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
After the Americans beat Canada East 3-2 earlier this week thanks to a goal with just two seconds remaining in the game, they made sure to lay down more of a beating on Thursday during a 7-1 victory over Canada.
Team USA came in as favourites on Thursday, and for a good reason thanks to their all-time tournament record being 26-2-1-4. Just 5:18 into the game, Tyler Sheehy got USA on the board after picking up a loose rebound in front before beating Blade Mann-Dixon to make it 1-0. Less than a minute after the Sheehy goal, Anthony Angello went five-hole on Mann-Dixon, extending their lead to two goals before anybody had even settled in to the contest.
U.S. got another goal to make it 3-0 at 9:48 into the first. After Canada struggled to clear the puck out of their own zone, Thomas Novak took control of the loose disk and fired it past the Canadian goaltender to take the three goal advantage before the first period had even hit the half-way point.
Canada did score one of their own. Alex Tonge, one of the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s best forwards this season, skated right to the net and picked up a rebound created by Michael Laidley, sending the puck over USA goaltender Eric Schierhorn to break the shutout 13 minutes into the battle.
If Canada thought they had any chance of winning the game, they were wrong. Two minutes after the Canada goal, Snively scored his second goal of the game, only to have Kyle Connor make it 5-1 just 47 seconds later. The first period finally would come to a close, but unfortunately for the hometown fans, Dylan Gambrell and Brock Boeser were both able to add to the onslaught to secure the 7-1 victory for the rivals from below the border.
Thanks to the victory, USA will now face Nikolaj Ehlers and Denmark on Saturday afternoon at 4:30pm EST. Canada, on the other hand, will play in their fourth straight game of the tournament against Russia for the bronze medal at 8:30 pm EST on Friday.
Denmark will battle for a gold medal in their first ever attempt at the World Junior A Challenge after defeating Russia 5-1 on Thursday.
The Danes controlled action in the early stages of the first period, very similar to what happened when the two teams met during the preliminary round. Matthias Asperup gave Denmark the 1-0 lead just 2:58 into the game after picking up his rebound that came off of the crossbar before beating Anton Krasotkin for the go-ahead goal.
Neither team would score again in the first, but a quick rush in the second period saw Denmark extend their lead to three goals. After tournament star Nikolaj Ehlers skated up the ice and put the puck on net, Oliver Bjorkstrand picked up the loose puck before rifling it home for the 2-0 lead just three minutes into the second. A minute after, Nick Olesen made it 3-0 after some great passing between him, Mikkel Aagaard and Sonny Hertzberg for the beautiful goal.
Yegor Rykov got one back for Russia at the 10:42 mark of the second. With a delayed penalty for Denmark coming up, Rykov managed to beat George Sorensen to put Russia within two of their Danish opponents with half the game still to go.
The second period ended on a high note for the Danes. With a man on the penalty box, Jeppe Holmberg got a shorthanded marker to make it 4-1 Denmark heading into the third and final frame. The final twenty minutes saw an extra goal from Bjorkstrand with 20 seconds to go, meaning that Denmark had earned a birth into the World Junior A Challenge finals on Saturday afternoon, while Russia will battle for Bronze on Friday.
While most of Canada will be focused on the World Juniors in Toronto and Montreal this year, some of the best Canadians playing in Europe will have a chance to represent their country at the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland. Canada has won the Spengler 12 times, with the most recent championship coming in 2012 following a 7-2 final victory over Davos. Additionally, the team has been in the final in 10 of the last 13 years, which followed a four year stint as champions back in the late ’90’s.
Team Canada got a big boost on Thursday morning, learning that forward Curtis Lazar would be allowed to represent the country at the upcoming World Junior Championships in Toronto and Montreal, Canada.
The 19-year-old forward made the Ottawa Senators out of training camp this season, scoring one goal and six assists in 27 games this year. His first goal of the season came earlier this week against the Buffalo Sabres, a big accomplishment for a player seeing limited ice time. He’ll be expected to play a big role at the tournament, as he posted three goals and seven points in seven games for Canada last year.
