Starting on Dec. 26, the 2022 World Junior Championship promised to be a showcase of the best under-20 men’s talent in the world, which included three Flyers prospects — defenseman Emil Andrae (Sweden), forward Elliot Desnoyers (Canada), and defenseman Brian Zanetti (Switzerland).

However, the COVID-19 pandemic led the International Ice Hockey Federation to cancel the tournament just three days after its onset. Regardless of the World Juniors’ cancellation, we asked members of the Flyers organization, front-office members from the players’ current teams, and other scouting experts to analyze the games of Andrae, Desnoyers, and Zanetti.

» READ MORE: World Junior prospect profile: Emil Andrae

For the second installment in a three-part series, here’s an in-depth look at Flyers prospect Brian Zanetti:

Brian Zanetti, Switzerland

Bio

Age: 18

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 183 pounds

Position: Defenseman

Shoots: Left

Club: Peterborough Petes (OHL)

Drafted: 2021 Round 4, No. 110 overall

Overview

This season, Zanetti made the jump from the Swiss U20-Elit league to the OHL and the Peterborough Petes. In 17 games this season, Zanetti has registered nine assists and is a minus-10.

“I think the transition has been really smooth and, I mean, it’s been a long process,” Petes general manager Michael Oke said. “With us not starting last year, Brian was very keen to come over last year, but due to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and we didn’t end up having a season, we weren’t able to do that.”

Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr called Zanetti “a little raw,” but added that there’s a lot to like about the defenseman, who stood out throughout camp with the Flyers by getting “better every day.” Before being selected by the Flyers in the 2021 NHL draft, Zanetti improved his draft stock with his performance for Switzerland at the U18 World Championship.

“While his team struggled, I thought he really performed well against the top teams, including Canada,” Flahr said. “The way he competed physically and was engaged in the game and defended and moved the puck, he really stood out. So we were excited, especially where we got him.”

Strengths

For Flahr, Zanetti has the potential to be a “shutdown defenseman” who can play substantial minutes as he continues to develop.

“He’s big, he’s long, he can defend, he’s a strong skater,” Flahr said. “He moves the puck, he sorts things out well and he can defend. He’s got some jam, too. He’s a guy that we expect to get better and better.”

Daily Faceoff NHL draft and prospects analyst Chris Peters called Zanetti a “project,” acknowledging that he has the tools to become a solid defenseman, and the way he has adjusted quickly to a big role at the World Juniors as a top-four defenseman and made the transition to the OHL is a big positive.

“The skating is a really good foundation for him, and if he continues to hone the rest of his game, get his timing down, understand how to play on a smaller ice surface, absorb forechecks and things like that that are more difficult, then I think that that’s gonna help him have a lot of success at the next level,” Peters said.

Areas of improvement

Just like many 18-year-old prospects, Flahr said Zanetti still needs to grow into his body and that he’ll likely need to put on an additional 15 to 20 pounds. In turn, he’ll see improvement in his coordination and agility. As Zanetti continues to physically mature and get used to playing the game on North American ice, Peters envisions a productive year in the OHL for the defenseman.

“I would imagine, if he stays with Peterborough next year that he’s gonna have a large uptick in points when he has that experience under his belt because he’s got those tools and then it’s just once the timing and everything is down, the spacing, gap control defensively, all of those things are a little bit different,” Peters said.

One area that the Petes coaches have been focusing on with Zanetti is his shot, not just on its strength, but also on making sure that it gets through to the net in a timely fashion.

“The offensive zone, so the time you have with the puck on the blue line to when a defender is on top of you is a little quicker here in North America than it would be in Europe, just purely from the size of the rink,” Oke said. “So I think from our standpoint, the one thing our coaches specifically have been working on with him is his shot, getting it a little heavier, and also getting it off to the net a little quicker.”