Steven Ellis

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Steven took a different route towards his hockey interests. Starting out as a big Habs fan, he started to gravitate towards the more obscure levels of hockey, such as the low level tournaments in Asia, strange club matches between teams most people in North America can’t pronounce, and even some 3am contests between Bulgaria and New Zealand. Aside from his love for strange hockey events, Steven occasionally acts as a mediocre ball hockey goalie following a failed attempt at making it to the NHL as a fourth line house league grinder. Beyond hockey, Steven is an avid racing fan and loves to chat about NASCAR, F1, Indycar, you name it. Oh, and don’t get him started on music. That is, unless you want the whole history of metal and a guitar lesson. Currently, Steven is a credentialed media member with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, as well as with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. Steven has also hosted the television show "The Hockey House" on TVCogeco in Ontario, as well as a segment under the same with on LeafsTV in Toronto. Home page: http://www.thehockeyhouse.net

Every year, hockey leagues in Europe go on what’s called an “international break”, allowing players from some of the top European nations to compete in tournaments three times a year. Could you think of anything better to do while on a break?

For the second international break of the season, twelve nations will compete in three separate tournaments, taking place in Ljubljana, Budapest and Stavanger. All five players below will have something to prove one way or the other when the tournaments begin November 7th, and in some cases, it won’t even be one of the better players on their own team. Whether it be preparation for the World Championships in May or trying to prove himself for the future, here are some players to keep an eye on.

For more information on the tournament, click here.

Photo from GEPA
Photo from GEPA

5. Yutaka Fukufuji, G (Japan, EIHC Ljubljana): If you were to ask any North American hockey fan who they know from the Japanese national team, many will likely be surprised to know they actually have a team. After all that confusion is sorted out, there’s a good chance they’ll tell you that the only Japanese player they have ever heard of is Yutaka Fukufuji, the long time national team goaltender. Back in January of 2007, Fukufuji became the first Japanese player to ever play a single game in the NHL, and to date, he still remains the only player ever from the country. Fukufuji had a mediocre professional career in North America, mainly splitting time with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL and Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL. His greatest success has come in Asia, where he was named the Asian league top goaltender three years in a row. A World Junior gold medalist back in 2002, Fukufuji has been the backbone of Japan for many years now, helping lead the team to Division 1A World Championship gold medals since 2010. He’s going to have a tough time outplaying Robert Kristian and Bernhard Starkbaum for best goaltender, but if Japan is going to have any success, they’ll get it out of this guy.

JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images
JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images

4. Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, D (Norway, EIHC Stavanger): Nicknamed the “Norwegian Nightmare”, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen recorded 12 points and 296 PIM in 163 career NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets. However, it wasn’t his NHL career that will likely leave a lasting impression on hockey fans. In 138 games while representing Norway in some form over his career, the 30 year-old defenseman has racked up a whopping 311 penalty minutes, some of which have caused him to earn suspensions. In a shocking turn of events, Tollefsen didn’t get suspended in the four Olympic contests he played in Sochi this year, and didn’t even have to sit in the box! Don’t let his tough guy image fool you, Tollefsen is actually a star defenseman for the Norge and will easily be one of the most effective players in Stavanger this year. While his NHL career never really got off the ground, Tollefsen has proven to strive with Färjestad BK, and with the SHL regular season, Champions League tournament, EIHC and World Championships all in the same year, Tollefsen will have a lot of chances to prove just that this season.

Richard Wolowicz/HHOF-IIHF Images
Richard Wolowicz/HHOF-IIHF Images

3. Florian Hardy, G (France, EIHC Stavanger): If anybody is going to have to prove himself at this tournament, it’s Florian Hardy. Odds are, you’ve never heard of him prior to right now, but there is a good reason for that: he hasn’t exactly stolen the spotlight anywhere yet. So, why, oh why, would he be included on this list? Easy. With 39 year-old Cristobal Huet heading towards the end of his career, there needs to be a replacement waiting in the wings. With the French national U20 team currently sitting in Division 1B, high quality goaltenders such as Huet have been hard to find in the junior ranks, so it’s not like the team has a plethora of choices in the long run. Hardy, a 29 year-old, recently made the jump to the German DEL league this season, and with a .920 SP to go along with a 5-2-0 record, it appears as though he’s finally finding his stride. He’ll be the starting goalie for the French in Stavanger, and with many of France’s stars missing the tournament for different reasons, he’ll have to step it up if he wants to show his true potential.

