By DraftPro Staff

The IIHF World U18 Hockey Championships just wrapped up last week in Espoo and Vantaa Finland, and was a scouting hotspot as a last big event for NHL staffs who are charged with evaluating the next wave of NHL talent.

There were some bright spots for the upcoming 2024 NHL draft that stood out and some future draft eligibles that really grabbed the spotlight. In this ten-part series we will look at each team entry and provide some review of prospects, how they performed and how their performance might have affected their draft stock. We will start with the last place team, Kazakhstan, and work our way through to the gold medal winning Canadian squad.

The Swiss team came in with arguably the most talent we have seen at this event from them ever with more than a few projected draft picks dotting their roster. And they did not disappoint as they finished in seventh place out of a ten-team field.

Here are some player reports from our Seth Ditchfield on the Swiss U18 players that stood out.

23 D, LEON MUGGLI, (EV Zug, NL) 6’0, 176, L, DOB: 7.9.2006
It cannot be overstated just how critical Leon Muggli was for this roster, serving as a catalyst who was likely to be one of the most active players in the entire tournament. Muggli started off the tournament strong, but unfortunately, he had to leave game 3 with an injury and did not return. Despite being somewhat of a hidden gem due to the smaller market he plays in, he secured a solid and permanent role on Zug’s Swiss NL team. Muggli isn’t a towering presence; instead, he opts to use his core strength wisely, playing low to the ice to maximize his strength, and defending intelligently with his active and robust stick, as well as positional awareness. He is a safe, yet productive player, not the most flashy or dynamic, but possessing an incredible ability to move the puck to high-danger areas. Muggli demonstrated his excellent skating in this tournament, able to stop and start on a dime, and catch defenders off-guard with plenty of rush opportunities, fully showcasing his transition strength. He exits the zone with crisp, solid passes, and is always engaged and tactically sound away from the puck. He’s been one of the most mature and intelligent defenders in this draft, and the same continued to be true for Team Switzerland.

26 D, DANIIL USTINKOV, (GCK Lions, SL) 6’1, 201, L, DOB: 8.26.2006
Daniil Ustinkov is a case of talent versus execution. He had a prime opportunity to step up after Leon Muggli’s injury, yet he failed to take advantage. Ustinkov is a strong skater with fluid edges and great stickhandling under pressure. However, he often tries to do too much, especially in the neutral zone or when exiting the zone, leading to turnovers. His slow backchecking has often resulted in creating odd-man rushes against his team. Despite these issues, Ustinkov showcased incredible composure under pressure, consistently making solid first passes and proving his worth as a notable transition defender. His lack of explosiveness and faulty decision-making was apparent, as he struggled to control the tempo and was easily outmaneuvered by opponents who would simply dump the puck or pass it around him, despite his near unbeatability in one-on-one situations. Offensively, the tournament didn’t go well either, finishing with just one assist, he was unable to consistently generate offensive opportunities due to his decision-making flaws. Ustinkov’s potential remains high, but his performance likely lowered his draft stock. Moving forward, his challenge will be to improve his decision-making and play with significantly more intensity and competitiveness than he showed in this tournament.

4 D, GIAN MEIER, (GCK Lions, U20-Elit) 6’2, 168, R, DOB: 7.10.2006
What a story Gian Meier was in this tournament, he found a gap in the Swiss defense and leveraged it to significantly boost his draft stock. A defensive defenseman with only 3 goals in 60 games, Meier showed off some offense by scoring 2 goals and racking up 4 points in just 5 games, leading the Swiss roster. His defensive talent shone even in tough matches against Canada, where he was a bulwark, effectively using his strength to box out forwards, enhance his gap control, and aggressively play the corners. As Meier continues to bulk up, his presence in these areas will only grow stronger. Offensively, he showcased his abilities by smoothly transitioning the puck, supporting rushes with robust 4-way skating, and confidently taking shots from the point. His rapid decision-making and evolving offensive vision marked a significant development in his game, contributing heavily not just defensively but offensively, playing crucial minutes in all situations and logging over 20 minutes per game.

