They may be thousands of kilometres from their native Zurich, but Tim Wieser and Kay Schweri feel a little closer to home when the Sherbrooke Phoenix faithful wave the flag of Switzerland at Palais des Sports.
"It's just an amazing feeling to see that we've won over some Canadian fans here," said Wieser, who, when combined with Schweri, makes up an unstoppable Swiss dynamic duo that's been turning heads in the QMJHL this season. "We are really proud to see them waving the Switzerland flag."
Wieser, in his second year with the Phoenix, is tearing through opposing goaltenders like wet paper towel. The 19-year-old currently leads all QMJHL and CHL scorers with 22 goals through 20 regular-season games. His credits his sophomore success ? which carries with it an eye-popping shooting percentage of 29.7 ? to an off-season focused on improving his shot.
But his improved production also owes thanks to Schweri, his rookie linemate, fellow countryman and longtime friend, who's assisted on more than half of Wieser's goals and himself leads all Quebec League players with 30 helpers.
In this potent one-two punch, Schweri is the rigger and Wieser is trigger.
"He's a very good passer, that's the best thing about him," is how Wieser describes Schweri, a 17-year-old who was skating in the Elite Jr. A Swiss League a year ago.
"He's a scorer, a real scorer," is Schweri's assessment of the Wieser.
Mixed with top end Phoenix talent that includes projected 2015 NHL first-rounder Jeremy Roy and Montreal Canadiens draft pick Daniel Audette, the Swiss wingers have been the difference that has thrust Sherbrooke from a middling team to the top of the West Division.
Heading into Friday's contest against Blainville-Boisbriand, Wieser had scored in all but six games this season, and potted four in his last outing against Rouyn-Noranda last week. Scherwi, who was tied for third in league scoring with 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists) heading into weekend play, had been held off the score sheet only four times.
With their continued success, you'd never guess that both players got out to rocky starts in their respective major junior careers as they tried to adjust to life on this side of the Atlantic.
Wieser had a tough time settling in when he first arrived in Sherbrooke for training camp last season, after the Phoenix took him in the second round of the 2013 CHL import draft.
He's a family guy, so being away from home, largely by himself, and in an English and French-speaking environment (both Wiser and Schweri 's mother tongue is German) left him feeling isolated.
"He came here and he didn't really speak any English or French," said Sherbrooke general manager Patrick Charbonneau. "Through 15 games, he maybe had five points."
But, Charbonneau continued, Wieser resolved to learn English, and as he gained a better command of the language, he started to better mesh with his teammates, eventually leading to a solid 44-point rookie season.
Fast-forward to this season, Wieser is now taking French courses, and he's already communicating with his francophone teammates in their first language in the dressing room. Heading into play Friday, he had 34 points (22-12).
Charbonneau is convinced that Wieser's progress has helped along the younger Schweri, who also struggled at his first training camp and pre-season after being selected in the first round of the import draft this summer.
"If you would've told me in September that Kay would have a (team-leading) 36 points right now, I'd call you crazy," said Charbonneau. "Tim has helped out a lot. It makes a big difference for how they've adjusted."
The dynamic duo have, at least, played themselves into the conversation surrounding the Swiss national team ahead of the upcoming world junior championships, said their GM.
"I don't choose for the Swiss team," said Charbonneau. "But I think they would be part of the discussion."
Both have national team experience and Wieser trained with the U20 program last year. It will be tough to deny him spot considering he leads this county's major junior ranks in scoring.
"I think we have a good chance to go there, we've been playing a good season so far, so we'll just see what happens," he said.