Jean Levac/Postmedia Olympic Team
Jean Levac/Postmedia Olympic Team

2. Bernhard Starkbaum, G (Austria, EIHC Ljubljana): Starkbaum has been the new face of the Austrian National Team in recent years. The star of the “The Eagles” during the Olympic Qualifiers back in 2013, Starkbaum lead the Austrians to a Group D upset, with their only loss coming to the Germans in the deciding game, but because Germany lost to Italy the day before, Austria had enough points to advance to the Olympics. Starkbaum had a stellar season with MODO of the Elitserien in Sweden, posting 23 wins in 46 games, while boasting a 2.06 GAA and .933 SP. The 27 year old from Vienna, Austria has represented the country in many international competitions since 2001-2002, winning the 2001-2002 U18 WJC Division 1 Bronze Medal, the World Championship Division 1A Gold Medal in 2009-2010 as well as the World Championship Division 1A Silver Medal the year after. This past season, Starkbaum was a major reason why Austria will compete in the top group of the 2015 World Championships, leading his team to a silver medal on an Austrian team struggling to find overall consistency. Austria and Slovenia are coming in as the favourites heading into Ljubljana, and if the red and white are going to steal the gold medal, they’ll have to rely on Starkbaum to be rock solid.

Jim Young/REUTERS
Jim Young/REUTERS

1. Jan Mursak, F (Slovenia, EIHC Ljubljana): For years, the Slovenian national team has been stuck with Austria, Italy and Kazakhstan in what seems like a never-ending roller coaster between the Top Division and Division 1A. Because of that, there aren’t a whole lot of players that seem to stand out to the average hockey fan. Along with Robert Kristian and Anze Kopitar, Jan Mursak is likely implanted in your brain somewhere. A 2006 draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings, Mursak has played in 46 career games with the Red Wings, recording just four points in that time. His real success has come in Russia, where the 26 year-old winger has posted 44 points in 68 career KHL games over two seasons. While those stats are not exactly mind blowing, he has managed to score eight goals and 20 points in 18 games with CSKA Moscow this year, good for third on his club behind Stephane Da Costa and Alex Radulov. He’s been hot this season, and after strong showings with Slovenia at the Olympics and World Championships last year, he’s ready to shine once again.

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28 year-old forward Roman Wick has announced that he has retired from competing internationally for the Swiss national team in order to focus on his professional career.

Currently playing for the Zurich Lions, Wick stated that keeping his health in check while playing in the NLA was the reason behind his decision.

“I have realized that I need more and more time for a full regeneration and to completely cure injuries. Only in this way will I be able to give a hundred percent for my team, the ZSC Lions, in the long run.”

Named the Most Valuable Player by the NLA in Switzerland last year, Wick has represented the national team in over 75 games in various tournaments since 2002. While he has never been able to win a medal with the team, he did get to compete in two Winter Olympic tournaments, including the 2014 Sochi Games earlier this year.

“My time with the Swiss national team has been very exciting and educational. I always tried to represent Switzerland with full commitment and did so with pride.”

Wick isn’t totally unknown to the North American hockey crowd, as he has seen some time in both the NHL and AHL. A Calder Cup champion with the AHL’s Binghamton Senators in 2011, Wick also saw action in seven NHL contests, failing to record a point in seven games with Ottawa. Shortly after, he bolted back to Switzerland for the 2011-2012 season, where he currently has 251 points in 344 career NLA contests.

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The Belarusian national team made some big headlines in the hockey world on Wednesday, announcing that former coach Vladimir Krikunov would return to the team as a replacement for Gleg Hanlon.

Prior to becoming a coach, Krikunov for Dinamo Riga and PHC Krylya Sovetov in Russia, and also played for the Soviet Union at the 1976 Canada Cup. After his playing career came to a close, he moved on to coach Dinamo Minsk from 1984-1985 until 1990-1991 before moving on throughout Europe. His first experience as a coach at the international level came during the 1996 World Championships when he led Slovenia during Group C action. Since then, he has gone on to previously coach Belarus, Russia, Latvia and most recently, Kazakhstan.

