As he hones his skills alongside one of the planet’s best defensemen, Roman Josi is thankful for a pioneer, countryman and current Philadelphia Flyers blueliner who helped pave the way for Swiss players like him in the NHL.
“At first there were only goalies coming over, but the first (skater) to really make it was Mark Streit,” Josi said. “He really opened the doors for all the young players in Switzerland. He had a tough first season, but fought through it.”
Josi’s path to North American hockey was different than Streit’s, who was 27 when he played his first NHL game. Josi, 23, was drafted by Nashville in the second round (38th overall) in 2008, played a season in the American League in 2010-11 to acclimate to the smaller ice surface, then made the jump to the NHL the following season.
He’s now fully settled in Nashville and is second on the Predators in ice time behind his defense partner, captain Shea Weber.
He’s not the biggest country music fan – house/dance music is more to his liking – but he enjoys the city and is establishing himself as a force in the world’s best league.
Josi, who was one of Switzerland’s key players at the Sochi Games, has always been proficient when called on to play on the international scene. At the 2013 World Championship, he helped the Swiss to a silver medal, which was their best finish since 1935. Josi was named an all-star, the tournament’s best defenseman and, most impressively, its MVP, making him the first player from Switzerland to receive the honor.
So he doesn’t let the opportunity to represent his country again go unappreciated. And he’s pleased to see the growth of the sport back home and the increasing stream of Swiss talent migrating across the Atlantic Ocean.
“It’s growing a lot,” Josi said. “There are more guys coming to the NHL, more guys coming over to play in Canadian junior leagues. Not a lot of North Americans know about the Swiss league, but it’s fast and skilled.”
Josi also counts his blessings playing with a perennial Norris Trophy candidate. He marvels at Weber’s on-ice skills and also at the level head he has kept in the face of stardom.
“He’s so down to earth and he really does everything for the team,” Josi said. “It’s impressive for all he’s done.”