Lazar is expected to see action in the top six with the likes of New York Rangers forward Anthony Duclair and junior scoring star Connor McDavid. Lazar will join the team for the remainder of the pre-tournament games, but will not play in against Russia on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Goaltending: Finland returns to the World Junior’s with arguably the best goaltending duo in the tournament. In fact, both Juuse Saros and Ville Husso are returning to help defend their 2014 gold, with Saros expected to take the starting role once again. Saros, a prospect of the Nashville Predators, had a 1.57 goals against and .943 save percentage in the tournament last year, a performance that was good enough to to be named to the tournament All-Star Team. His play also caught the attention of the men’s national team, who brought Saros aboard as a backup to Nashville’s current goalie, Pekka Rinne. The team would grab the silver medal, completing the strong season for the Finnish goaltender. The 2013-2014 Liiga Rookie of the Year, Saros has asserted himself once again as the starting goaltender for HPK Hameenlinna in Finland. Saros should be fine holding the load in the short World Junior tournament, but if he does in fact slip at any moment, St. Louis Blues prospect Ville Husso will be ready to take over the reigns. A starting goalie with HIFK, Husso was the top ranked European goalie in Central Scouting’s Rankings prior to the 2014 NHL Draft. While Husso did go winless last year, the Finns weren’t up to their winning ways at that point, leaving Saros to steal the show. With either goalie in the net this time around, it’s time to be scared of the boys in blue and white.
Defensemen: Most people have probably heard about Julius Honka by now. The Dallas Stars prospect has spent the season in the American Hockey League with Texas, getting a chance to play with the defending Calder Cup champions. Due to the experience of some of the defensemen on the team, Honka hasn’t been relied on too heavily to start. Honka is going to get a lot of time in the top four during this tournament along with Sami Niku, Atte Mäkinen and Alex Lintuniemi. Lintuniemi, a member of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, is well on his way to beat out his personal league scoring highs, making LA Kings scouts happy about their selection. Both Niku and Mäkinen will be participating in their first official U20 tournaments after many years of participating at different levels. Both players currently have limited roles in Finnish Liiga action, but still compete at a high level of competition and should be strong at this years tournament.
Forwards: Last year, Finland was blessed by scoring sensations Teuvo Teräväinen and Saku Mäenalanen. This year, that isn’t the case. With Teräväinen gone and Alex Barkov not available for the Finns, the team is missing a leading centreman who can be the go-to-guy in most situations. Aleksi Mustonen and Roope Hintz are two favourites to light it up in their absence that fans may have not heard of previously. For NHL fans, Kasperi Kapanen (Pittsburgh), Artturi Lehkonen (Montreal), Julius Vähätalo (Detroit) and Juho Lammikko (Florida) will suit up for the team and bring a considerable amount of offense. Of that group Lehkonen is the only one who played at last years tournament, scoring two goals and adding another two assists. It is expected that Lehkonen will have a bigger role this year, and after five points in six U20 games this year, as well as with his play with the Swedish club Frölunda, he deserves it. Two other returnees for the tournament that should be impactful are Otto Rauhala and Juuso Ikonen, and 16-year-old Jesse Puljujarvi is ready to begin his career as the superstar many people are expecting him to become one day.
Projection: Don’t let their gold medal last year fool you, the Finns are pretty bipolar when it comes to this tournament. The team has only won three gold medals ever, and before last year, there last came back in 1998. They do, however, have a few of the key cogs from the 2014 tournament, but with some of the competition at this years tournament, it may be tough to grab a gold. Will the compete for a medal, though? There is still a good chance of that.
The 2013 Spengler Cup Champions, Geneve-Servette, have announced the additions of defenseman Francis Bouillon and goaltender Janick Schwendener for the 2014 edition of the legendary tournament.
Bouillon is well known by North Americans for participating in 776 games with the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators. Last season, the 39-year-old defenseman skated in 52 regular season games and nine playoff matches with Montreal last year, his third stint with the Quebec-based team. Bouillon wasn’t given a new contract with the team this past year, and after a tryout stint with the team during the pre-season went unsuccessful, Bouillon signed with the NLA’s Ambrì-Piotta back in October. Not known for putting up big offensive numbers from the point, Bouillon currently has six points in 19 games played this year.
Also officially joining the team is Schwendener, a 22-year-old Switzerland native. Schwendener is actually property of the hosts of the Spengler Cup, HC Davos, but was loaned over due to injury issues for Christopher Bays and Robert Mayers, GSHC’s usual two goalies. Schwendener has been spectacular so far in the six games he’s played for Geneve-Servette, recording two shutouts during his short term contract with the club.
