Sven Baertschi Impressions



It’s no secret I’m a guy who tends to look at the forest rather than the trees when it comes to hockey analysis. I’m going to supress that habit this one time to share my very early impressions of Sven Baertschi however. With appropriate caveats attached, of course.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The kid has appeared in three games, and, famously, already collected a couple of goals. We obviously can’t expect him to score in two out of three contests going forward, but the tallies themselves were good indications of his abilities.

For the first, Baertschi established himself in position in front of the net, deflty tipped a point-shot between his legs and then spun around and immediately deposited the rebound behind the sprawling goaltender.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

His second marker last night was similar:

Baertschi keeps the play alive in the offensive end and then follows the puck to net and deposits a rebound.

Of course, anyone looks good while they’re scoring goals. The real issue for youngsters is how they play everywhere else on the ice. Here are some of my notes on Baertschi’s overall efforts so far:

– He appears neither intimidated nor hesitant. For a lot of rookies, the speed, size and aggression of the league is so overwhelming at first that they spend a a lot of time trying to avoid the puck, minimize board battles and just try not to screw up too badly. Baertschi, on the other hand, looks hungry for the puck and eager to engage opponents all over the ice. He has attempted moves (both unsuccessful and succesful) and already appears relatively comfortable.

– One big positive I’ve noticed is his ability to gain entry into the offensive zone so far. A lot of kids (and heck, many vets) will throw the puck at the net or into the corner at the smallest hint of pressure in the neutral zone or around the blueline. This was one of Backlund’s big failings when he was a rookie for instance. 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Baertschi, however, has shown the ability to carry it in or thread passes through coverage so the Flames are able to attack with possession rather than having the dump the puck in and try to regain it. It takes a certain level of both skill and poise to make good plays on the rush at the offensive blueline Baertschi is already showing those off as a teen.

– This one is highly subjective, but Baertschi frequently seems "central" to the play and therefore readily noticable whenever he’s on the ice. In many other instances in the recent past I’ve had to strain to notice certain hopefuls on the ice: Kris Chucko, Eric Nystrom, Greg Nemisz, etc. In part because they often didn’t much ice time, but also because they played very minimal, bland, periphery games. Baertschi, on the other hand, anticipates the pucks path and actively moves to involve himself in the play. On a good shift, he’s one of those guys who seems to be "everywhere" on the ice. 

– In terms of mechnics, I’d say Baertschi is very quick but not "fast", at least not in the same sense as, say, Taylor Hall, who seems to have another gear relative to other NHLers. Which isn’t to say skating is a weakness – he’s just not going to win races against the fasest guys in the league.

Also, although he’s been dubbed small, Baertschi dosn’t appear under-sized or overmatched so far, perhaps because he skates with a wide stance and lower center of gravity. I think Brent Sutter agrees because the kid’s ice time has climbed in each subsequent game so far (9:08, 10:41, 14:06). 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

– Overall I’ve been very impressed. I can’t remember the last Flames forward who came in and looked similarly comfortable right out of junior. I guess that’s a small subset of players since so few Calgary prospects actually make that leap – Jarome Iginla is probably the only Flames choice to do it in recent memory.

Mikael Backlund is the best Clagry forward prospect of the last decade and Sven looks several steps ahead of him at the same age. Again, that’s just by eye and we’re only talking about three games here which is a terribly small sample to judge any player, but you work with the information you have.

Right now, I now fully expect Baertschi to make the big club full time next season. I won’t rule out a brief stint in the minor at some point, but I assume he’ll spend the majority of the time as a Calgary Flame.

Other News

– Leland Irving was recalled from Abbotsford today. Expect him to get the start against the Oilers on Friday. His recall means the Flames have just one left (absent any more emergencies) for the rest of the regular season.

– Krys Kolanos was predictably demoted thanks to the return of Blake Comeau today as well. I didn’t mind Kolanos as a deth option, even though he clearly had his warts (below average skating). I liked his instincts with the puck around the net and thought he probably deserved a few more points than he picked up. I can reasonably say there are worse players drawing regular pay checks in the league than Krys. Good luck to him and maybe he can fill a similar role for the team next year.

– TJ Brodie is apparently feeling better and getting close to a return. Also skating according to Roger Millions this morning were Jackman, Stempniak, Bouma and Butler. The Flames may actually ice a full NHL team before the season ends.