Krikunov has won two medals internationally, a bronze medal at the 2005 World Championships with Russia, as well as a gold medal at the Division 1A World Championships with Kazakhstan back in 2013. However, his most impressive accomplishment may have come with the Belorussian national team, as, back in 2002, he led the team to a fourth place in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. The position came thanks to a shocking quarter-final victory over Sweden, a level of success the team has yet to even come close to replicating since then.

In other news, Igor Rachkovski was named the newest president of the Belarus national team. Considered to be one of the best sports leaders in the country, Rachkovski has also been the First Vice President of the National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus since 2012 and the President of the Belarusian Sailing Federation since 2008.

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Following a one year hiatus, Canada will return to the Deutschland Cup for the first time since their fourth place effort back in 2012. Hoping to become the second straight champion from North America (USA won it in 2013), Canada has won the tournament four times prior, with the last tournament victory coming back in 2008. The tournament, which is set to take place from Nov. 7-9 in Munich, Germany, should serve as a good warm-up for the Spengler Cup in late December, which could feature some, or even all five of the players below.

You can check out Canada’s roster for the tournament here.

goironpigs.com
goironpigs.com

5. Sebastien Caron, G: This won’t be Caron’s first swing at playing for Team Canada. In fact, it won’t even be his first crack at the Deutschland Cup, either. Playing with the DEL’s Iserlohn Roosters back in 2012-2013, Caron represented Canada in two games at the 2012 edition of the tournament, the last time the country was present. A  fourth-round pick by the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 1999, Caron has played in 95 career NHL games between four teams, posting a 26-48-7 record throughout five seasons spread throughout his career. His last kick at the can came back in 2011-2012, when, after acting as the starter for the Roosters, Caron played in three games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, posting a 1-1-0 record as an injury fill-in for the club. Caron was later traded along with two second-round draft picks in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and a third-round draft pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft to the Nashville Predators for goalie Anders Lindbäck, Kyle Wilson, and a seventh-round draft pick. Shortly after, Caron returned to the Roosters before getting released, which saw him sign with the Hamburg Freezers shortly after. It’s not clear as to who will get the starts in the tournament this year will be, but it’s a safe be to believe Caron will get at least one start in one of the three preliminary round contests.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

4. Zach Hamill, F: Like all the players on this list, this isn’t Hamill’s first time donning the red, white and black sweaters internationally. Unfortunately, his career has taken a major downfall since the last time he represented his country back in 2007 at the Canada/Russia Summit Series. A former 8th overall pick by the Bruins back in ’07, Hamill currently has 19 points in 18 games in a Canadian uniform, which came before he even suited up for any NHL team. His NHL career proved to be less than successful, as he has only recorded four assists in 20 career games, with no goal to boot. It was a tough pill to swallow for the youngster once pegged to be an effective goal-scorer for the Bruins, who was out of the league after a very brief three year stint. The 26 year-old Vancouver, B.C. native currently plays with the Finnish club HPK, having recorded 14 points in the first 13 games of the season. Some players are unable to live up to their potential from their junior hockey days, and while that’s evident in Hamill’s play, it’s great to see him succeed elsewhere.

german dude
goironpigs.com

3. Matt Pettinger, F: Like Caron, Pettinger is a carry over from the 2012 team that placed in fourth place. Posting two points in three games that year, Pettinger wont be relied on to put up big offensive numbers during the tournament, as he has only posted 9 points in 20 career international contests. Currently a member of the Hamburg Freezers, the left winger has been quite impressive in the German league, recording 144 points in 203 career DEL matches. Prior to signing in Germany, Pettinger had 3 points in 9 games with the Vancouver Canucks back in 2009-2010, the last stint of his NHL career, While it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see the 34 year-old forward back in the NHL, his two-way checking style should prove to be useful for Team Canada, who has been known to bring a high degree of toughness to international tournaments over the past few years.

sportfotocenter.de
sportfotocenter.de

2. Steve Reinprecht, F: A journeyman NHLer, Reinprecht last played with Team Canada back in 2003, finishing with an impressive 6 assists in 8 games as Canada managed to win the gold medal. At 38 years-old, it’s unlikely Reinprecht will ever represent his country internationally again, so the Edmonton, Alberta native will be out to make a lasting impact. In 663 career NHL games, the 2001 Stanley Cup champion with the Colorado Avalanche recorded 382 points with five teams, a solid amount for the defensively-responsible forward. Despite a career that saw some highlights, including a 51 point season with the Avalanche during the 2002-2003 campaign, Reinprecht struggled during his final few NHL seasons and would later find himself joining the Nürnberg Ice Tigers during the 2012-2013 NHL lockout, He has since remained with the club, and is even off to a solid start to the current campaign, recording 16 points in the first 13 games.

