The February stage of the Euro Hockey Tour will actually be split into two tournaments. From February 5th-7th, the last place Czech’s will host Russia in a two game exhibition series, while Sweden and Finland will battle it out in the land of the Tre Kronor from the 6th-8th.
Sweden, who won the Karjala Cup in early November, sits in second place overall, just two points behind Russia with 11 points. Finland is behind in third, just a single point behind their Scandinavian rivals, while the Czech’s have struggled big time, grabbing just two points in their first six games with zero wins to their credit.
To get you prepared for the next round of the Euro Hockey Tour, take a look at five players competing this week that you should keep an eye on.
5. Martin Rucinsky, F (Czech Republic): No one is going to dispute that Rucinsky’s role is going to be very limited at this event, but after seeing Petr Nedved and Jaromir Jagr play in recent years, it will be interesting to see what another Czech grey beard can achieve. The oldest player at the tournament, Rucinsky is making his first appearance for the Czech’s in an international competition since the 2006 Winter Olympics. A first round selection by the Edmonton Oilers back in 1991, Rucinsky had 612 points in 961 games, with a career high 60 points coming in 56 games with the Montreal Canadiens back in 1995-1996. Ever since leaving the NHL behind back in 2008, Rucinsky has played in the Czech league, most recently with HC Litvínov. While not a big goal scorer, the experienced forward has proven he is still good for around 25 points a season. Not all that outstanding, but at his age, it’s sure something to keep an eye on.
4. Rostislav Klesla, D (Czech Republic): It’s not everyday we get to see Klesla suiting up for the Czech Republic. In fact, he hasn’t done so since 2007. In recent years, the former fourth overall selection by the Columbus Blue Jackets back in 2000 has gone on to have a very strange career. Last season, Klesla was traded from the Arizona Coyotes to the Washington Capitals a day before the trade deadline. The next day, the Capitals sent Klesla to the Buffalo Sabres in the Jaroslav Halak deal. The biggest twist, however, came when Klesla announced his retirement from the NHL after not wanting to suit up for the Sabres, and with the way they’ve been playing recently, who could blame him? The 31-year-old defenseman had 159 points and 620 penalty minutes in 659 NHL games, and while he has since become the captain of Czech league team HC Trinec, those numbers will likely remain untouched for the remainder of his career. Still, the physical blue liner is considered to be quite good in the Czech league, and with many teams bringing young guys in hopes of developing a strong national team in the future, Klesla will be able to bring a wealth of experience to the Czech’s, who sit last in the 2014-2015 EHT standings.
3. Petri Kontiola, F (Finland): Kontiola has had a strange season so far. The 30-year-old signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the off-season, but before even seeing a single game with the club, he was placed on unconditional waivers in mid-June. He played 12 games with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2007-08 NHL season, but really hasn’t proven himself to be a full-time NHLer just yet. However, Kontiola seems to always be a lethal threat when he puts on the blue and white threads from Finland. Kontiola has grabbed three medals in IIHF competitions in the past, including a bronze at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, but his greatest individual performance came at the 2013 World Championships. During that event, Kontiola was named the top forward after recording 16 points in 10 games for Finland, beating out the likes of Paul Stastny, Ilya Kovalchuk and Steven Stamkos when it was all said and done. Kontiola has 26 points in previous EHT competition, so, despite Kontiola’s failed attempts at an NHL career, expect to see some scoring out of Mr. 26.
2. Ilya Sorokin, G (Russia): It wasn’t all that long ago that Sorokin was in the spotlight. The New York Islanders prospect recently represented the Russians at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Canada, leading his team to a silver medal after a heart breaker against the hometown team in the finals. Currently in his third KHL season, Sorokin has split time with Rafael Khakimov as the starting goalie of Metallurg Novokuznetsk this year. Sorokin has shown himself to have an ability to play against tough competition, showing that with 32 games of KHL experience before getting drafted by the Islanders, so this will be just another good test for the 19-year-old puckstopper. He has already seen action with the Russian national team at the EHT this year, suiting up at the Karjala Cup earlier this year, so he’s no stranger to the event. Sorokin will likely see some valuable time on a team that’s focusing almost solely on prospects this year, and with Igor Shestyorkin and Maxim Tretiak also named to the roster, it’s no secret that Russia has a lot of good options with their final line of defense.
1. Patrik Hersley, D (Sweden): Remember Patrik Hersley? Yeah, if you’re a North American, probably not. Hersley was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the fifth round at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, but despite getting traded to the Philadelphia Flyers and later the Nashville Predators, the Swedish blue liner never actually saw time in the NHL. So does it surprise you that the very offensive defenseman is currently tied for first in EHT scoring this year with eight points? Kind of like Kontiola, Hersley seems to do great everywhere but the NHL, as proved by his award as the best defenseman in the SHL during the 2013–14 season. His 15 goals this season are good enough to lead the KHL in goals by a defenseman this year, so it also should come to no surprise that he’s received attention from the NHL this year, most notably the Edmonton Oilers. Hersley has a chance to secure the tournament scoring lead this weekend, and if all goes well, he could impress scouts enough to earn him another chance in North America.
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