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McKenzie: Canada must pay attention to Niederreiter, Conz

Bob McKenzie
1/2/2010 8:49:06 PM
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It was an absolutely amazing performance by the Swiss in their quarterfinal game against the Russians, especially when you consider that they were missing their top two defenceman, Roman Josi and Luca Sbisa due to injuries.  Coincidently both players were named to Switzerland's Olympic team.

Instead of focusing on who the Swiss are missing, there are two key players that Canada needs to worry about.  The first is forward Nino Niederreiter.  He is a player who has caught my eye all throughout the tournament.  He is a member of the Portland Winter Hawks of the WHL and has an exceptional chance of being the highest drafted Swiss player in NHL history.  He will likely go higher than Michel Riesen who was chosen 14th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 1997.

I've been talking about this guy in glowing terms all through the tournament for obvious reasons.  He has great one-on-one skills and his defensive play has been extremely strong, especially against the Russians where he stepped up and did a lot of really good things.  As well he is the straw that stirs the drink offensively for Switzerland.

Niederreiter is one of those players that every time that he steps on the ice you come out of your seat a little bit because you sense that this guy is ready to do something special.  He has been absolutely amazing, especially considering he is essentially playing by himself considering some of the injuries that Switzerland is forced to deal with.

The other player that Canada has to concern themselves with is goaltender Benjamin Conz who has been exceptional in this tournament.  He was stellar against the Russians, facing 52 shots on goal and stopping 50 of them.  He is the type of goalie that can steal a game and he went a long way towards doing that in the Swiss' quarterfinal tilt with Russia.

He is a big guy and doesn't seem to have to move too much in net.  Both Pierre McGuire and Gord Miller have favourably compared his game to that of Conn Smythe trophy winner J.S. Giguere who comes from the Francois Allaire School of goaltending.  He gets down low and takes away the bottom of the net.  If you are going to beat him, you have to do it upstairs.  He was terrific in one-on-one battles with some very skilled Russian forwards.

While the Swiss have Conz at one end and Niederreiter at the end, Canada can throw out the scouting report because they really seem to have some magic going on.

The biggest problem the Swiss may face is that this win over the Russians may be perceived as their Gold medal.  They have got to make sure that they can bring their emotional level back up against Canada rather than being satisfied with what they have accomplished.

Bob McKenzie

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