
Simon Knak Portland Winterhawks (Photo Credit: Keith Dwiggins / Portland Winterhawks)

Knak definitely has the skills to do what Riesen did. Playing for the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League (WHL) in 2020-21, he put up 16 goals and 29 points in 24 games and finished with six goals and eight points in seven international games in 2021-22. He also played for HC Davos in the Swiss League, where he recorded six goals and 11 points in 42 games and four points in nine playoff games. Projected to be a bottom-six forward in the NHL, he has a good first step and has shown the ability to surprise goaltenders with his quick shot. He is also a great two-way player as his defensive skills are very polished for a player of his age.

Brian Zanetti

Selected 110th overall by the Flyers in the 2021 Draft, Brian Zanetti is a 6-foot-2 lanky defender who made his North American debut in 2021-22 when he played 56 games for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). For a team that struggled to produce offence from the back end – save for Samuel Mayer’s 37 points – he finished with a decent four goals and 26 points. Known for his mobility and defensive awareness, he could end up being a key part of this Swiss team that won’t have the services of another sizeable blueliner in now Dallas Stars prospect Lian Bichsel.

Brian Zanetti Peterborough Petes
Brian Zanetti, Peterborough Petes (Brandon Taylor/OHL Images)

Zanetti was surprisingly left off the roster for the 2021 WJC, but after a strong rookie season in the OHL, the Swiss brass just couldn’t pass over his name again. As such, it will be interesting to see how big of a role he will be given on a squad that now lacks star power on the blue line.

Switzerland Will Need a Team Effort To Succeed

In order for Switzerland to avoid being an easy out at this year’s WJC, the entire team needs to play to their system and their goaltending has to be lights out, as they are in a very tough group with Sweden and the United States, who possess ten times the talent they do.

Related: Team Slovakia Players to Watch at the World Juniors 2022

It’s difficult not to predict a blowout every time Switzerland plays one of these teams. Except, they have surprised teams in the past with a one-game miraculous performance from one of their goaltenders or a clutch goal from one of their more talented forwards. In a tournament like this, anything can happen. Just ask Aebischer or Niederreiter. Luckily for them, their revised group for August has gotten a little easier with Slovakia and Russia either being transferred to Group A (Slovakia) or removed entirely (Russia). They will now only have to deal with two superpowers instead of four as easier opponents in Austria and Germany replace them.

Team CanadaPlayers to WatchRoster
Team USAPlayers to WatchRoster
Team AustriaPlayers to WatchRoster
Team CzechiaPlayers to WatchRoster
Team FinlandPlayers to WatchRoster
Team GermanyPlayers to WatchRoster
Team LatviaRoster
Team SlovakiaRoster
Team SwedenPlayers to WatchRoster
Team SwitzerlandPlayers to WatchRoster

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