After watching his three games in Penticton, it's hard to believe Baertschi is only 18 years old. In a tournament rife with 20-22 year olds, Baertschi looked miles ahead of most of the older guys on any squad. He was confident with the puck, wasn't afraid to battle away for space in the front of the net and was never hesitant about playing the body.
In short, when he was on the ice, you couldn't help but notice him.
"I guess my first thought would be he's electric," said Abbotsford Heat head coach Troy Ward. "Things happen around him. I think you feel his presence as a human being off the ice. You feel his presence on ice, whether he's doing a drill or whether he's talking to you.
"There's some electricity to that guy. You certainly feel it in his skates and his stick."
That electricity was on display throughout the tournament. While unable to produce offensively against the Sharks or Canucks, his compete level never dipped below the 100 per cent mark in either contest. He was hard on the puck and created havoc in the offensize zone with his speed and skill.
On Wednesday night against a very talented Oilers squad, Baertschi was by far the most dominant player on the ice. He notched two goals and had an assist in the 4-3 victory over the Flames provincial rivals and was very solid in the neutral zone and his own end.
Baertschi credited his linemates - Max Reinhart and Patrick Holland - for his success at the tournament.
"Both guys, they have so much talent. They can play defence, they can play offence. A lot skill. They want to score goals and me too."
The pivot's stock has rapidly risen over the past year thanks to his incredible season with Kootenay Ice. Over 71 regular season games, Reinhart found the back of the net 34 times and notched 79 points. His two-way game didn't suffer with that offensive outburst either as he entered the postseason with a +30 rating.
His progression didn't stall on the Ice's journey to the Memorial Cup. He had 15 goals and 27 points in 19 postseason dates before posting a single marker and six points in his five Memorial Cup tournament appearances.
According to Ward, Reinhart's greatest strength is his vision and his performance in Penticton reinforces that statement. Despite never having played with Baertschi and Holland, Reinhart had instant chemistry with the wingers and seemed to know exactly where they would be every time they stepped on the ice.
"Often times I'll talk about vision as far back as 5:00 and 7:00, like really good players can see behind them. Max has a great feel for the game. He understands time and space."
Reinhart's puck management is also a major asset. He's very unselfish when it comes to puck possession and understands how beneficial it is to use his linemates on the cycle rather than trying to do everything by himself.
"If you watch a lot of guys at this level, even a lot of guys in this particular tournament that are young players, they don't share it often enough," said Ward. "Then it's hard to blend in with better players. I would expect to see Max, if Max played on the 20th in an exhibition for the Flames, I'd expect to see him with good players and he'll do just fine because he understands the concept of sharing."
|Patrick Holland |
Evidently the confidence Holland gained from attending the Team Canada world junior development camp this summer carried over to the Young Stars tournament because the Flames seventh-round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft was playing at another level in Penticton.
Holland was placed on the top line for the Flames last two games in Penticton and he didn't look out of place at all. He, Reinhart and Baertschi were the perfect mix of grit and skill, making them the Flames most effective unit throughout the entire tournament.
"I'm pretty honoured to play with those two guys," Holland said. "They're obviously great players and I felt really comfortable with them."
Neither of the 19 year-old's two goals against the Canucks on Monday could be called fancy by any stretch of the imagination but that doesn't bother Holland a bit.
"I'll take anything," he chuckled. "They both just kind of chipped over the goalie. Our line had good battle. We got to the net."
Ward praised Holland's line for the level of compete they brought each shift, stating the rest of his squad could take a cue from the three youngsters.
"They play at a high pace," said Ward. "That's the part I really like about them. They don't play a slow game. Like for young kids out there, they're playing at a higher pace than some of our guys who have a little more experience."