– Still hurt long-term are Backlund, Jones and Cammalleri. We know what’s wrong with the first two, but the team has been very quiet about the Cammy injury. I assume it’s a concussion because he was hit in the head with a puck, but that’s mere speculation.


  • Resolute

    One thing I’ve noticed from the 300s with Baertschi is that when away from the puck, he tends to slide into those key scoring areas without drawing anyone with him. His first goal was a direct result of that. The other Flames player with a knack for that is Jarmoe.

    It is easy to gush about Sven right now because he is succeeding while being sheltered. But it is already fairly easy to see that he’s got a few hundred goals in him.

  • Very good analysis and I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Baertschi’s play. Like you said, I really didn’t expect to see him attack like he does and on both of his goals so far its because he got himself into a position to be a threat; an open area of the ice not on the outside.

    I fully expected him to play in Abbotsford next season but these three games are starting to lead me to believe he could make the jump sooner than I thought.

    Let’s say this continues in Phx and Edm this week if he plays both. Do you think the Flames would consider burning his first year? I hope not, myself, but I wouldn’t put anything past Flames mgmt.

  • Resolute

    The Flames won’t, and can’t, burn his first year. Baertschi must return to junior when another forward becomes healthy. Regardless, since the Flames are at 50 active contracts, they can’t play him a 10th game because his contract would then become active. This would contravene the CBA. This includes playoff games. There is no scenario where Baertschi plays more than nine games, even if the team was foolish enough to want to burn a year for no great reason.

  • Resolute

    Baertschi looks really good, even though it’s only been a couple of games. Looks like he won’t get in the lineup Thursday, but at least he’ll go on a very long playoff stretch with the Winterhawks, just like last year. This year however, he very well could be playoff MVP, barring any injuries.

  • loudogYYC

    Nice article Kent, agree with what you’re saying and as much as we all like how black and white statistical analysis can be, it’s good to look at the team subjectively, sometimes.

    Being a big soccer fan, it’s easy for me to pick out a difference maker on the pitch because the pace of play is much slower (don’t hate, there’s a reason it’s the most popular sport on Earth), whereas in hockey, the speed of the game or a teams speed as a unit can confuse you and make you think Ville Leino is a $4.5M player…

    Point is, Baertschi already seems to me like a central player that craves the puck and makes players around him better. Kinda like a Xavi or Iniesta from FC Barcelona, for those of you who follow.

    Being a young kid, it’s really hard to tell what he’ll be like in 3 to 5 years but it looks promising, I’m glad to see some good raw talent on this team again.

    Sorry about the soccer reference!

  • Mitch2

    Great article Kent, mirrors a lot of my initial first impressions as well. I’d add he has a finishing shot as well, as in he seems calm and able to control his shot to vertically lift it at will.

    That calmness in the shooting moment is something rarely seen for a rookie and I like you am genuinely excited about this kid based on what I have seen so far…

    • xis10ce

      I love that twice now he’s had the presence of mind to pick his shot location and score rather than just getting excited, swiping at the puck and hoping for the best.

      Maybe it’s just me but it seems like he’s been adjusting his game to suit that of the NHL very fast. He is still trying to deke 1v1 but less than in the first game vs WPG. I think he is very quickly realizing some of the ‘moves’ that work in the WHL don’t in the NHL and he’s adapting. Then again maybe it’s all in my head and I’m seeing what I want to see.

  • wawful

    “Krys Kolanos was predictably demoted thanks to the return of Blake Comeau today as well. I didn’t mind Kolanos as a deth option, even though he clearly had his warts (below average skating). I liked his instincts with the puck around the net and thought he probably deserved a few more points than he picked up. I can reasonably say there are worse players drawing regular pay checks in the league than Krys. Good luck to him and maybe he can fill a similar role for the team next year.”

    Kolanos isn’t a great skater, but he’s smart enough to get to dangerous places. My biggest problem with him is his shot. On more than one occasion he’s had the opposing goalie beat cold and all he had to do was raise the puck just a little, or even just shoot for the far side of the net. Invariably, he sends a flat softy right into the pads of the keeper. Whenever he’s on a 2-on-1 his wristers seem to just be sucked into the team-logo of whatever keeper he’s facing.

    I haven’t seen him playing for the Heat, but his ppg in the AHL is impressive (for the Heat at least). Do his finishing skills look better in the AHL? I wonder if perhaps he just needs to learn when to be a little patient with the puck in spite of how much less time and space there is in the NHL.

