CanucksArmy Prospect Profile: #1 Sven Baertschi

CA

There’s been a lot of debate as to who the top prospect on this list was going to be, and a lot of it has to do with the ambiguity of our requirements. Let me rephrase that – Bo Horvat is both younger than Sven Baertschi and has fewer games played in the NHL. Yet, he’s not not on the list, and Baertschi is at the top.

What makes Baertschi a prospect? Well, he’s still quite young at twenty-two years old, and with a career high of 26 games played, hasn’t really become an NHL regular, like the aforementioned Horvat did in his rookie year. With that established, what makes Baertschi the best prospect in the organization? Well, let’s talk about that.

Let’s open this up by taking a look back at what drove the Calgary Flames to draft him with the 13th overall pick in 2011. This, of course, being the extremely impressive point totals he put up with the Portland Winterhawks in his draft year, coincidentally his first in North America. After four years of solid performances in the U17, U18, and U20 ranks in Switzerland, he crossed international borders in pursuit of a bigger spotlight, and definitely made one for himself by scoring 34 goals and 51 assists in just 66 games in 2011. 

This was good enough to rank him second in team scoring, which was impressive given the supporting cast he had. Just ahead of him was current Blue Jackets star Ryan Johansen, who was in his Draft+1 season. Also in their draft+1’s were Brad Ross and Nino Niederreiter, himself a fellow Swiss prospect who has successfully transitioned into the NHL.

What impressed scouts the most with Baertschi was his pure passion for scoring goals. Whether he had to hit a second gear with his skates, muscle out a man with his body, or outsmart a man with his high hockey IQ, he always found a way to be close to the puck, and conversely, put that puck in the back of the net. The Flames were instantly sold on him.

Initially, the momentum continued. He impressed in training camp, and once he went back to Portland, he blew his prior numbers out of the water, scoring 33 goals and adding an insane 61 assists in just 47 games, trailing only Ty Rattie in team scoring and leading the dominant Winterhawks in points-per-game. Come playoff time, he put up a further 34 points in 22 games, leading the team all the way to Game 7 of the WHL finals. Amongst all of this, injury troubles allowed for the Flames to call him up on an emergency basis, at which point he scored three goals in five games.

A talented offensive forward who exhibits the creativity and determination to “will the puck to the back of the net”. Possesses immense hockey-sense. Can generate scoring chances through creating and directing plays, or acting as the beneficiary, or goal scorer; displays a tantalizing, versatile and refined skillset which needs to be utilized more often. “Manufactures goals”. Needs to work on simplifying his game, awareness and responsibility defensively, and becoming more consistent in his efforts. -Elite Prospects

From there, the Flames struggled to handle him correctly, frequently bouncing him back and forth between the big club and the Abbotsford Heat. This didn’t initially hamper his numbers; he scored at nearly a point per game clip with the Heat and produced at about half that through twenty games with the flames. But his minutes were limited, and a neck injury slowed him down a bit before he had his first extended cup of coffee with the Flames.

The following year, however, things really began to fall apart between the two sides. While he had a reputation for solid two-way play at the WHL level, Flames management and staff began to question whether he cared about defensive play at the professional level, and as such, forced him into a bottom-six role (read: played with Brian McGrattan) as a self-establishment mission. Needless to say, his production fell, he was assigned to the Heat again, and from that point on, he didn’t seem quite in it.

But alas, this story doesn’t end in tragedy. With both sides ready to cut ties with each other, Canucks GM Jim Benning pounced on the opportunity to acquire a young player with a lot of potential room to grow, and offered up a second round pick in exchange for the left winger. The surprise deadline deal went through without a hitch, and from there, the reclamation project began.

Baertschi made an immediate impact on the Utica Comets, putting up his best AHL numbers to date with seven goals and eight assists in fifteen games. It was enough to get him a brief callup with the Canucks, where he scored these two goals against the Oilers:

That was as far as his production went, though he did get two playoff games in against his former team. From there, he headed back to the Comets, where his 15 points in 21 games were good enough for second in team scoring as they pushed their way to the Calder Cup Finals.

This brings us to today. One can only assume that the Canucks are going to want to find a permanent place for him where he can fully get back up to speed, and it’s very likely that place will be in the NHL, presumably with Brandon Sutter and Alexandre Burrows on the second line. With increased minutes, some powerplay time, and a coach in Willie Desjardins who has seen what he’s capable of when put in the right situation, patience, and opportunity will be granted virtues.

