548 former NCAA players reported to NHL training camps this month. The majority of these players are US born, followed by Canadians but also an increasing numbers of Europeans. Absent among all the Europeans are Swiss players.
15 former College players appeared in the Stanley Cup final in June this year. Last season a record 314 NCAA alumni played in the NHL, compromising 32 % of the league. Combining your athletic goals with an education is the ideal way to further your career. Unfortunately, at this time no (or very few) top Swiss players are pursuing their dream of playing in the NHL through the USHL/NCAA. Why are there relatively few players from Switzerland choosing this way? There are three main reasons:
Young Swiss players and their parents are not aware of this trajectory to the NHL or once they become aware of it, it is too late as they will not be able to comply with the NCAA Eligibility requirements which are very strict.
They do not have the academic ability to attend a College. The ideal Swiss education track would be the Matura, or equivalent. However, successful completion of the Sekundarschule and additional studies and/or an apprenticeship (KV) can satisfy the NCAA academic requirements (some additional course work may required).
Last but not least it is also about money. The highly talented players in Switzerland have agreements with Agents at a young age. These Agencies have little interest to see a player take the NCAA route where they have to wait an additional three to four years until the player signs a pro contract. Also the Swiss teams would rather lose a player to the CHL where they can expect some compensation if the player gets drafted. If a player takes the typical route USHL/NCAA there is no compensation for the Swiss club.
On the positive side there is an increasing number of Swiss players in the NCAA D III. These players have an opportunity to play pro hockey in Switzerland after their College career.
The USHL/NCAA path is definitely also a way for Swiss players to end up in the NHL. What better way to pursue your hockey career while at the same time getting an education with a degree!