CALGARY, AB -- The 2011-12 campaign has been an up-and-down affair for Calgary Flames 2011 first-round draft pick Sven Baertschi.
He started the season with a bang, scoring 17 points in his first eight games and being named the WHL's Player of the Week on Oct. 17 after he amassed seven points (three goals, four assists) in two games. His hot start was cut short, however, when he suffered a hip injury in mid-October that kept him out of action until early November.
In his first game back from the hip ailment, he scored three points and looked like he hadn't missed a single contest. As the World Junior Hockey Championships drew closer the Langenthal product was touted as Switzerland's best player but the Swiss team was limited to just two games with the winger in their lineup.
Baertschi suffered a concussion on Dec. 28 in a game against Sweden when he was checked during the first period. The malady not only forced him out of the tournament but he was sidelined from a few Winterhawks games last month.
"When I had the concussion, I kind of got scared," he admitted. "I was thinking about Crosby. Calgary took over then and said 'We want you to be 100 percent before you go back on the ice,' and exactly the same thing said the Portland management."
The 19 year-old returned to action on Jan. 16 and while he is feeling great now, his first few games back were played with a level of hesitancy.
"It was tough to come back after a head injury. It was tough to come back and play the same way you did before.
"For the first couple games, it was kind of weird. I was kind of scared going into battles 100 percent ... It's always somewhere in the back of your head - the concussion. If it happened then, then you're kind of scared now."
After getting a few games under his belt, he began to feel much more confident about his play. Every outing has been a step forward and has helped diminish the doubts Baertschi had when he returned.
"It needs time," he acknowledged. "The first game back, I didn't expect for myself to go in like crazy with hits and stuff. It's very hard to describe how you feel after a concussion and it just needs some time."
Even with the tentative play in his first few games back, Baertschi was still generating plenty of offence. He failed to collect points in only two of nine games since Jan. 16 and Baertschi kicked off this week with a four-point outing against the Vancouver Giants on Monday. He registered a hat trick and collected an assist in the 5-4 victory.
"I think the last two games I played, against Vancouver, those two games, I think they were really important for me. I felt I was totally now 100 percent back to normal. I felt really good going into battles and I had a lot of hits in the last couple games."
The winger is presently 15th in WHL scoring despite missing a substantial amount of time and continues to be a offensive powerhouse for the Winterhawks.
Baertschi is sitting second in team scoring with 70 points (20 goals, 50 assists) in 36 games with the Winterhawks. That puts him at a 1.94 points-per-game pace. In comparison, leading scorer Ty Rattie has notched 87 points in 50 games this season, equating to 1.94 points-per-game.
He has recorded 18 multi-point games this season and has potted multiple goals in five outings.
Baertschi, who is known for his unwavering work ethic, says his success boils down to a lot of hard work on and off the ice.
"Since I left Calgary, I saw how hard I have to work to make the team there," he stated. "The first couple games back (in September), I just wanted to make sure I do all the things I do out there on the ice the right way.
"I wanted to do everything perfect so I really worked on a lot of things during the season."
Moving forward, Baertschi knows exactly what he needs to focus on.
"Try to be a leader out there on ice and try to help out my teammates. That has helped me a lot during the season so far. I'm not too worried about points or anything.
"I think I've played with a lot of confidence this year and I just want to make sure I'm ready for next year."