Earlier in the week, GSHC announced that Bouillon’s teammate, forward Inti Pestoni, would join the team as the first reinforcement. For a full updated roster, click here.
Goalies: George Sørensen may perhaps be known best for scoring an empty-net goal at the 2013 Division 1B U18 World Juniors, but the young netminder should be known more for his play. All he ever seems to do when he puts on the Danish jersey is win. While it’s almost guaranteed that he won’t be winning anything at the 2015 World Juniors, he did help Denmark win the 2014 Division 1A tournament with a performance that got him named the Top Player for Denmark. The year prior, he was named the Top Goaltender for the U18 D1A tournament, winning a Gold Medal in the process. To top it all off, the Herning backup goalie in the Danish league won a bronze medal at the U20 D1A tournament, giving him his third medal in five World Junior tournaments. This will be his third attempt at the U20 tournament, and with it being his first in the main group, Sørensen will have his work truly cut out for him for the first time.
Defensemen: This is the position that will end up killing them, but they do have a few bright spots. The expected top two defensive pairings will likely include Anders Krogsgaard (Esbjerg), Sonny Hertzberg (Oshawa Generals), Matias Lassen (Rødovre) and Mads Larsen (Malmö). Hertzberg is likely the most well known defenseman on the team, having moved over to the Ontario Hockey League this past summer. He has represented the Danes in multiple competitions over the past few years, and has even scored three goals in U20 action this season alone. Krogsgaard was a big reason why the Danes won the Division IA World Juniors last year, which resulted in his second junior gold medal in the past two years. Lassen hasn’t represented Denmark yet at an official IIHF U20 tournament, but he did pull home a gold at the 2013 U18 DIA juniors. Larsen could steal a lot of the ice time in this years tournament due to his strong performance at last year’s event, and if he’s proved anything this year, it’s that he can with some solid competition in the Swedish junior league.
Forwards: For a team that doesn’t have an extensive list of NHLer’s with big time success, they do have a lot of players currently playing in the Canadian Hockey League. The biggest name of all is Nikolaj Ehlers, a forward with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads who was drafted ninth overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Despite putting up just an OK performance during Denmark’s big tournament victory last year, Ehlers is an elite player and could be this tournament’s Nino Niederreiter, the Swiss forward who stole the show at the 2010 World Juniors. Other big names on the roster are Mikkel Aagaard of the Niagara IceDogs, Mads Eller of the Edmonton Oil Kings and Alexander True of the Seattle Thunderbirds. Besides a few bright spots in the top six, there are some players playing elsewhere that could steal some of the spotlight, including Mathias Asperup and Kristian Jensen from the Swedish Hockey League.
Projection: Denmark will be in a battle just to survive. Despite Ehlers proving himself as a top level forward, he wont be able to save his team on his own. Despite being a small hockey nation, they do have a bunch of players competing at a high level in Canada, giving them some talented options outside their star forward. Sørensen is going to have to be spectacular to make up for the lackluster defense, but they likely wont have enough altogether to overcome Germany at the end of the tournament.
Canada saw their two goal lead disappear late in the game, but their effort wouldn’t go to way thanks to a 3-2 win against Russia.
The game saw a perfect start for Canada. Tyson Jost got his first of two points on Tuesday after going five-hole from the slot to give Canada the 1-0 lead just 1:39 into the battle.
The early lead was the only goal the game saw until the 3:53 mark of the second period. Some fantastic puck control in the Russian zone by Gabe Bast paid off as he banged in a rebound goal at 3:53 of the second period to give Canada the 2-0 lead.
The Russians would finally score one of their own. A blocked shot at the Canada West line turned into a goal for Russia after Denis Guryanov was able to cut the lead in half at 8:49 of the second.
Canada had controlled the offensive pressure for the majority of the game, but that went to waste in the early part of the third. Canada goaltender Tommy Nixon was caught out of position with 14:49 to go in the 3rd, allowing Russia’s Kirill Kaprizov to score and make it 2-2.
The game wouldn’t find a victor during the first 65 minutes of play, meaning a shootout would be required. Russia was unable to put one past Nixon during the skills competition, while Jackson Keane, the son of former NHLer Mike Keane, and Tyson Jost were both able to score for Canada to give them the 3-2 SO victory.
Both teams will now be required to play in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, while USA and Denmark will have automatic byes to the semi-finals.
