Mirco Mueller, the Sharks top draft pick, was born and raised in Switzerland, and his country is beginning to make more of an impression on the National Hockey League as the years go on.
As of today, there are seven Swiss skaters playing in the NHL, and the Sharks have faced three teams with Swiss natives on the roster: Vancouver (Yannick Weber), Calgary (Sven Baertschi and Reto Berra), and Montreal (Raphael Diaz).
Virtually all of the Swiss natives have come into the NHL since the 2000-01 season, when Reto Von Arx (Chicago), Thomas Ziegler (Tampa Bay), and Michel Riesen (Edmonton) all had cups of coffee at the big league barista. But there are two others (Hnat Domenichelli and Paul DiPietro) who are listed as Swiss by the NHL website, but who were born and raised in Canada, later gained Swiss citizenship, and played for the Swiss Olympic team. These two started their careers earlier, as did Simon Wheeldon, who was born in Vancouver, played briefly in the NHL in the late 1980’s, moved to Austria, played for the Austrian Olympic team, but who is listed as Swiss on the NHL website.
Berra is the most recent Swiss story. The goaltender made his NHL debut a memorable one, with a 42 save performance in a 3-2 overtime win against Chicago on Sunday night, and he’s the sixth goalie who was born in Switzerland to make it to the NHL.
For our final gaze at Switzerland’s contributions to the NHL, the goaltending leader is Jonas Hiller of Anaheim, who has 139 career wins and 26 shutouts. The points leader is Philadelphia’s Marc Streit, who has 292 points as of this writing.
But in San Jose, the Swiss focus is on Mueller, who currently plays for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL under coach Kevin Constantine. So far, in 15 games, Mueller is one of the leaders on the defense, and has 1-5-6 totals.
As with the case with California born-and-raised players, we’re starting to see the influence of other places, such as Switzerland. It’s an important and developing story about the growth of the NHL around the world.