  • Resolute

    It’s great a see a young player who have the confidence Sven does. He probably would not have played like this in October had he stuck around with the big boys. The great season he is having in the dub only added to his confidence and made him a better player. This brief audition will hopefully serve management and coaches that Sven is ready for the prime time next season and that he should be in a top six role with meaningful minutes. If he plays 3rd or 4th line minutes, let him tear it up in the AHL.

    Sven looks like a player who is willing to take calculated chances instead of staying in the position where he is “supposed” to be all shift long. He moves around looking for the puck and wants it on his stick. I think the Flames’ management job is find him a centreman to play with Sven in the future. Forget the centreman for Iggy.

  • xis10ce

    He looks good no doubt…although if management have him stay down for another year of conditioning…I don’t think Flames fans should be disappointed. With so few top-notch prospects, you have to do the right thing…that being said, it looks like he could play himself onto the team out of training camp…

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    He’s Feaster’s draft pick. If (when) Feaster is GM next year, then Sven will be in the line up. Feaster seems to have a penchant for promoting “his” players while trying to eliminate Sutter’s. For example, callups of Horak, Byron. Cutting Pelech, demoting Negrin, etc.

    He’s even stated publicly that this is a player that will “likely be on our roster next year” or something to that effect.

    I don’t think any of you thinking he’ll spend significant time in the A should be surprised when he doesn’t play a single game there. I for one will be surprised if he does, given Feaster’s track record.

    Not saying I disagree – I for one want to see him on the big team next year. I just think its all but foregone conclusion where he plays at this point.

  • RexLibris

    A couple of things: Fast is good, but quick is often better. Fast gets to the puck, but quick is often what enables a player to do something with it once he’s there. Ray Whitney may not be fast, but he is quick (and intelligent) and as a result he has had a long and productive career.

    With Comeau becoming healthy, don’t the Flames have to send Baertschi back to the WHL? As I understood emergency callups, they were the first ones to be returned when a similar skater (forward, defence, goal) became available. Curious about that one.

    Finally, I saw this quote in the paper on the weekend and had to get your response, Kent. It was Brian Burke (yeah, sorry) talking about advanced statistics where he says, and I’m paraphrasing here: “advanced stats for hockey are like a lampost to a drunk, good for support, but not really illuminating”.

    I’m not a stats guy, but I personally hope Burke keeps thinking that way as long as he is the GM of the Leafs.

    P.S. I thought I should mention, I read the comments code the other day and just wanted to pass along my thanks for having them so clearly outlined. That’s great to see here and I wish more blogs, regardless of topic, were as strict.

      • Resolute

        Actually, it is position specific. A team must be able to field 2 goaltenders, 6 defencemen and 12 forwards. They can choose to play a defenceman at forward (as we did with Babchuk a few games ago) or vice versa, but as long as we are less than that number available per position, we can use an emergency recall.

        Comeau has returned, so when one of the other injured forwards comes back, Sven has to go to Portland.

    • On Burke: I don’t know how much of what he says publicly I take seriously. He seems to mix lies and truth pretty liberally.

      That said, if he’s being honest…well, good luck to him.

      I can’t think of another industry or endeavor outside of sports where major decision makers say, essentially “collecting and analyzing outcomes to better inform our decisions is useless.”

  • the forgotten man

    How tall is Baertschi again? Button and Connie look like they tower over him…he actually looks really tiny in that picture or is it just me…I love his play and my only worry for him in the bigs is his durability due to smaller size.

    • He’s about 5’11”.

      I haven’t done any systematic study or anything, but I don’t really notice a correlation between size and durability in the league. Injuries seem to be scattered amongst the NHL population more or less at random.

      • RexLibris

        Two examples could be a career comparison of Nik Antropov and Ray Whitney. Antropov went through a period where he had consistent ankle and shoulder issues while Whitney has been more or less healthy for the majority of his career.

        This is why I could never understand why so many media personalities would be so casual in their declarations that Nugent-Hopkins wouldn’t survive in the NHL until he got bigger.

        I have to say though, I was thinking the same thing about Baertschi’s size when I saw that photo. I don’t remember Conroy ever being that tall so…

        In response to the Burke topic, yeah, I think he tends to like to feint and dodge a little with his statements to the media. Probably in the belief that if he never gives them an honest answer then they’ll never know (and by extension his opposing GMs) what he’s really thinking. Then again maybe he just likes to lie. He is a lawyer by trade.