A goal by Shane Gersich with just 2.1 seconds remaining in the game gave the Americans the 3-2 victory, meaning they’ll have an automatic bye into the semi-finals.
Brock Boeser got the game started off well for the Americans. After winning a face-off, Boeser sent the puck to Kyle Connor, who rifled the shot that saw Boeser redirect it past Canadian goaltender Blade Mann-Dixon to make it 1-0 USA 11 minutes in. The goal proved to be the fastest ever at the start of the PP in the history of the World Junior A Challenge, coming just three seconds after the puck was dropped in the Canadian zone.
Canada East converted on the man-advantage just over four minutes later. Lucas Patt got his wrist shot through traffic, before ringing it off the post and in past Cale Morris for the 1-1 goal.
The second period saw no score, but the third period sure proved to be exciting. The score remained tied until 15:07 of the third period when Canada’s Zac Tierney’s power-play blast from the point beat Morris cleanly, giving Canada the 2-1 lead.
With 1:31 left in regulation, the whole landscape changed. Seamus Malone of the Dubuque Fighting Saints tied the game up at two after converting on a Christian Wolanin one-timer to beat Mann-Dixon through a screen. The game looked poised to head to overtime, but Gersich’s heroics in the dying seconds of the contest meant that the Americans would earn a bye to the semi-finals thanks to a perfect 2-0 record, while Canada East would have to battle in the quarter-finals on Wednesday with a winless record.
Goalies: Like some of the top hockey powers, the Czech’s have multiple good goalies that could all steal the starting position. Vitek Vanecek and Daniel Vladar will man the pipes this season, with both goalies having something to prove. Vanecek was drafted 39th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft by the Washington Capitals. He played for the Czech under-18 team over 22 games last season, posting a 2.52 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. He also logged 38 games (2.64 GAA, .921 save percentage) with the under-20 team for Bili Tygri Liberec in the Czech league. Vladar, on the other hand, is one of the top rated goaltenders for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. This may simply not be Vladar’s time to shine on the world stage, but that just means he will be ready to steal the spotlight in 2016 or 2017. The kid is 6’5″, and while it’s natural to think that all he needs to do is just sit and cover the net, he has the rare ability to be flashy, yet safe with his play. For a guy of his size, he has above average quickness and is almost unbeatable across the goal line. His positional play could use a bit of work, but Vladar has cat like reflexes, similar to Hasek, but in a more contained fashion. His rebound control may be the very best in the draft class, absorbing pucks with ease from pretty much every angle.
Defensemen: The blue line may be the Czech’s biggest weakness, but withRimouski Oceanic defenseman Jan Košťálek on board, they could be fine. Košťálek was selected by the Winnipeg Jets in the 5th round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, not long after his first World Junior performance. He’s never been an offensive defenseman during international play, having recorded just 22 points in 82 games for the Czech Republic. However, he is well on his way to recording a 30+ point season in Rimouski this year, which would be the best of his short junior career so far. He’ll be joined by Peterbourgh Petes defenseman and Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Dominik Masin. He does have some downsides, such as being the most penalized player in the Czech U20 league last year, but he’s consistently been one of the best defenseman on the Petes all season long. HC Vitkovice’s Jan Stencel will both likely see some significant ice time during the tournament.
Forwards: Even without top draft prospect Adam Musil, who has played with Canada at two separate international tournaments, the Czech’s should be fine. The big news recently was that Boston Bruins prospect David Pastrňák was getting loaned to the Czech team after a five game stint in the NHL. A returning forward, Pastrňák has five goals and 20 points in 19 AHL games this season to go along with an assist in a limited role with the Bruins. Likely joining him on the first line will be Jakub Vrána, a recent first round draft pick by the Washington Capitals. Vrána will be participating in his third WJC tournament, and if the trend continues, this will be his best tournament by far. Another key notable will be Pavel Zacha, a Sarnia Sting forward that is likely to go high in the draft this year. He had zero points in a very limited role for the Czech’s in last years tournament, and even though he’ll be just 17 when the tournament begins in December, he’s earned a spot in the top six due to his play with Sarnia this year. Expect some offense out of fellow CHL forwards Václav Karabáček and Jan Mandate, but they will mainly play more of a two-way role with the team.
