After going without a first round pick last year, and not always stocking up on a lot of skill in past years when they did, the Calgary Flames went out and brought in a legitimately skilled forward at Friday’s NHL Entry Draft here in Minnesota in the form of Sven Bartschi. The Portland Winterhawks product went to the Flames at 13th overall, and there’s reason to be legitimately excited about the 18 year old from Switzerland.
Why should you be excited? Well, before we get into hockey speak, I have to say that getting a chance to sit and chat with the kid in person, he’s pretty fun to be around. Bartschi is engaging and funny while being honest and forthcoming at the same time, especially when asked about hockey questions. From an off the ice perspective, Bartschi is a solid dude, which comes as no surprise.
I know the Flames were very impressed heading into the draft with the interviews they did with him, so I had a feeling they might lean towards Bartschi if he was still available at 13. Remember, the interview process is half the battle, and even though prospects these days are very well prepared, hockey ops guys know when someone is smart and they know when someone is BS’ing. And it’s not as if Bartschi didn’t count the Flames as a solid destination, either.
On the ice, yeah, there’s some work to do. But the guy has a ton of offensive skill, and there are very few guys in the Flames system right now that you can say the same thing about. If any. And it’s not just run of the mill offensive skill either. With Bartschi, you’re talking about one of the most high-end skilled players in the draft, a guy who is absolutely deadly from the offensive blueline in. But what really sold me was watching him throughout the WHL playoffs, and watching the guy compete.
No his defensive game isn’t necessarily what you’d call elite, but that takes time, and not a lot of guys enter their draft year with advanced two way play. However, one thing he does have is the desire to get better and the desire to keep working. "I love to be out there on the ice, and I play with a lot of passion," Bartschi told us on the air. "I think all the skill set, all the skating stuff is secondary if you don’t love the game, you’re not the same guy. I think that’s the biggest part for myself on the ice."
Bartschi has just one year of North American hockey under his belt, and he points to his season in Portland as a big reason why he never dogs it on the ice. "Especially over here, I mean, there was never a day I didn’t want to go to practice because I was tired or something," Bartschi told me. "I just wanted to be out there on the ice all the time, and I spent a lot of time after practice so I could work on little things."
We know the guy can score. After two seasons playing Swiss-B hockey, Bartschi put up 85 points in 66 games this past year in Portland, including 34 goals. He’d add ten more markers in the playoffs which helped him to 27 points in 23 games, as the Winterhawks came very close to winning the WHL crown. That said, we all realize there are things to work on.
He’s not the most physically imposing player, at just a hair under 5’11 and 175 pounds. He can add some more size and muscle, and he’ll have to to succeed at the next level, but seeing Bartschi evolve as a well rounded player is what will be most important. He took massive steps this year in Portland, and that’s probably where he’ll play next year as well, despite GM Jay Feaster saying they’ll give him a shot to play with the big club. Overall, Sven is probably a couple seasons away from making an impact in the NHL; but that’s okay. You’re supposed to develop your picks as a winning franchise, and if Bartschi is developed right, I think he’ll be a very good player for this team in the future.