Moser, Swiss ready for Sochi

by Jason Karnosky || AHL On The Beat Archive

Simon Moser can’t wait for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

There Moser, one of the Milwaukee Admirals’ emerging talents this season who recently earned his first National Hockey League promotion, will join former Admirals defenseman Roman Josi playing for Switzerland in Sochi.

“I’m really looking forward to it and I’m always excited to play in these kinds of international tournaments,” Moser said. “It was a great time playing in the 2013 World Championship for the Swiss team, but it will be a lot different playing in the Olympics.”

Moser is certainly no stranger to international play, having competed in the past three World Championships for his homeland. Last spring he helped the upstart Swiss to a silver medal — the highest finish by the Alpine nation since 1935.

At the time the Arni native and his Swiss teammates had no idea of the significance of their achievement back home.

“When it was over we were all disappointed because you never know when you’re going to get that chance to play for a gold again,” said Moser, who posted five points (three goals and two assists) in 10 games at the tournament in Stockholm and Helsinki. “But when we came back to Switzerland and there was like 5,000 fans waiting for us at the airport, it was just amazing.”

Somewhat of a late bloomer, Moser first earned a spot in the Swiss National League A with Langnau in 2007-08 at the age of 18. After contributing 13 points in his first full campaign (2008-09) the forward became a force in 2011-12, racking up 34 points in 50 games and finishing 12th in the league in goals with 18.

“(Simon) is able to play physically and he’s got a good skill set for a big guy,” Admirals captain Scott Ford said. “He’s able to get in on the forecheck and create some sneaky plays in tight because he does have good stick skills.”

This season Moser made the jump to play hockey in North America, attending Nashville’s training camp on professional tryout agreement. There he took full advantage of the surprising opportunity, nearly earning a spot on the Predators to start the season.

“We wanted to get a pretty good look at him in training camp,” Predators assistant general manager Paul Fenton said. “(Simon) came over here with no strings attached, played very well and caught our eye.”

Moser earned a one-year, two-way deal with the Predators and was then sent to Milwaukee to start the 2013-14 season. The mature rookie quickly asserted himself as one of the AHL’s premier two-way forwards, playing a style well-suited for the North American game.

“When I was in Switzerland I was playing the same North American style there,” Moser said. “I finish my checks, drive to the net, play hard and try to play a simple game, nothing that’s too fancy. I really didn’t have change too much coming here, but the game is a little bit quicker on the smaller ice.”

To date Moser has dressed in 40 games with Milwaukee, scoring eight goals and 25 points, good for sixth on the Admirals. The 24-year-old’s impressive offensive output came while fine-tuning the details of his game in preparation for an NHL promotion.

“(Simon) is just a solid defensive guy, a solid two-way guy, but he has that skill level,” Admirals head coach Dean Evason said of Moser. “At the NHL level he’s probably not going to score a lot, but he’s going to be that steady guy who is good at both ends.”

Moser earned his first NHL call-up last weekend, joining the Predators on Feb. 1 in St. Louis. There the fresh-faced left winger handled himself admirably, seeing 16 shifts and 10:21 of ice time in a 4-3 shootout loss.

Fenton knew Moser would be ready to bring his game up to the highest level whenever he was called upon.

“We approached Simon after training camp and told him he was close and he had an opportunity to play in the league,” Fenton said of Moser. “We can plug him in anywhere from our first to our fourth line and he doesn’t look out of place at all.”

Moser is not the only Swiss talent able to work his way up to Nashville through Milwaukee. Budding NHL star Roman Josi spent just over a year adjusting to the North American game with the Admirals.

“That year (2010-11) in Milwaukee was really helpful for me,” said Josi, who as an AHL rookie racked up 40 points on an Admirals team that finished in the top spot in the Western Conference. “There were so many little things that as a defenseman I had to do differently to adjust to the North American game, and so many details I learned there that helped me.”

Skating as Moser’s teammate at the 2013 World Championships, Josi had an outstanding performance, leading the Swiss with nine points (including four goals) in 10 games. That tournament officially marked the 23-year-old’s emergence as a budding star, as Josi was honored as its best defenseman and brought home its most valuable player award.

“We had a great tournament at the World Championships,” Josi said. “We played really well there (but) the Olympics are a whole different tournament. It’s a bigger stage with all of the best players there, but (that success) still gave us a lot of confidence.”

Josi, who lives nearby to Moser in Bern, Switzerland, during the offseason, sees plenty of NHL potential in his Olympic teammate.

“My advice for Simon was just to play his game (over here),” Josi said. “He’s a big guy who has big body that skates well and has good hands, so I told him to play the same way over here. That’s what he did in the preseason and he’s really made an impression.”

Moser was just happy for whatever advice his friend could provide for him as feels out his first season of hockey in North America.

“We’re pretty close friends, so having him in Nashville made things much easier when I came to the U.S.,” Moser said. “(Roman) showed me a lot about how things are different here, and gave me advice on what the coaches here would be looking for out of my game. When I was in Milwaukee, we would call or text each other at least once a week, so he’s been a really big help to me.”

In the coming days, the pair will join their Swiss teammates — including NHL talents Jonas Hiller, Mark Streit, Damien Brunner and Nino Niederreiter — in Sochi. There Switzerland will try to medal for the first time since 1948, and improve on its best-ever modern games finish: sixth place in 2006. Switzerland finished eighth at Vancouver in 2010.

“After the world championships, our expectations at the Olympics are obviously a little bit higher,” Josi said. “We’re still underdogs and we are still a small team (compared to the favorites), but we are not going to Sochi just to play there. Our goal is to make it through the qualifiers and then take it game-by-game and day-by-day in the medal round.”

Fenton believes this just might be the year that Moser, Josi and the dark-horse Swiss make a statement to the world on the Olympic stage.

“Those kids, the Swiss, are really good hockey players and it goes to show you that there really is no number one, two, three, or four teams anymore as far as the superpowers (of ice hockey),” Fenton said. “USA, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, the Slovaks, the Czechs and the Swiss can win it in any given year, so it should be a great tournament.”