Projection: After two silvers in a row at the U-18 level, expectations are high for the Czech’s. With their performances at tournaments at lower age groups and, other than last year, their recent swing in the U20 standings, there is reason to believe they will be even more competitive this year. However, the cuts of Jakub Zboril and Pavel Jenys were surely confusing due to their involvement in the Canadian Hockey League, the country where the tournament will be held. Will they still battle for a medal? Maybe, but a collapse may be in order for some of the more favoured countries.
One of most famous European hockey teams of all time, Jokerit Helsinki recently moved over from the Finnish Liiga to the Russian KHL to start the season. The 2014 Spengler Cup will be the seventh chance at the championship for the team, with their most recent appearance coming back in 2003. The issue: they have never come better than third. Will the team featuring some former NHL and AHL prospects be able to turn that all around?
The U.S. Junior Select Team has begun the World Junior A Challenge on a high note, defeating Switzerland by a score of 7-0 on Monday.
The Americans started off with a beautiful goal 11:13 into the first. The play all started when Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Dakota Joshua sent the puck to Mitch Reinke, who saucered it off to Joe Snivley to finish off the tic-tac-toe play. Thomas Novak made it 2-0 four minutes later when he managed to tip the shot from the point, doubling their lead heading into the first intermission.
Anthony Angello finished the game with a team high four points, and his second assist of the contest came six minutes into the second frame. His work would not go unnoticed, as he sent the puck to Andrew Oglevie, who scored after his teammates hard charge up the ice for the 3-0 goal. Just 1:44 after that, Blake Hillman sent the puck to Shane Gersich, who received the breakout pass before scoring on Swiss goalie Daniel Muff from a tough angle to make it 4-0.
The U.S. made it 5-0 with just six minutes to go in the second. Brock Boeser gave his team the enormous lead with a shot just in front of the net, finishing off the period of dominance for the country. Oglevie added his second goal of the game early in the third period, while Angello finished of his great performance with his first goal and fourth point of the night, making it 7-0 USA. The onslaught would eventually stop at seven goals, giving the Americans their first win of the tournament and leaving Switzerland with a 1-1 record after the preliminary round.
USA will now face Canada East at 4:30pm EST on Tuesday to finish off the preliminary round for both teams.
KHL club HC Salavat Yulaev Ufa is making it’s third Spengler Cup appearance in 2014. The 2011 KHL champions, the team first participated in 2007 where they were defeated 2-1 by Team Canada in the finals. In 2012, they made a less successful return, losing out to Davos in the quarter-finals. Can they erase their weak performance two years ago and go for their first tournament title?
Denmark will head into the semi-finals thanks to a 4-2 victory against Russia at the World Junior A Challenge on Monday.
The Russians needed just seven minutes to score their first goal. After a couple of Danish efforts went unsuccessful, 17-year-old Mikhail Vorobyov picked up a pass from Denis Guryanov in the corner and beat George Sorensen below the blocker to break the ice.
There was no question that Ehlers was going to be a force at this tournament. A QMJHL scoring star with the Halifax Mooseheads, Ehlers scored two goals last night against Team Canada West to lead Denmark to the victory. He showed his skill once again at the end of the first period when he scored a beautiful five-hole short-handed goal on the breakaway with less than a second remaining in the period. The goal light came on before the period light, signalling that the goal was in fact good enough to count.
The second period saw no scoring, but Denamrk sure got close. Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand had the best chance with five minutes to go when his wrist shot went over Ilya Samsonov’s glove, but the puck stayed out after hitting the crossbar. Mikkel Aagaard followed that up by a last second opportunity of his own, but unlike Ehlers in the first period, the shot proved to be just a second too late.
If you needed any proof that Ehlers was a good player, this tournament was all you needed. After his dominant performance on Sunday, Ehlers followed it up by scoring 100% of Denmark’s goals on Monday, including an early third period marker that beat Samsonov over the glove.
Russia wasn’t too pleased with Ehlers, so they decided to score one of their own five minutes later. The team got the tying goal from Alexander Kozyrev, who’s slap shot from the point went untouched all the way into the back of the net.
The highlight of the tournament may have come with just three minutes left in the game, and of course, it came courtesy of Ehlers. After receiving a beautiful stretch pass, Ehlers made an incredible play deke off his skate before flipping it over Samsonov for the go ahead goal. Anders Krogsgaard scored an empty netter in the final seconds of the game, sealing Denmark’s fate as the champions of Group B following a 2-0 record in preliminary round action.
