Mon Apr 25 08:46am EDT
Portland Winterhawks left-winger Sven Bartschi has continued to impress throughout his rookie season in the Western Hockey League.
After spending last year in the Swiss-B league, Bartschi decided to follow in the footsteps of his fellow Swiss countryman Nino Niederreiter to look for opportunities in North America.
"I was still in Switzerland when Nino came over here last year," said Bartschi. "And in mid-season I talked to him on Facebook and he told me it was great to be over here and he felt he was so much closer to the National Hockey League playing over here. And watching his highlights I knew he was getting better over here."
After coming over to the WHL, Bartschi adjusted his game from the European style to more of a North American style.
"When I came over here I changed my game from the European game to the North American game," Bartschi said. "I like the style of the North American game because its fast, physical and exciting."
Bartschi scored 34 goals and 85 points in 66 regular season games and 14 points in 11 post-season games.
Along with his offensive flair, Bartschi is also known for playing with an edge. The native of Langenthal, Switzerland, is often involved in scums after the whistle, sometimes playing the role of agitator on the ice. This style of play has landed Bartschi in the penalty box on several occasions, racking up 74 penalty minutes throughout the season.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward was ranked sixth among North American Skaters by NHL's Central Scouting Service. These rankings placed Bartschi ahead of several notable prospects, including Ryan Strome of the Niagara Ice Dogs and Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers.
After the New York Islanders selected Nino Niederreiter fifth overall in last year's entry draft - one must wonder if the Islanders, who hold the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft, will try their luck with another Swiss native from the Portland Winterhawks.
1. How did you get involved in hockey while you were growing up in Switzerland?
"My dad played hockey before me and he put me out on the ice and that's how I started hockey."
2. What part of your game do you feel you need to work on the most?
"I need to work on all parts of my game, like my shot, skating and speed. I'm not perfect and I'm not in the NHL, so I need to keep on getting better."
3. Do you feel you play an agitator role?
"Especially in the playoffs a couple players from the other team would try and take me out by trying to make me take penalties. Sometimes I'm in battles out there, but I wouldn't say I'm an agitator.
4. Do you model your game after a player in the National Hockey League?
"Not really, its just when I see players like (Pittsburgh Penguins) Sidney Crosby I try to learn from those guys. Like (Detroit Red Wings) Pavel Datsyuk's dangles out there, I try them out in practice and then later I try to bring them into a game."
5. Growing up who was your favourite National Hockey League team?
"My favourite NHL team is the Pittsburgh Penguins. I like the way they play and I like the players they have in Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Max Talbot. It's just like I grew up having a teddy bear that was a penguin and I liked that. Then I grew up and one day I was a Pittsburgh Penguins fan. And it was cool to see all those years that they almost were kicked out of the league because they had a poor arena and then they came back and won the Stanley Cup."
Kelly Friesen is a Western Hockey League writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on twitter @KellyFriesen