With the 18th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, the Dallas Stars have selected Lian Bichsel from Leksands IF of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).
About Lian Bichsel
Clocking in at 6-foot-5, 216-pounds, Lian Bichsel is one of the biggest players available at the 2022 NHL Draft. Despite this, he is far more than his size, as the Swiss defenseman has been developing into one of the best defensive-first defensemen of 2022.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft: Live Tracker
Bichsel is willing to throw his size around on the ice, as he will lay down big hits to wear down his opponents or push on them along the boards to win the puck. He also utilizes his long reach to break up passes and slow down offensive rushes. However, he still has yet to fully learn how to utilize his size, meaning that his defensive capabilities are still a bit raw.
If not for a late-season injury that kept Bichsel out of the 2022 World U18 Juniors, he would have played big minutes on Team Switzerland’s blue line. This could have been a real breakout for his draft stock, as he didn’t get that chance to really showcase his full abilities on a big stage. As it stands, this shouldn’t depress his value too much, unless teams are worried that his injuries are longer-term.
With more development, there’s a potential top-four stud that could have the size and defensive IQ to act as a perfect shut-down defender alongside an offensive weapon in the NHL. He still needs to develop into his body, but there’s a lot of potential here for the right team.
THW Prospect Profile Excerpt
“This year, one of the best options among defensive defenders is Lian Bichsel. The Swiss national has been one of the best U18 players in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) this season, ranking third in games played with 29 appearances and fourth in points with a goal and two assists. Few players in that age group get the opportunity to play at that level; only 12 players aged 18 or younger appeared in more than 10 SHL games this season, and only eight registered a point.
“Yet Bichsel has been a big part of Leksands IF’s blueline, and it was never more evident in the Champions Hockey League tournament. He appeared in all but two of their games and recorded one goal, nine blocked shots, three hits, six shots on goal, and averaged 7:24 minutes of ice time. He also averaged a 59.62 Corsi For percentage, which shows the team controlled the puck more when he was on the ice. Given that he started his shifts mainly in the defensive end, that’s an impressive stat, especially for a teenager.
“While Bichsel’s best attributes are in the defensive end, he also possesses some offensive upside. In Sweden’s J20 league, he put away three goals and seven points in just 11 games, which would have put him second among all defenders on the team in points had he spent the full season there. He was equally dangerous in the Swiss U20 league, where he spent 2020-21, putting up 28 points in 45 games despite being the youngest player on the team. He owns a heavy shot and leans well over his stick in order to put as much power as he can muster behind the puck, and though he often passes first, when he sees an opening, he loves to rush in and score himself.
“However, it’s impossible to talk about Bichsel and not mention his size. Standing 6-foot-5 and already weighing in at 216-pounds, he’s one of the biggest prospects available at the 2022 NHL Draft. He’s also more than happy to use his size to his advantage, which makes him very difficult to knock off the puck, especially once he gets a bit of momentum behind him. With a massive wingspan and even longer stick, he can quickly pick up pucks nowhere near him. It also makes him an absolute wrecking ball when he chooses, but he has yet to fully rein in his strength; in his first Champions League game, he was ejected from the first game for a check to the head.”
How This Affects the Stars’ Plans
With his size and toolkit, Bichsel is already playing against men in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). This is a good sign for his NHL future, as he is getting valuable experience against some of the top talents in the world.
Related: THW’s 2022 NHL Draft Guide
However, the Stars shouldn’t rush him into their lineup. Bichsel is still a raw defensive prospect, who will need a few more years to develop his game. Dallas should let him continue to play in the SHL for another two to three years to grow his game, before attempting to transition him to North American ice. He could be a cornerstone of their American Hockey League affiliate, the Texas Stars, for a year or two after that before being fully ready to step up into a top-four role.
So, Bichsel won’t be a short-term project. However, if given four to five years to develop, he could become that absolutely dominant top-four defenseman Dallas wants to add to their blue line for the long-term.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.