The 2022 World Junior Championship (WJC) is almost upon us and hockey fans couldn’t be happier. The Christmas tradition is back where the best under-20 junior players around the world assemble for a two-week tournament highlighted by selections from the past two drafts and the upcoming one in Montreal.
Related: Guide to the 2022 World Juniors
Switzerland isn’t usually one of the teams people look forward to watching, but they still should not be overlooked. Just ask Team Canada when the Swiss beat them in the 2018 World Championship and the Wayne Gretzky-built 2006 team that lost to Martin Gerber and his amazing 49-shot shutout. Basically, what I am saying is, don’t ever count Switzerland out of anything.
Last year’s tournament wasn’t anything to write home about as Switzerland was dispatched before the quarter-finals began. They were outscored 20-5 in four games and no one on their team scored more than one goal. 2022 likely will be more of the same as they don’t have anyone like Nino Niederreiter, Roman Josi or Nico Hischier to lead them into battle this time. They also don’t have a goaltender like Gerber or David Aebischer either.
Goaltending: Could Pasche Grab the Starting Job?
The Swiss will most likely pin their hopes on Kevin Pasche, Lucas Rötheli or Noah Patenaude as their starter for this tournament. Thibault Fatton, who started three out of the four games last year, will not be returning as he is now 20 years old.
From a statistics standpoint, Pasche has the best chance to grab the starting role this year. Playing in his first season in the United States Hockey League (USHL), he has a very solid 2.18 goals-against average (GAA) and .917 save percentage (SV%) in 11 games. He has started the bulk of the games for the Omaha Lancers and is currently only behind Arseni Sergeyev of the Tri-City Storm in GAA and SV%. He also played well at the 2021 U18 World Championship where he was named one of the top three best players at the end of the tournament. Could he be this year’s Aebischer or Gerber?
Defence: Watch Out For Bichsel
All eyes will be on 6-foot-5 defenceman Lian Bichsel, who is eligible for the upcoming 2022 Draft. He already has NHL size and should be getting consideration for the second round in June. He skates very well for a big man and has underrated two-way skills. Ranked as high as 28th by FCHockey and Recruit Scouting, he could even sneak into the first round if teams believe they need to add some size to their prospect pool. Playing for Leksands IF J20 in the J20 Nationell and Leksands IF in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), he has three goals and eight points in 20 games.
Joining him could be a representative from each of the Canadian Hockey Leagues in Vincent Despont (QMJHL), Maximillian Streule (WHL) and Brian Zanetti (OHL). Zanetti was drafted 110th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2021 Draft while Despont and Streule will be looking to impress scouts enough to either garner a selection this year or an entry-level contract (ELC) from an NHL team.
Returning from last year will be Giancarlo Chanton and Noah Delemont. They both play in the Swiss League and are currently in their final year of eligibility. Delemont has gone through two drafts without being selected, so like Despont and Streule, will be hoping an NHL team sees enough from him to offer him an ELC.
Forwards: Canonica Leads the Way
Similar to the defence, all eyes will be on one player this year. His name is Lorenzo Canonica. Currently playing in the QMJHL with the Shawinigan Cataractes, he will have a chip on his shoulder from going undrafted in the 2021 Draft this past summer. He has already surpassed his point totals from last season with five goals and 18 points in 23 games. He is a slick, two-way pivot who can deke around anyone if given the chance. Projected by many to go in the later rounds of the draft last year, he was surprisingly left out of the festivities. With his skill set and overall game, I don’t anticipate that happening again this year, especially if he has a strong showing at the WJC.
Apart from Canonica, keep an eye on Fabian Ritzmann. Split between the U20-Elit, National League and Swiss League, he has eight goals and 13 points in 24 games. The Swiss don’t have a lot of offensive firepower, so anyone that has confidence in their goal-scoring abilities will be among those to watch.
Switzerland Will Still Be Hard to Play Against
Team Switzerland will once again be an underdog going into this year’s WJC. Canonica and Bichsel will undoubtedly have their moments, but the team itself is just too weak to compete with the likes of Canada, Russia, Finland, Slovakia, Sweden and the USA. Unless one of their goaltenders stands on their head almost every game, they will find themselves out of the playoff round again.
Having said that, the big powers should not go into games thinking it will be a cakewalk. They play their hearts out each and every shift and that alone can give teams headaches. They also seem to have a pretty good power play as they scored three out of their five goals with the man advantage last year.
THW Projected Team Switzerland Roster
Goaltenders – Kevin Pasche, Noah Patenaude, Lucas Rötheli
Defencemen – Lian Bichsel, Giancarlo Chanton, Noah Delemont, Vincent Despont, Dario Sidler, Maximilian Streule, Brian Zanetti
Forwards – Nicolas Baechler, Attilio Biasca, Jeremie Bartschi, Lorenzo Canonica, Christophe Cavalleri, Keanu Derungs, Joshua Fahrni, Raymond Fust, Lilian Garessus, Marlon Graf, Joel Henry, Valentin Hofer, Simon Knak, Fabian Ritzmann, Louis Robin
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Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.