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Niederreiter leads Swiss hopefuls for World Juniors

by Mike G. Morreale
If you believe no one pays attention to an inspiring performance on a non-medal winning team at the World Junior Championship, think again.
Switzerland's Nino Niederreiter is the poster boy for coming out of the woodwork at such an event.
It was Niederreiter's performance for Switzerland at the 2010 tournament that ultimately placed him in the cross-hairs of every scout and coach leading up to the 2010 Draft. He had 10 points in seven games, including the game-tying goal and the overtime winner in the quarterfinals against Russia, and was named to the tournament All-Star team. Sure, the Swiss finished fourth in the tournament, but "El Nino" had already accomplished what he set out to do.
He ultimately became the highest-drafted Swiss player in NHL history -- going fifth overall to the New York Islanders last June.
"I think Nino's legend did grow at World Juniors," his Western Hockey League coach in Portland, Mike Johnston, told "When we had a big game or a key moment, he was the type of player who wanted to be the guy on the ice. He wanted to be responsible whether we won or lost and you saw that at World Juniors. He came up big and became a little bit of figure in the tournament, playing in that underdog role … but always coming up big in the key moments."
Niederreiter hopes to lead Team Switzerland to even greater heights this year at the 2011 tournament in Buffalo and Niagara, N.Y., from Dec. 26-Jan. 5. The Swiss last medaled in the tournament in 1998, capturing bronze.
Niederreiter is one of eight returnees from last year's roster invited to the 28-player Swiss National Junior Team selection camp that begins Dec. 13 in Switzerland. He's joined by 2010 team members Benjamin Conz in goal, Luca Campershioli, Dominik Schlumpf and Ramon Untersander on defense and Ryan McGregor, Reto Schappi and Tristan Scherwey at forward. Players from the Canadian Hockey League will join the team at the camp in Oshawa , Ont., from Dec. 18-24, which includes two exhibition games.
Conz was named the best goalie at the 2010 WJC after leading the Swiss to an impressive upset of Slovakia with 39 saves in a 4-1 victory. He then stopped 50 of 52 shots in the victory over Russia in the tournament quarterfinals. He finished 3-4 with a 4.76 goals-against average and .893 save percentage in seven appearances. Meili is the No. 1-rated goalie according to NHL Central Scouting's preliminary rankings for Swiss players.
Niederreiter is also one of six Swiss players currently playing in the Canadian Hockey League to make the cut, including Portland teammate Sven Baertschi and Lino Martschini of the OHL's Peterborough Petes at forward and Schlumpf of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Shawinigan Cataractes, Dave Sutter of the Western Hockey League's Seattle Thunderbirds and Dario Trutmann of the OHL's Plymouth Whalers.
In addition to Baertschi, who is rated No. 2 among OHL players by Central Scouting, forwards Dean Kukan of GCK, Gregory Hofmann of Ambri-Piotta, Samuel Guerra of Davos and Alessio Bertaggia of Lugano are rated 1 through 4, respectively, among the Swiss contingent.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
GOALIES -- Benjamin Conz, Langnau (2011 Draft eligible); Remo Giovannini, Davos (2011 Draft eligible); Lukas Meili, U19 Switzerland (2011 Draft eligible).
DEFENSE -- Luca Camperchioli, Zurich (2011 Draft eligible); Samuel Erni, U19 Switzerland (2011 Draft eligible); Samuel Guerra, Davos (2011 Draft eligible); Dean Kukan, GCK (2011 Draft eligible); Romain Loeffel, Fribourg-Gotteron (2011 Draft eligible); Dominik Schlumpf, Shawinigan Cataractes, QMJHL (2011 Draft eligible); Nicholas Steiner, Kloten Flyers (2011 Draft eligible); Dave Sutter, Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL (2011 Draft eligible); Dario Trutmann, Plymouth Whalers, OHL (2011 Draft eligible); Ramon Untersander, Davos (2011 Draft eligible).
FORWARD -- Sven Baertschi, Portland Winterhawks, OHL (2011 Draft eligible); Alessio Bertaggia, Lugano (2011 Draft eligible); Renato Engler, Davos (2011 Draft eligible); Gaetan Haas, Biel (2011 Draft eligible); Yannick Herren, Kloten Flyers (2011 Draft eligible); Gregory Hofmann, Ambri-Piotta (2011 Draft eligible); Manuel Holenstein, Davos(2011 Draft eligible); Lino Martschini, Peterborough Petes, OHL (2011 Draft eligible); Ryan McGregor, GCK; Nino Niederreiter, Portland Winterhawks, OHL (Islanders); Inti Pestoni, Ambri-Piotta(2011 Draft eligible); Joel Reymondin, Davos (2011 Draft eligible); Reto Schappi, Zurich (2011 Draft eligible); Tristan Scherwey, Bern (2011 Draft eligible); Joel Vermin, Bern (2011 Draft eligible).
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