swiss-image.ch/Photo Nadja Simmen
swiss-image.ch/Photo Nadja Simmen

1. Chris Mason, G: Let me guess what you’re saying: two goalies on one list? As you’re probably aware, smaller tournaments like this don’t always attract top quality talent, but Mason has to be the best in this year’s edition of Team Canada. A five-time participant in an international tournament, Mason is hoping to improve upon his 2013 Spengler Cup result that saw him leave without a medal. It’s likely that Mason could represent Canada again at the Davos, Switzerland-based tournament later this year, but for now, he’ll have a chance to prove himself in Germany. A long-time NHLer who became the ninth NHL goaltender to score a goal, Mason has already won a gold and a silver in World Championship competition, but never was able to win a Stanley Cup during his 317 game career. Mason’s best years may be behind, but after serving time as a starter on multiple NHL teams, his experience should be key if Canada hopes to bring home the gold.

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The DEL2’s Fischtown Pinguins and PHL’s KH Sanok have advanced to the third round of the Continental Cup following their respective wins in Group B and Group C action this weekend. As well, the EIHL’s Belfast Giants will also move on to the next round after former Ukranian champion Kompanion Kyiv was forced to pull out due to the political situation.

The hometown Pinguins had a flawless tournament, winning all three games, including the final contest against Belfast on Sunday. The game wasn’t decided until the final two minutes of the contest when Brock Hooten, who recorded three points on Friday, scored a power-play goal to lift his team ahead. It wasn’t all too disappointing for Belfast, who will move on after having the best second place record between the two pools that competed this past weekend.

For Sanok, who featured former NHL/AHLer’s Mike Danton and Bryan Pitton, actually ended up tying Corona Brasov in the final standings, but wouldn’t move on due to goal differential. Neither Sanok or Corona finished with a perfect record after three games, but Sanok did have a GDF of +4, while Corona had just a +1.

Fischtown will now compete with Ritten Sport, Herning Blue Fox, and Yertis Pavlodar in Group D, while Sanok and Belfast will battle it out in Group E with Neman Grodno and Angers Ducs.

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The Belfast Giants have now improved to 2-0 heading into the final day of the Continental Cup Group B stage, defeating CSKA Sofia 6-2 on Saturday.

From the opening face-off, Belfast proved to be the much more dominant club, outshooting Sofia 24-7 after 20 minutes of play. With under five minutes to go in the first period, both Darryl Lloyd and Mark Garside scored a goal each for the Giants to give the team the 2-0 lead. The first wouldn’t end in a perfect scenario for Belfast, as Vladimir Antipov recorded a goal with just seconds remaining in the period to put his team within one.

Sofia had the advantage on the shot clock in the second, but it would be Belfast that would take advantage of their opportunities. First, Lloyd would get his second of the game on the power-play at the half-way mark in the contest, only to see his teammate Jeff Mason make it 4-1 Giants. Sofia would get yet another late goal, as Stanislav Muhachev potted one past Stephen Murphy with just three seconds remaining in the period. The goal would mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, as two more goals by the Giants allowed the EIHL based club to take their second victory of the tournament, sitting as only the second undefeated team along with the German hosts, Fischtown Pinguins Bremerhaven.

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The Belfast Giants proved to be superior over their Netherlands opponents, the Tilburg Trappers, beating them by a score of 4-1 to open up the Group B stage of the Continental Cup.

Belfast’s first period saw the club pester longtime Netherlands national goaltender Ian Meierdres early, forcing him to make 16 saves early. He wouldn’t have a perfect period between the pipes, however, as Adam Keefe found the back of the net with five minutes remaining in the opening frame, giving his club the 1-0 lead heading into the change room.

It would take less time in the second for the team to record their second goal of the game. This time it would be Mark McCutcheon, who squeezed the puck past Meierdres to make it 2-0 Giants with half the game to go. Just 52 seconds later, defenceman Cody Brookwell gave Belfast the safe 3-0 lead, ripping a shot from the blue line to capitalize on his team’s momentum, Belfast would record one more just for fun later in the second, as a power-play goal by Mike Kompon gave his team the 4-0 lead heading into the third.