Baerstchi is a good two-way player with high-end offensive talent. The playmaking winger has really improved his skating explosiveness while learning to change speed to throw off the defender. Since being drafted in 2011, he has really improved his vision and hockey sense as well as his overall game. The first rounder clearly projects as a top line forward. His work ethic, passion, desire and attitude to be the best are top notch. -Hockey’s Future

After years of not having that, you have to imagine Baertschi will be both pleased and motivated to succeed. Is it enough to turn him into a first line NHL forward? That remains to be seen. But for the first time in years, that window of opportunity appears to be wide open for him once again.

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    • The GREAT Walter White

      I agree. It’s a lot more likely that Baertschi is playing with Vrbata on the other wing. I also think there’s a good chance that Horvat is the center of that line. Sutter is probably going to get a Malhotra-esque deployment, allowing Bo/Baertschi/Vrbata more OZ starts

      • Agreed. A line of Horvat between Baertschi and Vrbata actually sounds like *gasp* a second line!

        It’s been a long while since we have had something like that.

        Put Burrows with the twins, and you’ve got a pretty solid top six, with the ability to swap out players if need be (like if Horvat flatlines, or if Baertschi can’t figure it out at the NHL level).

  • The GREAT Walter White

    agree burrows should ride shotgun with the twins, but part of me also wants vrbata to play with the sedins so his value can be nicely propped up before we ship him off for a first round pick.

    • hulkingloooooob

      as a flames fan who was quite interested in sven being the second coming of….well, a top line winger….sadly this is exactly where he fell short and why i was actually happy to see him traded by the time it happened. it was certainly not his play with the puck that was the problem.

  • Good series of articles. I enjoyed reading them.

    Sven will be given every opportunity on the second line I believe, dropping Higgins to the third. This shoud be a good fit for both players. For Brian Burke to let Sven go for a second round pick is a bit of a head scratcher. Burke is a clever old fox you know. Baertschi – Sutter – Verbata on the second line sounds like a better combination over last year, when our second line looked overmatched at times. I think Sven will fit in just fine.

    Memo to Brian Burke: Eagle hair is out. Contact Justin Trudeau or Dallas Eakins for current hair style tips.

  • Peplinski's Thunderbird

    “From there, the Flames struggled to handle him correctly, frequently bouncing him back and forth between the big club and the Abbotsford Heat.”

    …That almost sounds like how the Red Wings struggled to handle Tatar, Nyquist, Pulkkinen, etc.

    • Tatar and Pulkkinen went a full season without being called up and in their second years were only called up due to necessity. Nyquist started getting similar callups in his AHL rookie year but also over-developed in college.

      It took them a while until the Wings attempted to give any of them any sort of defined NHL roles. The Flames tried to do it with Baertschi at twenty.

  • Koolmoedee

    “presumably with Brandon Sutter and Alexandre Burrows on the second line…”

    Really? If Sutter is going to get lots of defensive zone starts against tough opponents, Baertschi is not the guy to put on his wing.

    If you put Baertschi with Horvat and Hansen, you can shelter that line and give both him and Horvat a longer leash to learn how to generate offence at the NHL level.

  • Koolmoedee

    Let’s be honest, the line has to be Baertschi-Horvat-Vrbata(or Burrows). As the other commenter mentioned, I’m all for raising his value before trading him at the deadline, but who really thinks management/Willie is smart enough to think like this?

  • Peplinski's Thunderbird

    Good post!
    If we had a creative thinking coach
    he’d put
    Sven with the Twins…
    If he IS our #1prospect loaded with off. upside THEN play him with our only skilled center…din’t worry Nux simpleton fans
    skilled players can switch wings! 🙂
    Then play Horvat/Suttet with Burrows and Vrbs depending on zone deployment or game sit.
    And Sutter/Horvat with Hansen higgins
    for solid 3rd line
    that leaves Prust Dorsett &Cassel for 4th
    Jake as extra forward…
    up front Nux are actually decent
    The MAJOR issue is on D.
    Eddy is a 2.5D at best Tanev A 2 Hammy now a 2.5 from age
    Then its a disaster ……..and in goal same issue LACK was the only chance for a uptick in performance to B level.
    IF org was serious bout competing and remotely competent they would hv sigened Eherhoff and or Fransen…and kept Lack and ditched Miller ….

  • Peplinski's Thunderbird

    Svay-Bae-Bae was definitely my favorite Winterhawk of recent memory. When he was drafted by the Flames my heart sank. Just imagining all those goals against the Canucks was going to make me feel conflicted: on the one hand, Canucks forever. On the other, if he did make the leap and became a good player at the NHL level for the Flames it’d almost be like my little brother making good and that would be exciting.

    Luckily, I no longer have such conflicts. Baertschi stick-in-rink jersey ordered yesterday.

  • King Quong

    I’m not buying this Canucks have zero prospects for the future BS

    The New Benning Canucks are going to be a younger version of the LA Kings. Tough two way game that wears on you night in night out. Down the middle will be Horvat/Sutter/McCann/Cassels then add in wingers like Jake V, Brock B, Hunter S and Sven, you got a real solid young team that will score.

