Vermin Begins Adjustment to North American Game

By Jeremy Houghtaling

The transition to the North American style of hockey has begun for Joel Vermin.

After a nine-hour trip from Switzerland on Sunday, the forward joined the Syracuse Crunch for practice this week. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s seventh-round selection in the 2013 draft will spend the next few weeks getting acclimated to the American Hockey League.

“Everything is new for me -- small ice rink, new team -- but I’m getting used to it,” said Vermin, who is expected to make his Crunch debut this weekend. “I’m feeling pretty good.”

Vermin signed a three-year deal with Tampa Bay in September, but was assigned to Bern of the Swiss A-League instead of coming over to North America. He will likely play in the Lightning organization in America next season.

For now, his time in Syracuse is another chance for Vermin to end this season on a positive note.

After putting up a career-high 44 points in 66 games last year with Bern, the 22-year-old’s production dropped to 22 points in 55 games this season. A little more than a week after his season ended in Europe, Vermin received a call from Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman about making the trip to North America.

“It was kind of a bad year, up and down the whole season,” Vermin said. “Same with the team.”

A 5-11, 192-pound winger, Vermin’s game revolves around his quickness. He uses his speed and vision to make plays, and his fast hands allow him to cash in on tight plays around the net.

“It looks like he’s got some really good skill,” said Crunch coach Rob Zettler after practice Tuesday. “Looks like he’s got some speed, so it will be fun to watch.”

Vermin was a part of the Swiss junior national team since he was selected for the U16 team in 2007-08. With the U20 team in 2011-12, he played with current Crunch forward Tanner Richard.

Although his father is Dutch and his mother is Hungarian, Vermin was born and raised in Bern.

“I feel more Swiss than Dutch or Hungarian,” Vermin said.

For Vermin, it was kind of difficult to leave his hometown team, but something he will be able to do in order chase his dream.

“I have all my friends and family there, and it’s kind of tough now to be here,” Vermin said. “But it’s just for three weeks, so I think I’ll get over that.”