The Giants were lucky enough to have goaltender Stephen Murphy in the net for the contest, as he was forced to make 29 saves through three periods of action. It looked as though he had his shut-out secured late in the game until the game hit the 56th minute, as Jurryt Smid beat Murphy close range to give the Trappers their only goal of the game. The marker proved to be meaningless at the end, as Belfast’s impressive effort throughout allowed the EIHL club to take the first game of the tournament on Friday.

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CSKA Sofia have brought on a couple of additions for the second round of the Continental Cup, signing Oleg Kvasha, Vladimir Antipov, Mikhail Lyubushin, Dmitry Vlasenkov and Dmitry Bykov.

Kvasha comes in as the most well known name on the roster. Chosen in the third round by the Florida Panthers in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, the Russian recorded 50 points over two seasons with the club before getting traded to the New York Islanders in the deal that sent Roberto Luongo to the Sunshine State. Kvasha would play four and a half seasons with the Islanders before playing a short stint with the Phoenix Coyotes. After struggling to find a new contract in the NHL, Kvasha went on to play on nine teams in the final seven years of his professional career before finding himself out of a job for the current season.

Sofia, representing Bulgaria in the Continental Cup, finished with an impressive 3-0 record in the first round of the tournament. The club will face the Fischtown Pinguins Bremerhaven, Belfast Giants and Tilburg Trappers in Bremerhaven from October 17th-19th.

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Medvescak Zagreb, one of the six teams that will compete at the Spengler Cup this December, has signed Canadian forward Geoff Kinrade for the remainder of the KHL season.

On Tuesday, Zagreb had announced that they had let go of former NHLer Anthony Stewart, claiming they needed to focus on bolstering their defense for the current season. That’s what lead them to signing Kinrade, a 29 year-old defenseman that most recently played five games with the NLA’s Ambrì-Piotta.

Kinrade would only see one NHL game during his career, playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2008-2009. His biggest North American career highlight came during the 2010-2011 American Hockey League season when he won the Calder Cup with the Binghamton Senators, the AHL affiliate of the Ottawa Senators.

Internationally, Kinrade has represented Team Canada at the past two Spengler Cup championships, winning it all in 2012. He won’t have the chance to suit up for the red and white in 2014, but will look to win his second tournament championship with Zagreb in December. The club has worked hard in recent weeks to help bolster the club for the event, signing many former NHL/AHLers, including former Sabres forward Ville Leino. Check out their roster here.

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Hockey Canada has announced that Jeff Tomlinson will be Canada’s coach when the team heads to Germany for the Deutschland Cup in early November.

Tomlinson isn’t a stranger to German hockey. Currently the coach of Berlin in the DEL, the 44 year-old Winnipeg native has also coached the Nürnberg Ice Tigers and Düsseldorfer EG in the past couple of seasons. A former forward with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, Tomlinson spent a large part of his career playing with Timmendorf Strand EC and Berlin Polar Bears during his professional career.

Hockey Canada also announced that Serge Aubin and Mike Stewart would serve as assistant coaches. Aubin, currently a coach with the Hamburg Freezers, was a veteran of 374 games over seven NHL seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets and Atlanta Thrashers from 1999-2006. Additionally, Aubin represented Canada three times at the annual Spengler Cup tournament, helping the team win gold back in 2007.

Stewart is currently the head coach with the Fischtown Pinguins, the reigning champions from the DEL2 league in Germany. A former 13th overall pick by the New York Rangers, Stewart also represented Team Canada at one point, suiting up for the Canadian National Team during the 1996-97 season following a multi-year AHL career.

Following a one year hiatus, Canada will return to the Deutschland Cup for the first time since their fourth place effort back in 2012. Hoping to become the second straight champion from North America (USA won it in 2013), Canada has won the tournament four times prior, with the last tournament victory coming back in 2008.

The tournament is set to take place from Nov. 7-9 in Munich, Germany.

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swiss-image.ch/Photo Andy Mettler

After a failed attempt at making the New York Rangers out of training camp, forward Matthew Lombardi has re-joined the Swiss club Geneve-Servette following a new contract.

