Article written by: Federico Camponovo
For once, we won’t talk about the NHL in every way… but we talk about North American hockey from a Swiss perspective.
In other words, we’ll talk about the five U18 Swiss who one day might make us dream with the Swiss national team jersey. Obviously, those are not the only young Swiss talented players around… luckily enough, each year plenty of talents see the light thanks to the great work done in the youth organizations around the country. Moreover, let us not forget that being a “prospect” at the age of 17, is no guarantee of a brilliant career.
Yet, the best way to know which players have the best perspectives, is the CHL import draft. That’s because during this draft the best 18 years old or younger players are picked.
CHL Import Draft
Before we start, you should know what the CHL Import draft is. During the CHL Import draft, each team of the Canadian Hockey League (made of the most important Canadian junior leagues, the WHL, the OHL and the QMJHL) can pick a young player aged between 16 and 18 and sign him. That is a path to reinforce their roster and to make the player more attractive for a future NHL draft.
Oftentimes, being picked during the CHL Import draft doesn’t guarantee you a future in the NHL… we mean, you first need to have an impact in the Minors because the competition is ruthless and each player wants to make it to the most prestigious league of the world.
In the CHL Draft history (it exists since 1992), 76 Swiss were picked. Nico Hischier, Timo Meier, Nino Niderreiter, Sven Andrighetto and Philipp Kurashev are only among the ones who are doing great things. But there are other players, who are currently playing in our National League, who were picked at this draft… we’re talking about Bertaggia, Fora, Suter, Martschini, Cunti and many others.
But let’s see the most interesting Swiss players picked during the last CHL draft.
Top 5 U18 Swiss
Noah Delémont (D)
Noah Delémont was born in 2002 and played for the EHC Biel-Bienne Spirit, where he could show off all his talent. Suffice it to say that he was already a pillar of the U20 team of the Seeländers when he was only 16.
In March 2019 he played for Switzerland at the U18 Worlds. He was the alternate captain and played a key role in helping Switzerland to avoid the relegation.
Noah Delémont’s potential is huge and last season he did well even though he got injured. All this earned him the call of the Acadie-Batuhrst Titan (QMJHL) who picked him in 3rd position overall. Lately, he signed a contract with the Titan and therefore he will play next season overseas where we’re pretty sure he will do well.
Noah is considered a Top Prospect in view of the 2020 NHL Draft… and lately he played for Switzerland at the very prestigious Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He collected three appearances and even though Switzerland lost all the games and conceded several goals… he finished the tournament with only a “-1”.
Théo Rochette (C)
Théo Rochette was born in 2002 and played in the youth organization of Lausanne. When it comes to Théo, it comes to a player who is among the greatest talents in the world. He tallied an impressive number of points in Switzerland with the Lions Vaudois youth teams.
Back in 2018, he was picked in 7th overall position by the Chicoutimi Saguenéens at the QMJHL Draft and he played with them the last season. He did great, as he scored 43 points in 59 games even though he was only 16-17.
Several experts expect him to be picked during the first round at the NHL Draft… currently, he’s expected to be picked in 29th overall position.
Théo is the son of Stephane Rochette, who’s a former referee, and has both the Swiss and Canadian passport. That’s why we don’t know yet which team he will represent in the future. The Swiss fans’ hope is that he can wear the Swiss jersey… because this guy can seriously become a world class player.
Rochette also took part in the last Hlinka Gretzky Cup with Canada… the Canadians made it all the way to the final and then lost it against Russia. Théo played 5 games but didn’t score points. Last year instead, he played the same tournament but with Switzerland.
Simon Knak (F)
Also Simon Knak was born in 2002… the young Swiss winger played in the youth organization of Kloten. His size is good (184 cm – 84kg) and was the Captain of Switzerland at the last U18 Worlds. Moreover, he even made his debut with Kloten in the Swiss league during the last part of last season.
He was drafted by the Portland Winterhawks during last month CHL Import Draft in 40th position overall… and that’s the same team who drafted Nino Niderreited approximately 10 years ago. Also, Simon’s time came to move overseas… in fact, he will play the 2019-20 overseas for the Winterhawks (WHL).
Simon is eligible for the next NHL Draft and he’s currently expected to be picked around the 64th position overall.
Lately, he even Captained Switzerland U18 at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Inaki Baragano (D)
Inaki Baragano was born in 2001 and he also played in the youth organization of Lausanne. He’s a right-handed defenseman and he collected many appearances with the junior National team. The hope is that he can progress more, so to become one of the potential picks at the next NHL draft.
Baragano lately signed a contract with the Kamloops Blazers, who picked him at the CHL Draft in 16th overall position and will play with them next season. Even though initially we though he’d spend one more year in Switzerland.
Generally, in such cases, it’s important to understand what the level of the player is, because the North American junior leagues are more competitive compared to the junior leagues in Switzerland. Inaki Baragano’s good performances with the U20 of Lausanne though, impressed the Blazers who signed him.
Giancarlo Chanton (D)
The 16 years old Giancarlo Chanton played the last two seasons with the youth of Langnau and is eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft. His size is already good (184cm x 79kg) considering his age… and that’s important for a defenseman.
Last season he played both for the U17 and U18 Swiss National team and he took part in the U17 and U18 Worlds.
He was drafted by the Niagara IceDogs (OHL) in 46th overall position and he’s also ready to move overseas, since he’s already confirmed that he will play the 2019-20 season with the Canadian team.
During the last Hlinka Gretzky Cup, he tallied 1 assist in three games with Switzerland and finished the tournament with a “-2”, which is not a bad result for this young prospect.
We mean, there are several Swiss who can be drafted next year and potentially have a great future.
For them, it’s important to be consistent this season. When you’re 17, moreover, you still must improve a lot both mentally and physically. It’s way too early to understand if you can become a great player. Let’s take Nail Yakupov for example… he was the number one pick at the 2012 NHL draft, he was considered an impressive talent… yet, he struggled to impress. Firstly, he had some difficult times with the Edmonton Oilers and then tried his luck with other teams – including the Colorado Avalanche – but he was never able to make a name for himself. Finally, he left North America and came back to Russia.
To finish, we’d like to spend a few words about Marco Rossi… who has Austrian passport, but he can play with a Swiss licence. The young guy born in Dornbirn is expected to be picked in the TOP 10 during the next NHL draft. It’s a pity that he will never play for Switzerland, but he’s yet another example to prove that in Switzerland we’re doing an excellent job with the young players.