The Spengler Cup will see it’s first ever Croatian participant this season as Medveščak Zagreb will be one of the three KHL representatives in the tournament. The team features a lot of former NHL and AHL prospects, so if fans were looking for some familiar faces to root for, Zagreb is your team.
HC Davos have released their roster for the 2014 Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland. Always favourites to win the tournament, Davos has had a season to remember this year so expectations are even higher. The team have added defenseman Johan Fransson and forwards Niklas Persson and Nicklas Danielsson just for the tournament, so expect the Swedish trio to be a factor this year.
Genève-Servette returns to the Spengler Cup this year in an attempt to grab the championship for the second year in a row. Last year, Matthew Lombardi, Tobias Stephan and Kaspars Daugavins put on an incredible show, but only Lombardi is returning to the 2014 team. Will they be able to overcome their less than stellar showing so far in the NLA to win it all again?
Genève-Servette has added it’s first reinforcement for the upcoming Spengler Cup tournament, announcing that HC Ambrì-Piotta forward Inti Pestoni will join the team once again.
Pestoni played a big role with the 2013 Spengler Cup champions, scoring four points in four games as the team managed to win gold. It was a big accomplishment for the former NLA Rookie of the Year, who scored a career high 36 points in 49 NLA league games last year.
The 23-year old, who is currently under contract with Ambri until 2016, will add to a team that features former NHLer’s Matt D’Agostini, Matthew Lombardi, Alex Picard and Cody Almond. Last year, GSHC defeated CSKA Moscow, the same team that hockey legend Sergei Fedorov (he’s the General Manager) made a return to, in the tournament finals.
Geneva’s coach Chris McSorley, who has been with the team since 2001, hopes to find more help prior to the tournament, but knows it could be a tough task.
“It’s not that easy,” McSorley said. “When it comes to the Spengler Cup, most teams draw an iron curtain.”
The 2014 Euro Hockey Tour season will come to an end this weekend with the Channel One Cup in Sochi, Russia and Prague, Czech Republic. At the Karjala Cup tournament back in November, Sweden defeated Finland to grab the gold, while Russia took down the Czech Republic for the final medal spot. All four teams have won the COC in the past five years, with Russia (previously the Soviet Union) holding 30 gold medals, the most out of any team. The country with the most points at the end of the two tournaments will be crowned the champion, with Sweden currently leading the way with seven points after three games.
To prepare for the tournament, here are five players to keep an eye on this weekend. The tournament is set to take place from Dec. 18-21, with all teams having a day off on the 19th.
5. Ville Leino, F (Finland): 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. With nobody in North America willing to give the 31-year-old a chance, Leino found himself replacing former NHLer Anthony Stewart on Medvescak Zagreb, a Croatian team participating in the KHL. Leino has had a good start to the season, recording seven points in the first 11 games of the season. Leino has been held without a single point in 18 previous Euro Hockey Tour games, but a lot has changed since 2007. Will the disgruntled forward prove himself this time around? Regardless, this will likely act as a warm-up to the Spengler Cup, as Leino will represent Medvescak at the legendary tournament from December 26th-December 31st.
4. Linus Omark, F (Sweden): Just like Leino, Omark’s NHL career went down the drain just as quickly as it began. But Omark, who has a high array of highlight reel goals to his credit, has played well internationally in the past for Sweden. Omark wasn’t on the team during the Karjala Cup last month, but he does have a point in four previous EHT games. At the World Championships, which he hasn’t participated in since 2010, Omark has 14 points in 18 career games to go along with 39 points in 56 additional international contests. Omark had eight goals and 32 points in 79 career NHL contests, but his KHL career has already taken off, posting 34 points in 35 games this year with Jokerit. Also like Veino, who was Omark’s teammate for a brief period of time with Buffalo last season, Omark will participate in the Spengler Cup later this month, acting as one of Jokerit’s top players in the short tournament. But first, he will look to help defend Sweden’s EHT gold from November, something the country has struggled to do in recent years despite their usual success at every other level.
3. Atte Engren, G (Finland): Many people had forgotten about Engren since his AHL days with the Milwaukee Admirals a few seasons back, but the Finnish national team surely hasn’t. He isn’t up to par with guys like Pekka Rinnem Tuukka Rask or Kari Lehtonen, but he’s good enough to be the starter during Euro Hockey Tour events. Engren was drafted as 204th overall by the Nashville Predators at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, but due to a log jam between the pipes, Engren was never given a chance to perform in the NHL. Last season, Engren joined the KHL’s HC Lev Praha for his first crack at hockey in the Russian league, but the team folded prior to the current season. As a result, Engren signed with Atlant Mytishchi, where he has played in nearly every game to date. Engren had the best stats of all goalies that played in at least two games at the Karjala Cup tournament back in November, and he’s destined to do that again this time around. Will Finland rebound from their silver medal last month due to the play of Engren? Only time will tell.
