Sven Bärtschi, LW Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Born: October 5 1992 in Bern, Switzerland
Strengths: Shifty, elusive skater- strong on his skates and good edgework to maintain his balance with a lower center of gravity. Elite shot; generates a lot of power on it despite his small stature, and it is a heavy wrist shot that is accurate and tough to stop because of his lightning release. A cold-hearted assassin when he has the puck on his stick in close- absolutely deadly between the hashmarks. Can also unload bombs from the outside- opponents have to respect him and take away his time and space as the rare shooter who can put it in the net from anywhere. Bärtschi's hockey sense is also a major strength- he reads the play well and consistently gets himself into scoring position. Underrated passer- he and Ty Rattie showed off a lot of chemistry together with Rattie being more the set-up guy while Bärtschi finished a lot of the chances off. Smart, intelligent and disciplined player- uses his hockey sense and active stick to excel on the penalty kill. One of the nicest kids in the draft- a solid teammate with a real easy-to-like personality and who will be a good fit with any club because he is so low maintenance. Not quite leader Nino Niederreiter is, but brings a similar passion for hockey and got much better physically as the season went on- sets a good example for others to follow. Good worker who wants to be an NHL player and proved it by leaving his country and playing in the rougher, more physical WHL.
Weaknesses: Undersized; not a great deal of room to grow or fill out, but will need to add crucial pounds. Does not play a physical style and spent a lot of time on the perimeter during the WJC. To Bärtschi's credit, he recognized that he didn't play well for Switzerland and put in a more honest effort over the second half of the year in the WHL. Average skater. Gets where he needs to go, but lacks explosive drive, top-end speed and the ability to separate. His wheels would not be an issue at all if he was 6-1, but because he's only about 5-10, it's a point of discussion with scouts.
Bärtschi compilation video "Turbo Time" (via YanthaCanada)
Bärtschi 2011 NHL Scouting Combine interview (exclusive B2011DW video)
Style compares to: Jeff Skinner
Draft prediction: Bärtschi is a legitimate offensive talent, one of the best pure scorers and offensive players available. B2011DW admittedly wasn't high on him after watching him hang on the outside of the action during the WJC, but our sources tell us he really picked it up in the WHL. His size and skating are concerns, but his hands, hockey sense and love of putting the puck more than compensate. Bärtschi is not a poor skater, but without the explosiveness you want from smaller guys, he's going to need to play with a creative center or another playmaking wing to get the most of his impressive talent. Teams could do much worse than to draft Bärtschi in the top-15; you won't ever get much of a physical presence from him, but when you're looking to upgrade scoring from the wing, this is one of the better bets. We love his passion for hockey and willingness to take risks. He could have dominated in Switzerland but came over to one of the toughest leagues in the world...and still pretty much dominated at times. Someone will jump on him early, possibly as high as 10.
Projection: First- or second-line scoring forward with 40+ goal upside. or bust. His defense is OK, but at least he's willing to try. No real toughness, but that's not what he's here for. If you want this year's Skinner- a guy who absolutely has no quit on him if the puck is anywhere near the net and there's a scoring chance to be had, then Bärtschi is it. Like Skinner, he has a low center of gravity and is so good with his edges that he can shake off a hit, lose a defender and then wire the puck to the back of the net from anywhere there's an opening. Those guys are always in demand, no matter what. With his love for the game, you figure that even if he doesn't become a top scorer, he's going to do what it takes to be an effective bottom-six forward. Undeniable upside- just needs to get stronger and consistently do the dirty work.
Background: Father played hockey in the Swiss pro ranks. Seventh overall pick in the 2010 CHL Import Draft. Played for Zug Under-20 junior team and his hometown Langenthal B-league pro team in his native Switzerland before coming over to North America. Led all WHL rookies in scoring with 34 goals, 85 points- named Western Conference Rookie of the Year. Played for Team Switzerland at 2011 WJC in Buffalo. Recently declared at the NHL scouting combine that he's conquering his addiction to Dr. Pepper "I'm drinking more water now," he told B2011DW. Favorite NHL team: Pittsburgh Penguins Favorite player: Sidney Crosby
If Bärtschi had his own soundtrack it would be: "Assassin"- Muse
"A greater than the sum of his parts player - the opposite of the sort of guy scouts usually love (those 6-5, raw, toolsy guys who we let the imagination run wild on). There's nothing to imagine with on this guy - he's smallish, only an average skater, far from dynamic, but all he does is get on the scoresheet and help his team win games. His improvement on the defensive and penalty killing side really opened my eyes, he could end up being a pretty complete guy even if he only ends up being a 10-15 goal guy in the NHL."- NHL scout to B2011DW; May, 2011
"The game here is different. Back home you’re with the same guys for a long time and you play for skill, not very physical. When I came over it was a little like ‘wow’ – the play is so physical. They’re just 18, 19, but they’re so big. I learned the game pretty fast. When you play with guys with so much talent you get better every day if you work hard in practice." Sven Bärtschi to Hockey's Future; January 3, 2011 Full story here.
"I don't think anyone can stay on the ice as long as he does. We have to tell him to get off the ice 45 minutes after practice ends … he stays out there forever to work on his game. He works on inside-outside moves, quick shots and little foot movement."- Portland head coach Mike Johnston to NHL.com; December 2010
"Niederreiter stays more on the boards and bangs more to get the puck. Bartschi is a finesse player. He has very quick hands and is a deft puckhandler. His radar vision probably makes him the best in the WHL at distributing the puck."- NHL Central Scouting's Blair McDonald to NHL.com, December, 2010
Yahoo Sports: Sven Bartschi looks to follow in Nino Niederreiter's footsteps
Sven Bartschi NHL.com feature by Mike G. Morreale