By Ross MacLean
BELARUS - It’s the day off at the U-18 tournament as teams travel to their new destinations for the beginning of the playoff and relegation rounds.
There are some interesting matchups on both sides of the playoff bracket. Russia and Switzerland are meeting to determine who will face Sweden, while Team USA and the Czech Republic will battle it out for the right to face Finland in the other semifinal.
The Swiss are the surprise participants in this group and earned the right to play in the playoffs with their first game upset of Canada.
The European teams, however, are smart enough to know not to underestimate this Swiss squad. The Swiss U-18 team has had very strong results in many of the Nations tournaments this season.
Up front, they are led by Gaeten Haas and Joel Vermin, two draft eligible players who can really benefit from the increased exposure this tournament provides. Vermin might be the one with the most upside and will garner some attention from NHL clubs. An alternate captain for the Swiss, Vermin is their most effective scoring threat. He has a good shot that he knows how to place fairly well and often likes to set up on his off side.
The Swiss power play generally runs through Vermin off the half boards and although he has decent playmaking instincts, he is most effective when he shoots and follows up to the net.
Vermin is not flashy, but works hard and takes advantage of open lanes well with the puck, but he still needs to develop better strength and penetration skills.
The Swiss use Vermin in every situation and he has proven to be an effective penalty killer who can turn defensive situations into dangerous scoring rushes if you are not careful around him.
This is a team that is savvy to their own strengths and weaknesses and has the capability to win, but to do so they need Vermin to be at his best.
A strong performance from Vermin is not only something that could propel them into the semifinals, but also prove his value to the NHL clubs in attendance.
Ross MacLean is the head of European scouting and part of the management team at International Scouting Services. He specializes in major international tournaments and will cover the U-18s for THN.com throughout the event. Get more information about ISS at isshockey.com or purchase the 2010 NHL Draft Guide HERE.