        If he wants to ignore advanced stats entirely, that’s fine by me. Back in the 60s the Leafs scouting department received a call from a local minor hockey coach (back in the days of territorial draft protection) about a young defenceman that they should really come out and take a look at. The scouts refused because it was too long a drive and so the young man went into the draft where the Bruins selected him and gave him the number 4 to wear. You’d think the Leafs would learn never to ignore any lead.

  • Kent, ever seen the opening act of Airplane II? They’re in the courtroom for Robert Hays’ committment hearing, and John Vernon is on the stand. Prosecutor says, “Doctor, could you give use your impression of Mr. Stryker?” And Vernon says, “I’m sorry, I don’t do impressions, my training is in psychology.”

    What I’m trying to say is that this post wasn’t what I thought from my first look at the header.

    Anyway, on Sven, I agree on pretty much every count; hard to say how good he’s gonna be, but the arrows are ALL up right now.

  • MC Hockey

    Hey Kent, the title is fine (this is not a comedy website) and I think you are mostly right on except I did find Sven tentative in game 1. He really does seem to have good vision, hockey sense, enthusiasm, a hard- working natue ppre about him as he strives to always get better. Gotta give props to Feaster and co for drafting him and yes I believe because hie is a feaster draft pick he is highly likely to be be on the big club next year sort of like how Horak (obtained in trade by Feaster for some loser defenseman) was a lock to stay with aFLAMERS this year (with his play having leveled off in last 40 games). Oh yeah, check your email!

  • Irony of recent Irving recall is he has apparently been lit up since going back down to the Heat. 17 GA in 5 games or something. his SV% has fallen to .908 in the AHL as a result.

    Of course, the Heat are barely an AHL quality squad at this point thanks to all the call-ups, but…

  • Truculence

    Best prospect of the last decade, huh. That would mean since 2002. Phaneuf was drafted in 2003, and despite his shortcomings is a better hockey player at his position than Backlund, imo. But Backlund still has great upside, his present woes nothwithstanding.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Kent specified “best forward prospect.” I don’t think he’d disagree on Phaneuf at the same age (I believe that was prior to him falling off a cliff, only to reemerge like a Frankenstein-faced phoenix).

  • PrairieStew

    I mostly agree with the article written by Kent Willson.

    Yet he starts with : we cannot expect him to score 2 goals in the coming 3 games.

    this has been inspired by a statistical return to the mean view. Not by what was seen on the ice.

    I wouldn’t be surprised that he scores them. He will have more ice time, more PP time and possibly better line mates.

  • RexLibris

    There’s no point in him being in the AHL. He’ll just tear it up there and then what?

    Guy is the real deal. Yeah, it’s only three games, but in those three games it’s blindly obvious that he’s better than the bottom six forwards on our team in terms of offense.

    • Jeff Lebowski

      to fill out his frame against lesser opponents, likely. also, get adapted to the pro style of game since he’s still making a ton of whl-type mistakes.

      • Jeff Lebowski

        But he’s producing at the NHL level. Every player makes mistakes however I’ll live with Sven’s if he putting the puck in the net or creating offense.

        In fact I wanted him to start the year on a third line with Backlund (and at the time I wanted Byron). Just a dynamic offensive line to attack against opponents 3-4 line.

        Bartschi belongs. Of course he’s gonna have his ups and downs but the trade off is dynamic offense, goal scoring which is the scarcest commodity at this level..and he’s doing it in very meaningful intense games.

        No way he should be in AHL.

      • Jeff Lebowski

        He might as well fill out his frame here. He’s got 6.5 months of growing anyhow before the start of next season.

        So he’s making WHL mistakes. It’s no worse than, say, Iginla still cherry picking this late in the season.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    After his first game I could see how good he is:

    Edit | Reply #11 Jeff Lebowski March 10 2012, 11:24AM
    +1 0 props

    I thought Sven played quite well, all things considered. He was going to be nervous but it didn’t show. Sven was dangerous. He clearly tried to make things happen, sometimes they fizzled out before registering in a shot but he wants to attack.

    He would get the puck and accelerate. He was quick to get on guys if there were any 50-50 puck opportunities (Buf, Jones). You can see he’s a guy who thinks he should have the puck all the time. He’ll learn fast how to balance that and be effective.

    I also noticed he came back hard into the zone and tried to get pucks off guys (a little Datsyuk mindset).

    Basically he is a competitor, a fearless one. I’m very happy as the best offensive guys are the relentless ones.