Is third time the charm for Nussbaumer?
by Lucas Aykroyd|28 DEC 2019
Switzerland's Valentin Nussbaumer is participating in his third consecutive World Juniors.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
If you think all teenage hockey players fill their spare hours with Fortnite and Call of Duty, think again. That’s not Valentin Nussbaumer’s thing. The 19-year-old is focused on maximizing his real-life potential as a 2019 seventh-round pick of the Arizona Coyotes (207th overall).

2018/19 was a big year for the savvy, shifty centre. He appeared in his second World Juniors in Vancouver and Victoria after making the jump from Switzerland to the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes. This season, he’s fourth in Shawinigan scoring (7+18=25 in 31 games) and looks poised to improve on last year’s numbers (17+21=38 in 58 games).

In his third and final World Juniors, Nussbaumer would love to go home with a medal after coming so close last time. The surprising Swiss made it to the bronze medal game in Vancouver, but fell 5-2 to Russia.

On that team, Philipp Kurashev was the main offensive catalyst (6+1=7), and the Quebec Remparts veteran was named a tournament all-star. Nussbaumer, who currently has three goals and one assist in 13 career World Junior games, is aiming to fill a similar role under new head coach Thierry Paterlini.

He got that assist on linemate Matthew Verboon’s opening goal in the 5-3 win over Kazakhstan on Thursday. The Biel product also led all Swiss forwards in ice time (19:47) and was solid on faceoffs, going 9-for-13. caught up with Nussbaumer at Trinec’s Werk Arena.

How would you define your job on this team?

My job is to be a leader, to be a good example for the young guys. I need to bring what Philipp Kurashev brought to the team last year.

What makes Thierry Paterlini a good coach?

I think he’s really systematic. He talks a lot with the guys. We do a lot of video. We really studied Kazakhstan over the last couple of days, for instance. I love the way he coaches.

What steps are you making toward becoming a better two-way player?

I’m playing in Canada, so I play on the small ice, and I’ve really tried to improve my defensive game. I try to play the body, stay inside, don’t lose my guy. It’s all the little things you have to work through. I think I’ve taken a step forward, but I need to keep on going.

Playing in the QMJHL, you see a lot of Alexis Lafreniere. He had four points in Canada’s opening 6-4 win over the Americans. What do you think of Lafreniere?

Oh, that’s the best player in the league! He’s really good. He’s really big and fast. He has everything. When you play against him, you know when he’s on the ice, and you need to watch him and not let him go behind you.

Which NHL players do you like to watch?

I’m in Quebec, so I watch the Montreal Canadiens a lot. When I watch Montreal, I focus on Jonathan Drouin, what he’s doing on the ice. He’s pretty good with the puck and he gives me inspiration. But my biggest player is Patrick Kane. I watch him a lot.

Switzerland upset Sweden 2-0 in last year’s quarter-finals. What do you expect from the Swedes on Saturday?

They have a lot of skill, a lot of talent. It’s going to be a new history. Like you said, we beat them last year in the quarter-final, so they will come hard. We need to be ready. The win over Kazakhstan was a big step for us, and we’ve just to keep on going, create something between the guys, and prepare for the quarter-finals.