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Islanders Sign Yannick Rathgeb, Swiss Defenseman

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The Fribourg-Gotteron blueliner played two seasons in the OHL.

Plymouth Whalers v Sarnia Sting
They’ve landed a Whaler.
Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

Make that two defensemen signed to entry level contracts today. As expected, earlier the Islanders announced that David Quenneville of the WHL Medicine Hat Tigers reached agreement on a three-year deal and will report to AHL Bridgeport this weekend.

Not as expected, the Islanders also announced the signing of Swiss defenseman Yannick Rathgeb out of Fribourg-Gotteron in Switzerland’s top league.

Rathgeb is 22 — he previously played two seasons of junior in the OHL with Plymouth before three seasons in the Swiss pros — so his entry-level deal is for two years. (Quenneville, a 2016 draft pick, is 20, thus by CBA rule he gets the more familiar three-year first contract.)

Rathgeb led all Fribourg-Gotteron defensemen in points (28 in 38 games, following 34 in 45 games last season), and tied for eighth in the league among defensemen. His 2017-18 season was shortened by a clavicle injury requiring surgery.

Never drafted in the NHL, when he was eligible for the draft Swiss Hockey News described him as “an offensive-minded defenseman, who doesn’t shy away from physical play. He has a good first pass, a nice point shot and wins battles at the boards thanks to his good balance.”

He did later get an invitation to development camp by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2016. Because you may be obsessive, here is video of him doing drills and scrimmages and such from that camp, wearing #59:

Here’s a highlight from actual game competition, a nice bottle-popper goal:

The right-handed shot is listed at 6’1”, 194 lbs. by Elite Prospects. He represented Switzerland twice at the World Junior Championship, captaining them in his second appearance.

Elite Prospects also notes he was named the league’s best rookie in 2015-16, and heh, had the most penalty minutes (115) in 2016-17.

And that’s...well yeah, that’s all we have on that. There’s some potential upside here. We’ll just have to see. (Last time the Isles signed an overlooked Swiss defenseman worked out alright!) Acquiring talent from far and wide is the way to do things, especially when you have a lot of money already locked up in, ahem, other areas.