Nashville Predators chief amateur scout Jeff Kealty remembers when he began to observe a change in the level of quality in Switzerland's national teams, particularly at the amateur level.
It was August 2007 and Kealty was at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, one of the top under-18 tournaments in the world. He noticed the way Swiss defenseman Roman Josi competed against Canada forward Steven Stamkos, who already was the consensus top pick in the coming NHL Draft. Kealty saw that Josi, who the Predators ended up selecting in the second round (No. 38) in 2008, was not at all intimidated playing against Stamkos.
Last season, Josi logged 26:25 in time on ice per game, ranking him fifth in the NHL, and he has grown into one of Nashville's foundational players. Overall, nine players from Switzerland spent time in the League in 2013-14. Nashville was the only franchise that had two Swiss players it signed and developed. The other is center Simon Moser, who played for Switzerland's Olympic team. The Predators signed Moser, now 25, to a free-agent contract last summer.
The Predators went back to the Swiss with the 11th pick in the 2014 draft and took center Kevin Fiala.