    Flames handling of Sven is exactly what the Canucks are trying to avoid with their prospects. Putting too much on a young kid too soon can ruin his game. Look at the Oilers all their leaders were in the early 20s. Sven had one year in North America then was expected to be a star. Moving from Europe to Canada is a big deal and takes getting used too. Popping up and down from AHL to NHL is tough also. Must be exhilarating, then defeating to be on that merry go round.

    Detroit has always done it the right way. Let guys play at the right level until they are ready. With Jake and Hunter, their developement was hurt by injuries, so they can’t be expected to flip a switch and be stars….

    Through all the President Cup years the Canucks were called soft, not anymore Jack!

  • Peplinski's Thunderbird

    I agree Sven Baertschi is probably Canucks best prospect. I think it also very telling about our prospects when arguably our best prospect was worth about a 2nd round pick on the open market.

    • Peplinski's Thunderbird

      Henry…. I feel what is “telling” with regards to getting Baertschi for a second round pick is that Benning may have made a good trade.

      Burke has managed to turn a first round pick with upside into a second round pick and lost him to a team within the division.

      getting an offensively talented 22 yr old first rounder for a 2nd was indeed a good move by Benning…it is only ‘telling” on Burke…not the Canucks.

      • King Quong

        Im pretty sure it was Treliving that made the trade not Burke…

        Good luck with Sven, he’s a good kid with great offensive instincts but has a tendency to cough up the puck at the worst possible time and can go into slumps if his confidence transitive …. but then again Vancouver is the hockey hot spot for sensitive divas!!!

    • Peplinski's Thunderbird

      Way to go Hank,

      The ultimate example of turning a positive into a negative! Check out the % of 2nd round picks that play in the NHL…. Very low off the top of my head about 15%. So that blows up your argument of Benning failing.

      Benning turned a 5th round project into Adam Clendening then turned Bonino and Adam into Sutter a 2nd line center and much better player than Bonino. 20 goals vs a dissapearing act the last 60 games of the year. Now Sven for an 85% chance the player will make no impact above AHL.
      Brilliance

    • wojohowitz

      I think it also very telling about our prospects when arguably our best prospect was worth about a 2nd round pick on the open market.
      ************************************************

      It is also very telling that Benning can source a potential second line player for a second round draft pick. If Baertschi can fill these expectations then this is one super trade.

      The Canucks get younger and much better if this trade works out.

      Gillis last trade for a second round player was Booth and it cost the Canucks a third rounder and Samuelsson while they paid $3 million just to dump him after already paying $9m for a third line showing.

      Giving up a second round pick for a chance at a legitimate,healthy,young potential second line player is a-ok.

      • The GREAT Walter White

        Sven probably is not worth a second round pick (except to the Canucks…), BT stated that the Canuck offer was by far the best offer they got for him.

        I kind of believe him, if any team from the East had offered a third round pick, I think BT would have taken it over the Canuck offer. It’s risky trading a first round bust in your own division, but BT was confident that Sven was not a threat to make this trade look bad.

        It will be interesting to see if Sven is still your second line LW at Christmas….

        WW

        • The GREAT Walter White

          Not worth a second round pick? Huh. A 22-year-old who is STILL putting up a point per game in the AHL (in the right system…not dump and chase) who has enough skill to put up 2.0 ppg in his draft+1 season is not worth a second round pick? What do YOU think the expected value of a second rounder is??

          You can’t expect to be smarter than your lawyer tho Walt.

          • The GREAT Walter White

            Sven has 10 goals in 69 NHL games; not overly impressive.
            (Josh Jooris has 12 in 60 games….and he was not even drafted…and he is not a second line player)

            Sven has skills, no doubt. But he is not made for the NHL. Too soft and lazy.

            Let’s check in around Christmas and compare notes, shall we? Or do you want to exchange personal attacks instead?

            WW

          • King Quong

            yes, you’re quoting tiny samples from his 20, 21 and 22 y.o seasons. unsubstantial… really the only legitimate thing we have to go by here is his point per game for utica last year.

          • hulkingloooooob

            Sven has 10 goals in 69 NHL games; not overly impressive.

            Sven has skills, no doubt. But he is not made for the NHL. Too soft and lazy.
            WW

            That is 30 NHL points in 69 NHL games,the majority played at 18 and 19 years of age on a Calgary team that wrote him off. Not enough truculence for Burkie so off to the third and fourth lines-and out-for Sven:

            Enter: Brian Burke
            And then everything went straight to sh#t.

            http://flamesnation.ca/2015/3/3/when-did-the-flames-go-wrong-with-sven-baertschi/score

          • King Quong

            Thanks for posting this. Man I wish that actual fans from other teams like this — not mouth breathers and juveniles — posted here. To be able to read balanced, accurate and insightful posts about prospect development (or lack thereof) is so much more interesting than WE ARE GREAT YOU SUCK blah blah blah.

