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Above the Glass

Who says 13 isn’t a lucky number?

The Calgary Flames chose well when they picked Portland Winterhawk Sven Bartschi 13th overall in the NHL Entry Draft. I know because I’ve spent the last season watching up close while his star rose ever higher and getting to know him off the ice. There is nobody quite like Sven; he’s one of a kind and I can assure Calgary fans that Portland’s small but mighty gift to the NHL will be worth the hype. By now, you’ve probably read the news, scanned the stats and looked up his WHL profile, so allow me to introduce you to some of the things you may not know about the Flames’ newest prize catch.

He’ll eat anything: According to Sven’s roommate Craig Cunningham, and I quote, “he’s very American in his diet. He’ll eat anything.” Among his favorite choice nibbles, Subway breakfast sandwiches, burritos (to which he was introduced by his former roommate and fellow Calgary Flames prospect Spencer Bennett) and presumably, anything on the Cheesecake Factory’s menu.

He’s good with public relations: There is one thing you can count on from Sven after a game, and that’s choice, grade A, cliche-free soundbites. Among my favorites:

“It’s good to be on a good team.” This was the first thing he said to me when I asked him whether Nino Niederreiter had given him any tips about playing in Portland. Indeed it is a good team; eight players, including Nino, were taken in last year’s draft. Four were snatched up this year: Defenseman Joe Morrow went 23rd overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are Sven’s favorite team. Forward Ty Rattie, who plays on a line with Sven, was picked straight away in the second round. He was chosen 32nd overall by the St. Louis Blues, who have also signed Winterhawks’ Captain Brett Ponich. Tyler Wotherspoon made it a trifecta when he was drafted 57th overall by the Calgary Flames, who now have three Winterhawks in their system.

“I could feel it. This is how it is with big moments like this.” Sven somehow knew that Ty would score this year’s teddy bear toss goal, telling him “you have to score right now.” Ty did as he was instructed and down came 16,000-plus bears.

He’s far from home, but close to his family: “I’ll score some points for you.” This is another choice bite: it’s what he told his mother when she came to town to visit him. Turned out they were all assists, but hey, points are points. And it is especially moving when you consider that Sven’s family was changed by his parents’ divorce and his mother worked two jobs to help pay for his hockey future.

He likes to play a lot: “I just hope I get to play a lot” is what Sven told me when I asked him his goals for the season. That was about three weeks before he went and scored four goals in one pre-season game against the team that would later go on to eliminate the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL Championship series: the Kootenay Ice. He is known for the staying on the ice well after practice, such that his coaches have to tell him to get off the ice. Which might explain how he spent his free time this season representing Switzerland in the World Juniors, scoring one-handed shootout goals in the CHL top prospects game, being nominated for WHL Rookie of the Year and ending the season by leading all WHL rookies in scoring with 85 points in 66 games.

He’s still learning, but he learns fast: When I met Sven, he had just started learning English and was still working with a tutor. According to Mike Johnston, it didn’t take him long to learn, and he told the team he was fine on his own after only a short time with the tutor. Of course, every once in a while he still busts out some choice bits that are, shall we say, missing a little something. Like the time he chirped at Kelowna Rockets’ winger Colton Sissons “you no good at this.” It’s right up there with the time Nino told a reporter “I shoot the puck. The puck go in.”

Note to Calgary: Take great care with our prize. We regard the players who developed here as one of our own, and we trust that you will do the same. We don’t ask that he become a superstar right away—although that would be nice—only that you treat him as we have: with much respect, admiration and great care. And if you could feed him a few burritos now and again, that would be good too.

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Thanks for the close-up look at the Flames’ first rounder from this year. While I can’t speak for the organization itself, I expect good things from Sven and hope he can crack the lineup sooner rather than later.

And yeah, if I see him out and about I’ll buy him a Burrito wink.

Posted by Iggy Rules on 06/27/11 at 12:07 PM ET

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com