A veteran of over 500 NHL games, Lombardi was hoping to make a comeback to the NHL after scoring 20 goals and 50 points in 46 games with GSHC last season. The attempt went sour early, as a groin injury during the pre-season all but sealed his fate in the long run. The Rangers were hoping Lombardi would accept their decision to send him down to the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack for the start of the season, but that looked to be the deal killer for the veteran forward.

Despite playing only one season in Switzerland, the 32 year-old Canadian had a lot of success with GSHC. Along with former Ottawa Senator Kaspars Daugavins, the duo managed to have an incredible season together, with Lombardi finishing as the league leader in points. The highlight of his season, however, had to come at the 2013 Spengler Cup. which saw him finish as the tournament leader in points (8 points in just 3 games) to help lead his team to the Spengler Cup championship. Lombardi will have the same opportunity this season, as the improved Swiss squad will look to defend their championship in Davos, Switzerland at the end of the year.

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Former NHL forward Ville Leino has signed with Croatian KHL club Medvescak Zagreb for the rest of the season.

Leino has had a tough couple of seasons despite a strong start to his NHL career. He was bought out of his contract by the Buffalo Sabres this past off-season and then was released a couple of weeks ago by the Boston Bruins following an unsuccessful training camp contract. Despite holding a six year, $27M contract prior to his buyout, Leino wasn’t able to score a single goal in 53 games with Buffalo during the 2013-14 season.

Zagreb currently houses former many former NHL players, including Shaone Morrisonn Anthony Stewart and Aaron Palushaj. The team will compete at the 2014 Spengler Cup in December, being one of the three teams to represent the KHL in the legendary tournament this year.

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Skelleftea AIK/CHL via Getty Images

The first round of the Champions Hockey League playoffs were determined on Friday, with the eight match-ups of the 1/8th finals having been finalized.

Believed to be the second best league heading into the tournament, the Finnish Liiga dominated the playoff roster with seven teams. The favourites from Sweden will have four clubs competing, while the Austrian EBEL has two, Swiss NLA has two and the Czech Extraliga has one of their own.

For the next three rounds of the playoffs, the match-ups will be decided by a two goal series, with the victor of each mini-tournament being decided based on goals. The overall tournament finals, which will happen in early February, will be a one game, winner takes all match-up.

November 4th-11th, 2014

1. Skelleftea AIK (SWE) – JYP Jyvaskyla (FIN)

2. Linkoping HC (SWE) – Sparta Prague (CZE)

3. Lukko Rauma (FIN) – TPS Turku (FIN)

4. Red Bull Salzburg (AUT) – Lulea Hockey (SWE)

5. SaiPa Lappeenranta (FIN) – Geneve-Servette (SUI)

6. Vienna Capitals (AUT) – Karpat Oulu (FIN)

7. Frolunda Gothenburg (SWE) – Tappara Tampere (FIN)

8. Fribourg-Gotteron (SUI) – IFK Helsinki (FIN)

Gary Bettman appeared on the NHL Network on Tuesday, saying that NHL participation in future Olympic hockey tournaments would be “extremely difficult”.

In his interview, which you can find here, the NHL Commissioner said that Pyongchang, South Korea (2018) and Beijing, China or Almaty, Kazakhstan (still up for grabs in 2022) weren’t particularly hockey hotbeds. Bettman brought up a good point when he talked about how big the Olympic tournaments in Salt Lake City and Vancouver were due to the tournaments being local to NHL markets. A large part has to do with the timing, as not many casual fans will find the idea of waking up to see Latvia vs Norway at 4:00am to be a positive experience.

Bettman did say, however, that he was “excited about the possibility” of the World Cup of Hockey, which is expected to take place in Toronto, Ontario in 2016. The NHL has still yet to announce the official details as of yet, but it is believed to be planned prior to the 2016-2017 NHL season.

So, is this it for the NHL? Will they really not send their best players to defeat the Koreans 55-0? Or is this similar to what was said prior to the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi?

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The 2014 Ontario Hockey League season has just begun, which means it’s almost time for the 2014 World Under-17 Challenge. The tournament, taking place from October 31, 2014 – November 8, 2014 in Sarnia and Lambton, Ontario, has always been a great showcase of young talent, with the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Erik Johnson, Patrick Kane, John Tavares competing at the tournament in the past ten years. This years crop is no different, and with the U20 World Junior program struggling over the past couple of tournaments, Canada can use all the help they can get.

