What do you get when you cross the diligent hockey schoolings of a Swiss player with the bloodlines of a Canadian? The answer…Tanner Richard of the Guelph Storm.
The skilled, just turned 19-year-old, is following in the footsteps of his father (Mike), who was a star in the OHL before moving on to play pro in Switzerland. And while Tanner may not have the natural goal-scoring ability as his dear old dad, his vision and playmaking skills are truly top notch.
In his first season with Guelph, the 6-foot, 180-pound winger put up an impressive 13 goals and 48 points in just 43 games, while adding 46 penalty minutes. Richard also represented Switzerland at the 2012 World Junior Championship, where he scored two goals and four points in six games. Last season, he racked up 11 goals and 43 points in 28 games with his Rapperswil U20 club, and also took part in the U18’s with four goals and five points in six games.
Along with his ability to dish the puck, he is a highly intelligent player that thinks and understands the game at an elite level, he’s strong in his own zone and along the boards, has an underrated shot, and brings with him a infectious enthusiasm for the game that is hard to miss. NHL Central Scouting ranked him 41st overall among North American skaters for the upcoming 2012 Entry Draft, but he could easily be a first round pick once June 22nd rolls around. And, after chatting with him, I am quickly becoming a bigger fan of the budding young star.
Here’s a quick Q and A with the “Can’t Miss Swiss” Tanner Richard.
Your father was a former pro, and obviously has taught you well, how influential has he been in your development?
Tanner: He’s been very influential on my career. Growing up I got to see from a firsthand point of view how much dedication, will, and everything else it takes to make it and become successful.
You were born in Canada, but grew up playing the game in Switzerland, which is becoming a hotbed for producing talented prospects, and you’ve transitioned to the North American game flawlessly. What was the toughest thing to get used to playing at the OHL level?
Tanner: I think for me the biggest thing was the intensity. Everybody is trying to make it, wants the same job, and has the same dream. The game is played with such an intensity over here. That, and how everybody finishes every check they possibly can, and tries to run you through the boards.
Had you spent much time in Canada at all before coming over to play with the Storm?
Tanner: I spent all of my summers living in Sarnia with my family in the off-season up until I was 14. We than sold our house, and stopped coming home in the summers.
What do you see being your best attributes as a player?
Tanner: I like to think my best attribute is my vision and ability to read and anticipate the play.
What was your ‘welcome moment’ to the OHL?
Tanner: I think my welcoming to the league was I got hit pretty hard in my 3rd shift of the first exhibition game. I made a pass and turned away, then about 3 seconds later somebody layed me out. At that moment I realized it was going to be more physical than I expected it to be.
Is there an NHLer you mold your game after?
Tanner: I really like the way Vincent Lecavalier plays. I see him as a very responsible two-way player who always steps up when needed. He has good offensive abilities, can put the puck in the net and make plays. He is also a great leader on and off the ice. So I try and learn from how he plays and reacts in certain situations, and mold that into my game.
You’ve racked up numerous goals over your career playing for your club teams in Rapperswil, while playing internationally for Switzerland, and now with Guelph, is there a goal that stands out as your biggest one?
Tanner: I think my most memorable goal was in Calgary at the 2012 WJC’s. It was the overtime winner against Denmark to keep our team from being relegated. It was a huge goal for Switzerland, and a major relief to get that win.
What is the highlight of your career thus far?
Tanner: The highlight of my career I would have to say was without a doubt the 2012 WJC’s in Alberta. It was an amazing experience. Playing against the best players your age on an international level gives you a chance to show what you can do, how your country compares to others, and also how you personally match up to the best players your age.
I know being drafted into the NHL is a huge honor in itself, but if you could pick the team that selects you come June 22nd who would you choose?
Tanner: Really, just to be drafted would be a huge honor, and a dream come true itself. If somebody would have told me a year ago I had a good chance of getting drafted I probably would have laughed, but now to know there’s a chance I may get picked is just an all-round great feeling. My first NHL game that I attended was the Tampa Bay Lightning the year they won the cup before the lockout. Ever since then I have always liked and followed them, that definitely would be neat, especially now with Steve Yzerman as the GM as he was my all-time hero growing up. But really, any team would be a dream come true.
In your opinion, who is the toughest defenseman to beat 1-on-1 in the OHL?
Tanner: In my eyes the toughest defenceman to play against would either be Cody Sol or Jared Tinordi. They’re both big bodies and use it to their advantage very well. They take up a lot of space, especially with their long reach, and are both a physical presence.
Who is the best player you’ve ever played with and against?
Tanner: The best player I’ve played with is Sven Baertschi. I really enjoyed playing with him. It’s too bad he got injured in the 2nd game of the WJC’s, he was a huge part of our offence. The way he plays the game at such a great pace and is able to make the plays he does, it’s just a pleasure to play with a guy like him. The best player I played against was probably Evgeni Kuznetsov. Easily the most skilled player I have ever been on the ice with. It seemed like he did whatever he wanted on the ice, and was a threat every time he touched the puck. He also made all of his teammates look better.
What would be the first thing you’d buy after signing your first pro contract?
Tanner: The first thing I would do is send my parents to Hawaii. That has been my mother’s dream for years now, and I hope to one day be able to make her dream come true.
What do you enjoy doing in your downtime from the game?
Tanner: When I’m not involved with hockey or training I like to watch movies, play poker, or play other sports.
Any hidden talents?
Tanner: I’m pretty good at ping pong.