International scouting is a tricky science. There are so many variables to consider. How will the player adjust to life outside of their home country? What about changing their game to fit the smaller ice in North America?
There were some concerns with Valentin Nussbaumer, but the Coyotes knew what they were looking for when they made the Swiss winger a seventh-round pick at the 2019 NHL draft. “We’ve been watching him for the last couple years since he’s been playing for the Swiss team at the world juniors,” said Coyotes assistant GM Lindsay Hofford. “When you’re looking at late-round picks, you’re looking at one or two intangibles that maybe separate them from other guys, kind of like players who are good at everything but not necessarily great at anything.”
Nussbaumer had what Hofford termed a “transition year” in 2018-19 while playing for QMJHL Shawinigan. In his draft year – and his first time playing outside Switzerland – Nussbaumer had 17 goals and 38 points in 58 games to go along with a minus-49 rating last season. Hofford believes the style of play and the rink size played a role in Nussbaumer’s up-and-down season, but the Coyotes were impressed with how he performed in his first NHL training camp. “I didn’t feel he had the greatest season last year,” Hofford said, “but we were pretty happy when he came to camp. He did some individual training, so he got stronger and was more effective.”
The biggest takeaway in Hofford’s evaluation came off the ice in the form of Nussbaumer’s drive to make the NHL. “Any time a guy moves away from home to chase his dream really says a lot about him,” Hofford said. “You go to a team in a different country, and there are 23 guys on your team with probably 20 of them being Quebecois. He’s one of two guys that’s a European guy. The culture is very different. Swiss is pretty close to the French language, and he picked that up, so he’s fluent in Swiss, English and French.” – Richard Morin