Claus Andersen/Getty Images North America
Claus Andersen/Getty Images North America

5. Victor Mete (D, London Knights): Mete was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons this past summer, but he’s ready to let his play do the real talking. Before even playing a single OHL contest, the Owen Sound Attack traded Mete to the London Knights for six draft picks after the youngster didn’t show up to training camp. The Woodbridge, Ontario native has yet to record a point yet during his short junior career, but that shouldn’t be an issue down the road for the defenseman who had 30 points in 32 games last season with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens Midget AAA team last year. Mete is a very fluid skater that has an incredible max speed that can be achieved in just a matter of seconds. The power-play ace was a popular target at the 2014 OHL Cup, in large part due to his strong offensive ability and his pure dominance against kids his own age. Mete didn’t disappoint, recording 4 points from the back end in just five games. The future is bright for Mete, who could end up being one of the best defensemen at the upcoming tournament.

Brian Watts / OJHL Images
Brian Watts / OJHL Images

4. Travis Barron (LW, Ottawa 67’s): Barron had a successful midget season in 2013-2014, and the signs are there for him to become the next big OHL star. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound forward was captain of the Toronto Jr. Canadiens AAA Midget team last season while scoring 23 goals and 41 points in 30 games. While the numbers may not be on par with Mascherin’s, the 67’s chose Barron knowing that his incredible two way presence would make him very valuable on the roster. An excellent forechecker, Barron’s ability to score after landing multiple big checks gives the Belfountain, ON, an all around game that many teams look for in a forward. Barron comes from a family of hockey players, as his uncle, Andrew Cassels, was a long time NHL forward who won a silver medal with Team Canada back in 1996, as well as his cousin, Cole Cassels, the Oshawa Generals captain who was selected by the Vancouver Canucks back in 2013. His role with the 67’s likely wont be huge as a 16 year old, but once the young forward gets a season under his belt, expect Barron to be one of the brights spots on the team that currently has yet to record a single win this season.

kitchenerrangers.com
kitchenerrangers.com

3. Adam Mascherin (C, Kitchener Rangers): Mascherin is one of the top elite 16 year-old scoring threat in the entire OHL. The second overall pick in the draft this past year, Mascherin is coming off of a 129 point season as the captain of the Vaughan Kings Minor Midget AAA team. To add on to that, Mascherin had 12 points in six OJHL games with the Georgetown Raiders, competing against players that were much older than him. The 2013-2014 Greater Toronto Hockey League Player of the Year winner models his game after Steven Stamkos, who, in case you didn’t know, is quite the hockey player. While many players would love to replicate the success of the top NHL stars, Mascherin has all the tools to become a star of his own. The Rangers drafted Mascherin to help add to their offense that has needed help for many years now, and he’s already begun to impress the hometown faithful. In his fourth game of the OHL season, the Maple, Ontario native scored two goals against the Oshawa Generals, which may prove to be the beginning of a long, successful hockey career.

OHL IMAGES / TERRY WILSON
OHL IMAGES / TERRY WILSON

2. Sean Day (D, Mississauga Steelheads): There may not be a single person in the hockey community who doesn’t know about “Mr. Exceptional”. A Belgium-born defenseman, Day lived in Detroit, Michigan for much of his life, yet only has a Canadian passport. The 16-year-old defenseman was the fourth player awarded exceptional status back in 2013 due to his extreme skill that exceeded that of all other players his age. After a learning year with the Mississauga Steelheads last season, Day has already cemented himself as an incredible young talent on a club needing a turn around from a poor campaign. In Mississauga’s first game of the season against the Oshawa Generals, Day recorded two goals as his team managed to recover from a late game collapse to win 5-4 in OT. Day has proven to be the best player on the team after just three games, a big step in the right direction for the 2013 fourth overall pick. There isn’t much Day doesn’t have; incredible speed, great puck-handling skill, wins many 1-on-1 battles and can even throw a giant hit. This wont be Day’s first appearance for Team Canada at the U17 tournament, and if his development has any effect on his play, he’ll be one of the standouts when the puck drops later this month.

