We hear it every single year: “The Spengler Cup sucks, I don’t know any players, bla bla bla”. But did you know that the tournament produces some of the best hockey action every single year? It’s true, and often a lot of the top scoring forwards tend to be guys who couldn’t cut it anymore over in North America. Does that make them bad? No, because some of these guys may just be in a tough situation and they’ve decided to go overseas in an attempt to help revive their careers.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five former NHL players that could really make an impact at this year’s tournament, hosted in Davos, Switzerland from December 26th-31st.
5. Glen Metropolit, F (Adler Mannheim): Metropolit has already represented Canada at five Spengler Cup tournaments over his career, even captaining Canada at the 2013 event in what he said would be his final time playing at the tournament. But at 41-years-old, he’s back at it after playing pretty well with Mannheim this season. Metropolit played in over 400 games in the NHL, playing for the likes of the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals, among others. A journeyman forward, Metropolit is a very well-known forward in Switzerland and will definitely steal a lot of cheers in what could possibly be his final few games in the country. With 22 points in 29 games this year, Metropolit hasn’t shown signs of slowing down just yet and his experience in short tournaments like this could come in very handy. But for many Canadian fans, seeing Metropolit finish off his Spengler Cup career in a jersey that doesn’t have a red base could be kind of strange after years of watching him speed around the rink.
4. Henrik Karlsson, G (Jokerit): Undrafted in the NHL, Karlsson was signed as a free agent by the San Jose Sharks prior to the 2009–10 season, but was returned to Sweden and took up starting duties with Färjestad, where he appeared in 34 games, posting four shutouts and a 2.45 goals against average. He suffered an injury late in the season that prevented him from playing in the playoffs as Färjestad was eliminated in the first round. Karlsson would eventually get a chance with the Calgary Flames but really didn’t do much in a limited spot with the team. Now, Karlsson heads into the tournament as the starting goaltender for Helsinki Jokerit, posting a 20-10-0 record with an impressive .925 save percentage and 2.01 GAA in 32 games. Karlsson didn’t get the job done last year, instead having Riku Helenius take over before the tournament came to a close. This year, however, it’s hard to think that he won’t go all the way, coming in as one of the better goaltenders in the tournament. His NHL career may have been a flop, but if we’ve learned anything about him in the past few seasons, it’s that he really excels with angles on the big ice and can come up big if needed.
3. Devin Setoguchi, (HC Davos): At one point, Setoguchi looked like he had the potential to be a star player with the San Jose Sharks for a long time. In fact, he was able to record 65 games in his first full season in the NHL, making him one of the most dangerous wingers in the Western Conference. Now, at 28. any chance of an NHL career could easily be deflated, with Setoguchi failing to do much with a tryout contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this year. In 471 games in the NHL, he was able to record 249 points with San Jose, Minnesota, Winnipeg and Calgary, but never got more than 41 after his strong 2008-09 season with the Sharks. Setoguchi has transitioned pretty well with Davos, putting up eight points in his first 12 games to go along with an assist in two Champions Hockey League games a few weeks back. Setoguchi will likely be used as a secondary scorer for Davos, but that’s OK considering how strong offensively they’ll be. If he can use his speed effectively, he’ll be a very useful asset that could get 2-4 points in a short tournament for the legendary host team.
2. Cory Conacher, F (Canada): This will be the first time that Conacher will don the maple leaf, as the late bloomer from Burlington, Ontario making a slow, yet steady ladder to the professional ranks. At one point, Conacher looked like a potential star in the making before a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Ottawa Senators seemed to put a quick end to that. The 2011-2012 AHL MVP has had a solid debut season in the Swiss NLA league this year, posting 40 points in his first 34 games while skating beside fellow Canadian Andrew Ebbett, good to put him near the top in league scoring. In four Champions Hockey League games this year, Conacher, Ebbett and Trevor Smith all tied for first in team scoring, recording three points in four games to give a good representation of Canadian talent in the big European tournament. Conacher will likely play on a line with fellow SC Bern forward Derek Roy, who also spent a good portion of his career with the Buffalo Sabres. Conacher will bring a good level of speed to a team that features a lot of AHL players who aren’t used to playing on the big, so his recent success in the NLA could be beneficial down the stretch. Canada is expected to be a big-time contender this year, and if you like to make bets, picking Conacher in a Spengler Cup pool seems like the right decision.
1. Brandon Kozun, F (Jokerit): Kozun is currently the leading man for the Finnish-based team Jokerit, with the former Toronto Maple Leafs forward sitting in the top ten in league scoring this year, his first while playing in Europe. Kozun has been a welcome addition to the team and maybe he can use a strong performance in the KHL to help revitalize a career back in the NHL. If not, Kozun, a former scoring star with the Canadian World Junior team, could become a long time dynamic scorer for Jokerit as the team looks to build up a successful resume in their new league. The top scoring player in the Canadian Hockey League with 107 points back in 2009-2010, Kozun has been known to score pretty much everywhere he’s gone, even if his NHL career only saw him post four points in 20 games with the Leafs last year. He’s been hot over in the Russian league and if translates, he’ll easily be one of the best players at the Spengler Cup.
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