            We have our own parallels — Kassian comes to mind, no matter his many flaws and the maddening frustration he seems to have caused multiple coaching staffs — I still think in the end he was mishandled and then tossed away far too early and for far too cheap.

    • The GREAT Walter White

      I’d be curious to see what Baertschi would actually be worth on the ‘open market’ — there’s rarely such occasions when an open bidding war ensues. The Flames have themselves been beneficiaries — just witness how many other teams cried foul after the Hamilton trade given what others might have given up for a stud d-man if they’d known he was available. And to imply that Baertschi’s value means that all of our prospects are basically lower than a second rounder is false; after all if Gaudreau is one of their top 3 players under 25 does that imply that all the prospects under him are worth less than a fourth rounder?

      I still think CA would be better off doing a 25 under 25 rather than a top 20 prospects if only so that the line between young players isn’t so blurry — I think it would be more accurate to have Horvat and Baertschi representing our top young players rather than prospects. But given those parameters I don’t have a problem with these rankings — Baertschi didn’t look the least out of place in his call-up nor in his time with the Comets. Should be a solid secondary scorer next year and if the vets can hold the line on what will likely be a challenging year we should at the least be competitive. I’d rather have a competitive learning environment where young players aren’t an unaffordable afterthought (Gillis years) or a disastrous oblivion (the Oilers/Islanders/Panthers lost decades)

  • The GREAT Walter White

    To get rid of the “ambiguity of requirements” the Flames site decided to define a “prospect” (for the purposes of this ranking) as a player who is eligible to win the Calder this year.

    Does Sven even really qualify as a “prospect”? I think that boat has sailed, no?

    WW

  • King Quong

    Although I know he’s going to bite the Flames in the behind I hope Baertschi really has success with you guys, he was the first flames prospect I really got excited for. My dad actually bought me a Baertschi jersey right before he was traded (after telling me not to for two years in case he flopped) Especially after Burkie decided it would be a good idea to publicly rip into Baertschi. anyways as a Flames fan enjoy Sven he’s going to put the puck in the net for you.

  • King Quong

    @Max B

    Sven was twenty-two last year, and played 15 games for the Flames scoring no goals. The year before as a twenty-one year old he scored 2 goals in 26 games.

  • RedMan

    I remember years ago when Sven was Calgary’s #1 prospect also.

    those were the days. Yes, those were the days when none of the prospects would ever make it to the NHL, and Sven was #1 of the bunch.

    and now he is STILL CONSIDERED A PROSPECT ALL THESE YEARS LATER? REALLY??

    all the talk about how the flames “handled” him… funny. all the “handling” issues came the season after Sven’s NHL debut; the next spring, he got bent out of shape when he was expected to participate in the young-stars/prospect tournament.he was pissy and showed up out of shape and with a chip on his shoulder. he was sent down to the AHL where he struggled due to attitude. then his daddy started spouting off in the news papers about his poor sven being mismanaged.

    Yes, the horrible Flames miss managed him by expecting him to earn his spot developing in the development league.

    Can he overcome his one dimensional play, poor defensive instincts and entitled attitude? maybe. Maybe not. but with all his raw offensive talent, he was passed over, and you think it was because people didn’t recognize his talent and give him his shot?

    Then his old man spouts off in the papers again, and says his son wants to be traded… sven denied it every time his daddy spouted off, but the writing was on the wall. Sven has an entitled attitude, and it soured him.

    in the same thread i see talk about how Vancouver is getting tougher, the new LA style, followed by how SVEN should be playing top line, will light it up, etc etc. talk about funny expectations.

  • mk

    Ugh, as a Flames fan, I’m still not excited about the way Sven’s time in Calgary went down. It seemed like they wanted to give him small bites of action, but the way it came out was that they thought his attitude wasn’t ready for the team. Not that I think attitude isn’t an issue, but the guy was clearly not the worst player, nor the worst attitude on the team. At the same time, the worst thing the team did was to tell him that he needed to work harder on certain aspects of the game (publicly) – not the smartest move, but hardly the worst.

    Good trade for the Canucks – Sven looks like he’ll have a decently productive NHL career once it gets going properly. He’ll need some time to adjust to a system, but he has fairly good two-way play and offensive talent. He has the potential to be a top line forward in the vein of an Eberle or Neal. If he struggles to get his scoring touch or two-way play in gear, he could settle to be a solid third line scoring depth forward.

    I don’t look forward to his scoring against the Flames in the future.