Wrapped around the turquoise waters of the Aare River, you will find the compact city of Bern, Switzerland, where in June 1990, the future captain of the Nashville Predators was born. In Roman Josi’s 9-year career, he has worked up an impressive resume that includes a Stanley Cup Final appearance, a handful of All-Star Games and a Norris Trophy.
On April 3, 2021, Josi added another accolade to his resume. He passed Mark Streit to become the highest-scoring Swiss-born player in NHL history. While Josi has more individual awards, Streit won the Stanley Cup in 2017 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, which Jose has yet to do, but the 30-year-old defenseman has time. Here’s a quick trip down memory lane to appreciate Josi’s journey from Bern to Nashville, Tennessee.
Early Years in Switzerland
In 2006, while the rest of the world was busy creating Twitter accounts for the first time, Josi began his professional career as a member of the SC Bern in the National League. In the 2006-07 regular season, he appeared in 36 games and earned 31 points. Two of his teammates from that season went on to play for the Predators before Josi was drafted by the franchise.
In 2007, he made his international debut and represented Switzerland at the World Junior Hockey Championship where he played alongside another future teammate, Yannick Weber. Team Switzerland finished in seventh place.
Jeff Kealty, now the Predators’ director of player personnel, was the team’s chief amateur scout at the time. Earlier this season, he reflected on why Nashville made sure they got Josi in the draft: “He played for Switzerland, and I can remember him playing against the Canadian team that year,” Kealty recalled. “Now, the Canadian team in that tournament, every year, is just stacked…with all these high-end guys, and Josi played them just like you see him now. He didn’t have much to work with on his team, but he had the puck all game and he had that ultra-competitiveness where you know he wanted to make a difference and was always up ice and looking to push the game forward… He didn’t take a backseat to anybody, so for us as a scouting staff…he made a little bit of a statement to us. It was like, ‘Here he is.'”
After his last season playing for SC Bern in 2009-10, Josi went to Milwaukee for his first season with the Admirals in the American Hockey League. He finished the season with 40 points in 69 games and was one of three AHL defensemen to record at least 40 points. In the 2010-11 season, he led the team in power-play points.
Transition to the NHL
On Nov. 26, 2011, Josi made his NHL debut, playing 12:20 of ice time in a loss to the Detroit Red Wings. On Dec. 3, 2011, he notched his first point against the Buffalo Sabres, a primary assist on David Legwand’s goal. Josi scored his first NHL goal at Bridgestone Arena a few days later on Dec. 10, 2011, against Dan Ellis and the Anaheim Ducks.
During his first season with the club, he finished with 16 points in 52 games. Since then, his defensive partners have included Shea Weber, P.K. Subban and Ryan Ellis, which allowed Josi to develop and hone his craft alongside All Stars to become one of the top blueliners in the NHL. His numbers continued to improved and he has posted over 50 points in the last three seasons.
Becoming the Best
General manager David Poile has lost several elite defensemen via trade or free agency. Josi has consistency stepped up to the plate to become the leader who can carry the team on his back. Breaking Streit’s record is another notch on his belt.
This week, Streit had this to say about Josi: “Whenever you hold a record, you’re proud of it. You worked hard for it, so it’s not easy to give it up. But I always admired Roman, because of the skills he has and the way he plays, but also because he’s such a great guy. So far, winning the Norris Trophy, captain of Nashville, he’s reached so many things. He keeps going. He wants to get better and better and pushes himself every time” (from “Mark Streit salutes Roman Josi for breaking his Swiss scoring record: ‘I always admired Roman,'”The Athletic, 4/5/21).
Including his Norris win, Josi has earned votes for the trophy six times in his career. He is one of the best defensemen to put on a Predators’ jersey and is 32 points shy of tying David Legwand’s franchise record of 356 assists. We don’t know if he will bring the Cup in Nashville, but the organization would be crazy to not eventually raise number 59 to the rafters.