Chychrun_AB3063037071. Jakob Chychrun (D, Sarnia Sting): The legend of Jakob Chychrun has just begun. The first overall pick in the 2014 OHL Draft, the young defenseman caught the eye of the hockey world after scoring his first two goals of his young career in a single game against the Steelheads in early October. Chychrun led all Greater Toronto Hockey League defensemen in goals (16), assists (27) and points (43) through 29 games played last season while competing with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens AAA Midget team. Despite missing the OHL Cup in March with an injury, Chychrun led his team to a GTHL Championship title last year before the team fell to the Toronto Marlboros in the OHL Cup finals. Chychrun competed with Team Ontario at the 2014 World U-17 Hockey Challenge where he scored four points in five games last year, catching the eye of scouts everywhere. Currently the leading scorer on the Sting, Chychrun is a big, tall defenseman that takes up a lot of the ice. He has proven already to excel when he gets more ice time, and is especially impressive on the PP and PK. Featuring a great wrist shot and an even better slap shot, Chychrun hows good patience and on ice awareness that most players his age still have matching. Get ready folks, he’s the real deal.

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Former NHL forward Wojtek Wolski has set the KHL record for the fastest hat-trick, scoring three goals in just 1:46 on Monday.

The Polish forward, who currently captains the Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod KHL club, scored three goals in less than two minutes to open the second period. Their opposition, Sibir Novosibirsk, had the 1-0 lead prior thanks to a late first period goal from Konstantin Alexeyev. Wolski’s destruction paid it’s toll for Novosibirsk, who were unable to overcome the deficit and would fall to Torpedo 3-2.

Unfortunately, despite having a a solid NHL rookie season with the Colorado Avalanche that saw him record 50 points with the Colorado Avalanche, Wolski’s career has gone downhill for the most part. Before landing in the KHL, Wolski played with multiple teams before eventually landing in an ideal situation. Last year, he managed to record 34 points in 54 games, but this year’s effort has been even more impressive. In just 14 games, Wolski has recorded 17 points, giving him 52 points in his brief KHL career.

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The top hockey league in Finland, Liiga, will grow to 15 teams for the 2015-2016 season after accepting the expansion application from KooKoo Kouvola.

Kouvola, who won the second tier Mestis league championship last season, had applied to join the league this year, but was beaten out by Vaasan Sport in that regard. The club is currently tied for second in the Mestis league, posting a 7-1-0 record in 8 games for 21 points.

Earlier this year, Jokerit Helsinki, one of the most legendary clubs in all of Finland, bolted to the KHL to participate in the top European hockey league. Jokerit is set to play in the Spengler Cup this December, participating in the tournament for the first time since 2003.

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Ryan Gardner, currently playing with SC Bern of the NLA in Switzerland, will miss 4-6 weeks due to a knee injury.

The Canadian born winger has spent the past four seasons playing with the Swiss based club, giving him a total of 522 points in 720 games during his NLA career. Before eventually transitioning into a Swiss national team player, Gardner represented Canada in three Spengler Cup tournaments, recording seven points in 18 contests. Since then, Gardner has posted 11 points in 21 games for Team Switzerland at the World Championships, mainly playing in a bottom six forward role.

Gardner has seen some success at the Champions Hockey Level. After winning the original tournament back in 2008-2009 with the Zurich Lions, Gardner has gone on to record four points in four games this year with Bern. Bern has struggled this year, currently sitting in last place in Group E. Bern has one more game remaining on the schedule, with the Stavanger Oilers hoping to have a similar result as their 2-0 victory last Tuesday.

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The Zurich Lions of the NLA in Switzerland have signed Mike Künzle to a three year contract extension.

Künzle was recently suspended by the Champions Hockey League last Wednesday for a checking from behind call in a game against the Vienna Capitals. He is currently banned for the Lions next game, the final one of the group stage. In four CHL contests this year, Künzle currently has zero points as a 20 year old forward. In league action, Künzle has fared much better, posting six points in eight contests.

Künzle, a 20 year old forward, is looking to stick in the NLA for the first time in his young career. Last year, he played in 44 games for the club, registering just 11 points, but he also spent time with the NLB’s GC Küsnacht Lions. With the minor league club, Künzle recorded six points in 11 games, the same amount of points he has in just eight games at the top level so far this year.

Despite playing in Switzerland, Künzle isn’t unknown to North American fans. In 2013, Künzle participated in the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect camp in early of July. Previously, he added three goals and an assist in six games while representing Switzerland at the 2013 World Junior tournament.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.