NHL fans are not alone in missing hockey and looking for any news from their favorite teams to fill the void created by COVID-19. EV Zug of the Swiss NLA has published an update for their fans courtesy of GM Reto Klay on the future plans of some of their more recent NHL draft picks. These fan-favorites include Columbus Blue Jackets forward Calvin Thurkauf, Washington Capitals defenseman Tobias Geisser, and former New York Rangers prospect Nico Gross.
Of the three, EV Zug offered little hope that fans would see Thurkauf back with the team any time soon. The big, two-way forward has exceeded expectation as a 2016 seventh-round pick, making his NHL debut this season with the Blue Jackets. The 22-year-old left Zug the year before he was drafted to play two seasons with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. During that time, he was also a standout for Switzerland’s entries at the World Junior Championship. Now in his third pro season, Thurkauf has recorded 52 points in 154 AHL games and suited up for three games with the NHL club this year as well. On paper, Thurkauf may not seem like a top prospect, but he has the chance to make a career out of his size and physical presence on an NHL checking line. A restricted free agent following this season, Klay suggests that Columbus is interested in an extension with Thurkauf. Expect the young forward to be back with the organization next year and possibly spending more time with the Blue Jackets.
Geisser is the name that EV Zug fans are most familiar with right now, as the 21-year-old defender played on loan with the team this season. A fourth-round pick of the Capitals in 2017, Geisser spent one more year with Zug in the NLA before signing on with Washington and spending the entire 2018-19 season with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. He began this season in the minors as well, but a logjam on defense prompted the Capitals to loan him back to Zug. If it were up to Klay, the same would happen next season. Not only does Zug value the big shutdown defenseman, but Klay feels that the ice time and responsibility that the club affords him is needed for his continued development. However, he admits that the decision is entirely up to Washington. Fortunately for Zug fans, due to Geisser’s entry-level contract sliding in his first year, there is no rush to get him back to North America if he is better off in Switzerland, as he still has a couple years left on his current deal.
In a much different place that Thurkauf or Geisser is Gross. The Rangers recently made the decision – scrutinized by some – to allow Gross’ draft rights to expire on June 1st. A fourth-round pick in 2018 who has been a solid two-way defenseman for the OHL’s Oshawa Generals for the past three years, Gross appeared to be the type of prospect who would be worthy of an entry-level contract. Instead, New York opted not to use the contract slot on one of more highly-regarded Swiss prospects in recent years. Because Gross is still 20 years old, he will re-enter the draft later this year, but the odds are likely low that he will be selected and will likely end up as an unrestricted free agent. While his NHL career outlook might look bleak, Klay believes that there will be opportunities for Gross in North America next season. He would like to see the capable blue liner return to Zug, but notes that Gross will have other options.