Back in the day, it wasn’t hard to find a big, obnoxious defender in your lineup, but the era of Chris Pronger and Adam Foote seems a long way off when you look at today’s game. And while anyone could use Cale Makar or Adam Fox, the teams also noted that to win the Stanley Cup playoffs, you still need to have heaviness and some stopping power in your lineup.
Enter Liane Bixel, a 6ft 5in Swiss blueliner and a 2022 first-round draft pick.
“You look at teams like St. Louis and Tampa Bay in terms of winning the playoffs, and he’s the perfect example of a guy who helps you — big, strong, mean; he’s trash,” said one scout. “There aren’t many kids playing the way he does these days and he seems to enjoy it.”
Indeed, call up a few Bichsel Highlights Packs and you’ll quickly see the teen leveling opponents on a regular basis. And this season he did it against the men, playing for Leksand in Sweden’s top league, the SHL. But the great physical dimension that Bichsel brings to the table has actually been studied; he had only recently started dropping his weight when he realized it would be a great weapon in his arsenal.
“It’s important to me,” Beechsel said. “It gives me confidence and that’s my type of game, the physical part, when I can do it. Last season I had to find my way in the game and now I think I’m good at it.”
Beechsel is part of a good cohort of big, physical players in the 2022 draft class, and it’s good to see such players returning after years of inactivity. Drummondville’s Maverick Lamouret, Gatineau’s Noah Warren and St. Michael’s Jack Sparks also combine size and fitness, but the bottom line is that all four players can skate very well. This puts them all on par with 2021 first round players like Corson Seulemans (CBJ) and Nolan Allan (CHI). Beachsel will almost certainly be the first of the team to retire from the board in 2022.
“Allan skates better, but this guy is bigger and meaner,” said the scout. “These guys are preparing well for the playoffs.
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Whichever team chooses him next month will likely have to wait a bit as Bichsel has one more year on his contract with Leksand. But the experience he gained last season in Sweden proved very useful after spending most of the previous campaign with Biel Bien in Switzerland’s junior team.
“It meant a lot when I came from Biel and the junior team and immediately made the step to the pro team,” said Beechsel. “I had a lot to learn – and quickly – and I think I did very well. I wanted something new. I had options in Canada and Sweden and in the end I chose Sweden.”
Setting up was no big deal for Bixel, although he noticed that in the dead of winter the sun sets at noon, and this sometimes tires him. Bixel already spoke German, Swiss-German and English, and learned some Swedish while playing for Leksand. He goes all-European with NHL players he also watches, citing Roman Josi (of course), Moritz Seider, Victor Hedman and Rasmus Dahlin as his most intriguing.
In terms of NHL interest, he can’t be higher for Beechsel right now, as the quarterback interviewed all 32 franchises in the Buffalo draft.
“It was a great experience for me,” he said. “It was a dream come true for me to be in the draft and combine, and that was exciting for me.”
When it comes to exciting draft prospects, Beechsel is a name to keep an eye on. He may not score like some of the other blueliners in the class, but one day he’ll be a fan favorite in the NHL because opponents will quickly realize they don’t want to be caught on the tram tracks. this Swiss train.