When the Brandon Wheat Kings make their plans for next season, they can count Swiss sniper Alessio Bertaggia out.
The 19-year-old left-winger has signed a professional contract with EV Zug of Switzerland’s top professional league.
The contract, reported on the team’s website, is for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, which should not prevent the Wheat Kings’ leading scorer from returning to the Western Hockey League club this season after he finishes playing for Switzerland at the upcoming world junior hockey championship.
Wheat Kings general manager Kelly McCrimmon said on Tuesday that he knew very little about the contract signed by Bertaggia, who has produced 16 goals and 34 points in 29 games this season.
"I’m not fully aware of exactly what type of contract Alessio signed," McCrimmon said.
"Certainly we felt he’d have opportunities professionally next season, be that in North America or in Switzerland or (elsewhere) in Europe for that matter. So if he’s been able to get an opportunity, good for Alessio. We’re happy for him and I’m sure that will be a good opportunity for him."
Brandon’s first-round pick (33rd overall) in the 2011 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, Bertaggia provided secondary scoring, with 50 points in 64 games in his first WHL season, and has grown into the Wheat Kings’ most dangerous forward this season.
While Bertaggia is certainly good enough to be a ‘two-spotter’ in the WHL next season, taking up both overage and import spots, McCrimmon said he’s gone about much of his planning with the expectation that Bertaggia would not be back.
"That’s been my expectation all along," McCrimmon said. "… I think with European players, (in) the 20-year-old season it’s not real common that they play major junior, so it’s not a total shock for us."
At 5-foot-9 and 165-pounds, Bertaggia has gone undrafted in the National Hockey League, although his Zug contract has an out clause for its second season, should he sign with an NHL club.