19 RW, KIMI KOERBLER, (Ottawa 67’s, OHL) 5’11, 168, L, DOB: 9.25.2006
A spark in a quiet Swiss team, Kimi Koerbler (2 goals, 5 games) wasn’t a scoring machine, but his thrilling bursts made him a standout. With elite skating speed, Koerbler kept up with the fastest, winning puck battles and showcasing a heavy shot. His hands stayed sure under pressure, fueling his aggressive style. However, inconsistency plagued him. Passes lacked zip and variety, and his game became predictable at times. Koerbler can dominate stretches, but then disappear. For early draft consideration in 2025, consistency is key.

1 G, CHRISTIAN KIRSCH, (Zug, U20-Elit) 6’3, 176, L, DOB: 6.18.2006
With no shortage of activity from Day 1, Christian Kirsch was a beacon of reliability in net, showcasing his blend of tactical intelligence. Kirsch is adept at covering the lower half of the net, as he’s very prominent in a split, and fluid from post to post. He’s a big presence during breakaway action, covering large portions of the net and forcing a deke. However, Kirsch also struggled with vision and technical talent. He let in some clean floater shots from the point due to screens, and the puck would slip through him when he was cleanly in position and ready. Despite the negatives, Kirsch has a solid frame and intelligence to build off of, making him one of the higher-upside goaltenders in the class.

7 LD, BASILE SANSONNENS, (Fribourg-Gottéron, U20-Elit) 6’3, 198, L, DOB: 8.19.2006
Basile Sansonnens is hardly an offensive dynamo, yet he stands out as a promising shutdown defenseman with solid 4-way skating, notably effective in backward crossovers and edgework. Despite his physical approach, particularly effective along the boards, he struggles against fast wingers and needs to boost his backward speed and physical assertiveness. During penalty kills, while he identifies passing lanes well, his blocking execution is lacking. Sansonnens must also refine his physical presence; his body checks often lack impact, necessitating further bulking up. Despite these areas for improvement, his potential as a reliable defenseman is evident, making him a valuable later-round pick.

18 LW, ROBIN NICO ANTENEN, (Zug, U20-Elit) 6’2, 190, L, DOB: 5.21.2006
Robin Antenen improved as the tournament went along, showing a strong work ethic away from the puck and a large presence on the ice. Known for his aggressive approach to puck battles, Antenen does a great job pressuring opponents on both forechecks and backchecks. While he lacks top speed, he’s persistent and competitive. He needs to improve his overall 4-way speed, particularly his first step, as it’s quite slow. Despite being quite strong, he doesn’t fully leverage that strength yet. I can see the potential for a strong bottom 6 player, with a strong shot, making him someone teams may target with a late-round pick.

6 C, JAMIRO REBER, (HV71, J20 Nationell) 5’10, 176, L, DOB: 9.4.2006
Jamiro Reber showed off a quick first step and held onto the puck well at top speed. He displayed impressive rush-shooting skills, creating numerous scoring chances every chance he got. His offensive style, though predictable, involved shooting at every opportunity from any angle, as well as handling the puck well in motion. He’s a strong transition player who became increasingly better at distributing the puck as the tournament progressed, though his playmaking ability still needs further development. At times, Reber struggled against tight defensive pressure, notably from Canada. As one of the youngest players in the draft, he has potential. To realize this potential, he needs to improve his agility, decision-making, and overall offensive variety to break through tougher systems.

3 LD, LUDVIG JOHNSON, (Zug, U20-Elit) 5’10, 174, L, DOB: 7.27.2006
Ludvig Johnson jumped into game action after the Leon Muggli injury, and he continued to show the intrigue he did in league games. He’s not the biggest, strongest, or most aware in his defensive end, but he was the most flashy in the offensive zone. He moves the puck extremely well in all 3 zones, he’s a great 4-way skater and pinches at all times. He got a secondary assist in his first shift against the Swedes and continued to impress with his puck skills in motion, as well as offensive zone possession. Johnson has a lot to work on: strength, defensive awareness, stick strength and awareness, rush defense, and more. However, I believe he’s an intriguing option to pick in the late rounds due to the potential he shows.

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