2. Vladimír Sobotka, F (Czech Republic): After not coming to terms on a new deal with the St. Louis Blues, Sobotka signed with KHL club Omsk this past off-season in pursuit of more money. However, there has been talk recently that Sobotka could have his rights traded elsewhere and given a chance with a team willing to spend more on the Czech forward. As Pierre LeBrun of ESPN reported earlier this month, Sobtka has a one-month window after the KHL season in which he can opt out of his three-year deal and return to the NHL. Sobotka, who had 33 points and 72 penalty minutes in 61 games in 2013-14, participated in his first World Championship tournament last year, recording six points in nine games. Prior to that, Sobotka hadn’t suited up for the country since the 2007 World Juniors, where he was named one of the top three players on the Czech team. A good performance at this tournament could give the Blues more to dangle if they do intend on trading his rights at some point, but a poor performance could do the exact opposite.
1. Alex Radulov, F (Russia): Scumbag. Superstar. Whatever you want to call him, there is no doubting the pure talent Alex Radulov possesses. There is no question the goal-scoring forward has struggled to keep himself in check at times (using that statement lightly), and his skill alone has been unable to keep him in the NHL. Regardless of what he did in North America, Radulov is the KHL’s all-time leading scorer with 387 points in 313 career games. That alone makes him a threat everywhere he goes, especially in international competition. Radulov is currently the fourth top scorer ever in the history of the Euro Hockey Tour, trailing behind fellow Russians Sergei Mozyakin, Maxim Sushinsky and Alexei Morozov. That could all change this year, however, as Radulov sits only four points behind Mozyakin in the top spot. With a lot of the pressure placed on the tournament hosts from Russia, it’s fair to think that the KHL Forward of the Week for the first week of October will be at the top of the score-sheet at some point throughout the EHT.
The Danish junior team, featuring players that will compete at the upcoming top division World Junior tournament, began the World Junior A Challenge off strong, defeating Canada West by a score of 3-2.
It’s not every day that a Danish hockey team is favoured over a Canadian team, but in a tournament where Denmark features players from a higher level of hockey, it’s not crazy. Denmark’s team is made up of players that will battle against the best hockey players under the age of 20 later this month, while Canada, and most of the teams in the tournament, feature players competing in various Junior A leagues, the level below the OHL, WHL and QMJHL.
Denmark got all three of their goals from players currently in the Canadian Hockey League. Mikkel Aagaard of the OHL’s Niagara Icedogs scored first for the Danes with 96 seconds left in the opening period, giving Denmark the 1-0 lead.
The Danish power play converted early in the second period by a name most Canadians have likely heard of. Halifax Mooseheads star Nikolaj Ehlers, a ninth overall selection by the Winnipeg Jets in 2014, beat former Team Canada inline goaltender Tommy Nixon five-hole to make it 2-0 Denmark 3:20 into the second.
Canada West would finally get one on the board two minutes later. Following a play started by potential high 2016 NHL Draft pick Dante Fabbro, Gabe Bast shot a blast past Thomas Lillie to cut the lead in half.
The game failed to see another goal until seven minutes into the third period, Canada’s tying goal, and it was a pretty one at that. Tyson Jost, who is another Penticton Vees prospect (like Fabbro) that will make a splash at the 2016 draft, took the puck from the left corner and skated in all alone, beating Lillie with a nice shot from the slot to tie it up.
Canada had control of the shot clock for most of the game, but that truly meant nothing due to the fact that scoring was proving to be a tough task. Canada’s chance at being the first Canadian team to win at the tournament this year went up in smoke with three minutes to go when Ehlers blew past multiple Canadian defenseman before sending the puck past Nixon, giving Denmark the 3-2 victory in the process.
The loss marked the end to a disappointing day at the World Junior A Challenge for Canada. Earlier in the day, Canada lost 4-3 to Switzerland in the shootout, only to lose near the end to a team that doesn’t usually contend at top level junior hockey tournaments.