During the second international break of the season, Finland, Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic will compete in the first of four Euro Hockey Tour events. The Karjala Tournament in Finland, which takes place from November 6th-9th, is the first leg of the EHT for the 2014-2015 season, with Finland hoping to repeat as champions. For some players, the chance of redemption while playing for their home country gives the power they need to prove they can still play in the big leagues, while others are just hoping to bring home their first international medal. Let’s take a look at five former NHLer’s that will compete in the popular international event.
5. Lennart Petrell, F (Finland): Oilers fans will remember this name. Originally a 2004 draft pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Petrell went many years before finally participating in an NHL contest. That opportunity came during the 2011-2012 season, recording just nine points in 60 games for Edmonton. He would play in just 35 games the following season, putting up nine points once again in a limited role with the club. His less than stellar performance led him to becoming a free agent during the off-season, signing with Genève-Servette of the NLA on August 14th, 2013. He did see some success with the club, helping the Swiss team win the 2013 Spengler Cup with the likes of Matthew Lombardi, Robert Mayer and Alex Picard. The team didn’t give him a contract for the current season, leading him to sign with Luleå in Sweden this past summer. His career has been a very roller coaster type situation so far, and while it’s unlikely he’ll be a stand out at the Karjala Cup, his physical play and explosive energy will give the team some great fourth line support with the loss of Leo Komarov to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
4. Nikolai Zherdev, F (Russia): Zherdev has had quite the colorful professional hockey career. Since joining the Columbus Blue Jackets back in 2003-2004, Zherdev has bolted from the NHL to Russia four times before what appears to be a permanent stay in the KHL now. After putting up 261 points in 421 career NHL games, Zheredev has recorded 143 points in 205 KHL games, good enough for a Points Per Game average of 0.70. While those aren’t terrible numbers, it’s been his international play that has really been underwhelming. A two time World Championship Gold Medalist, Zherdev has just seven points in 13 career WC games to go along with only five points in 15 Euro Hockey Tour contests. The stats don’t exactly show the true skill that the Severstal Cherepovets forward possesses, but it will take a bit for him to show that he still has the skill that made the Blue Jackets draft him 4th overall back in 2003.
3. Joel Lundqvist, F (Sweden): You’ve probably heard of his brother somewhere. You know, that guy who plays that strange position for the New York Rangers? Yes, Joel Lundqvist isn’t a nobody to many hockey fans, but it may have been the first time in a while that North Americans have thought about the former Dallas Star forward. Lundqvist is a mainstay with the Swedish team, representing the team in well over 100 international contests during his career. The lesser known of the twins, Joel has won two gold medals and two bronze medals at the World Championships over the past few years. While his scoring may not be up to par with the best Swedes, Lundqvist has captained the Swedish team in every tournament he’s participated in over the past two seasons. His NHL career was never up to par with his international success, recording just 26 points in 134 games with the Stars split over three seasons. Regardless of his lack of scoring ability, Lundqvist should prove to be essential for the Tre Kronor this year, something the team will need if they hope to receive a medal for the first time in four years.
2. 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 eight points behind Mozyakin in the top spot. With Russia being a very powerful force in this year’s tournament, 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 scoresheet at some point throughout the EHT.
1. Ilya Kovalchuk, F (Russia): Kovalchuk is a nobody. NHL fans have never heard of him. I’m still unsure as to why he’s on this list. But still, his skill managed to sneak him into number one on the list. OK, maybe we got Kovalchuk mixed up with somebody else. Anyways, this won’t be the first time Kovalchuk has represented Russia at an international tournament, playing in 74 World Championship games since 2003. A two time WC gold medalist, Kovalchuk tallied 417 goals and 816 points in 816 games in the NHL before quitting in 2013 at the age of 30. In 2013-2014, his first full season back in Russia, Kovalchuk recorded 40 points in 45 KHL games for SKA St. Petersburg, two points lower than his output with the same team during the 2012 NHL lockout. This year, his performance has been much better, recording 36 points in just 22 games, good for first in the league. Kovalchuk and Radulov have worked admirably before in the past, creating most of the offense for Russia during the 2013 World Championships, so success this year should be expected.
Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.