A real Swiss star in the making, EHC Biel-Bienne’s Yannick Rathgeb looks set to make a splash in this year’s Champions Hockey League. The highly talented offensive defenceman returns to the CHL after three seasons away, and he has his sights on success.
“I know we’re going to have a really solid group, but I think we can win it”, commented Rathgreb on Biel-Bienne’s Group A opponents KAC Klagenfurt (AUT), Tappara Tampere (FIN), and Frisk Asker (NOR). See the full Group A schedule here.
“It’s going to take a lot of commitment, but in the end, we should be on top”, the Langenthal native added.
At just 23 years of age, Rathgeb has already established himself as one of Switzerland’s best up-and-coming blueliners. A highly explosive skater, with a cannon of a slapshot, Rathgeb also made his mark on the Champions Hockey League as part of Fribourg-Gottéron (SUI). In 2016/17, Rathgeb scored in both legs of Fribourg-Gottéron’s Quarter-Finals matchup with Vítkovice Ridera Ostrava (CZE), en route to becoming the top scoring defenceman in that season.
"I definitely enjoy playing in the CHL"
EHC Biel-Bienne defenceman Yannick Rathgeb
Rathgeb and Fribourg-Gottéron were unfortunate to meet the CHL behemoths, Frölunda Indians (SWE), in the Semi-Finals, but Rathgeb’s individual success did not go unnoticed. The Langenthal native totalled 4 goals and 8 assists in 2016/17 and was a Finalist for the CHL MVP award.
“I definitely enjoy playing in the CHL”, commented Rathgeb. “I really like the way it works. There are some great players and it also allows you to go on trips with your teammates where you bond and come together as a team a little bit. It’s a lot of fun to play and there are a lot of good teams, so it’s nice to have a little competition going before the start of the Regular Season”.
Rathgeb also hopes his experience with Fribourg-Gottéron will put his new club in good stead. “In my second year in Fribourg-Gottéron we almost went all the way. Unfortunately, we met Frölunda in the Semi-Finals. I hope I can help if we make it to the latter stages of the tournament this year, and I hope my experience of knowing what it takes in the Playoffs can play a role”, commented the 23-year-old.
EHC Biel-Bienne are one of ten new teams to be making their CHL debut in the 2019/20 season. The club has embraced what it means to take part in the Champions Hockey League and will make every effort to become the first Swiss CHL Champion.
“I feel that Biel-Bienne is having a lot of success over the last few years, and that the fans are really into it”, commented Rathgeb.
“I hope we are going to have a lot of fans showing up for the CHL as well. With this team, if we work hard, it will be a lot of play. I don’t think it matters if it is a pre-season game, a Playoff game, or a CHL game, we always want to win.
Rathgeb was one of EHC Biel-Bienne’s major offseason signings, putting pen to paper on a 3-year deal running until 2022. Speaking with the CHL, he revealed that the club wanted his signature months prior to signing.
“Throughout the season they were always interested in me, even though I didn’t really have a good year. As far as they say, they were lacking a player who can make plays on the powerplay in the last few years, and the team is really moving in the right direction, they have had a lot of success lately and everyone who plays there seems to have a lot of fun, and they have a good coach. That’s pretty much all it takes”, said Rathgeb.
"I think that’s going to help me throughout my career to make myself a more complete player"
Yannick Rathgeb on his frustrating 2018/19 season
In 2018, he signed a contract with the New York Islanders (NHL), but returned to Switzerland after a frustrating season where he was limited to playing just 32 AHL games.
“It was a tough year”, commented Rathgeb. “It just seemed like I was never on the same wavelength as the coach. The connection just wasn’t there. I feel like I played some good games, but didn’t get rewarded for it, and I didn’t have a lot of luck with injuries”.
However, the Swiss blueliner is able to see positives from his experience Stateside, adding, "In the end it was a good lesson for me, because so far in my career everything has gone pretty easily, so maybe last year was good for my mental toughness, to see what can happen if you're not playing well. I think that's going to help me throughout my career to make myself a more complete player".
With a distinguished hockey career already in the books at age 23, Yannick Rathgeb is truly a player to watch in the CHL in 2019/20. Even more so when he’s fit, raring to go, and eager to avenge a Semi-Finals defeat in 2016/17.
“I feel really good, I feel ready to start the new season. And personally, I want to get past that Semi-Finals loss and do even better this year”, Rathgeb concluded.