While the NHL pre-season is just starting up, the European leagues are in full swing. This year, the Canadiens have players in the Finland’s Liiga as well as the Swedish Hockey League and the country’s lower tiers. This is the first edition of the weekly series that will keep you up to date on the performance of all the players plying their trade in Europe throughout the 2016-17 season.
Joonas Nättinen, JYP
The Finnish league started off before the World Cup of Hockey began in Toronto. Jyväskylä started off on September 16 with a penalty-shootout loss at home (2-3) to Ilves before falling away to last year’s regular-season winners, HIFK (2-1).
Nättinen assisted on the first goal of the season, but finished the first two games -1 with 12 shots.
While JYP surprised many last year by finishing fourth, this year it is time to consolidate their standing as a top team in Liiga.
Lukas Vejdemo, Djurgården
Djurgården started the season , and Lukas Vejdmeo started with an assist. It will be a completely new Djurgården team than we have been aquainted with, something he spoke about recently with EOTP. The new coaching staff, headed by Roger Ohlsson, has taken the team in a new direction, with his former team — Frölunda HC, the SHL champions — as the model.
Djurgården started the season on Thursday night with a 5-2 win against Leksand, and Vejdemo contributed an assist in his first match of the year. The team lost its home opener to a reinvigorated Malmö team by a final score of 2-1 on Saturday. The positive thing was that Vejdemo was on the ice for Djurgården’s lone goal in the contest.
Personally, I think Djurgården will be the surprise of the SHL this year; they are still a bit up and down, and they seem to have lacked in the physical department at the end of the games because of the new style of play. Still, I have Djurgården as the fifth-place finisher after Skellefteå, Frölunda, Växjö, and Linköping.
Vejdemo played well throughout the pre-season and it will be very interesting to see how he can build upon last year’s breakout performance.
Arvid Henrikson, AIK / AIK 20
It will be interesting to see if Arvid Henrikson can get a few games with AIK’s senior team this year, as they will being trying to earn the promotion from the Allsvenskan to to the SHL that they missed out on in dramatic fashion last season. It is clear that Henrikson will start with the under-20 team, according to his coach, Peter Nylander (brother of Michael and uncle of NHL prospects Alex and William Nylander).
While Henrikson was away at rookie camp in Montreal, it seems that AIK U20 missed his defensive presence on the ice, as they lost the derby to Djurgården in OT over the weekend.
Magnus Nygren, Färjestad BK
The captain will lead a Färjestad squad that is still locked in “old-fashion” hockey compared to the new teams on the throne: Skellefteå, Frölunda, and Växjö. Nygren will be relied upon to play in every situation possible and lead from the front.
He started off in the team’s home opener by doing just that, with assists on each of Färjestad’s goals in a 2-1 win over Örebro.
He followed that up with a great effort in an 4-3 overtime win versus Linköping, adding another assist to his season total and scoring his first goal of the season. Nygren is currently tied for fourth in the SHL’s overall scoring standings, and is the only defenceman among the top 15.
GIF created from video on SHL.se
I believe Färjestad will be a mid-tier team this season, especially as I think Joel Eriksson-Ek will stay in North America after training camp, but also because the front office of the team are struggling to adjust to a new kind of game, and clubs like Vejdemo’s Djurgården might have a chance to overtake them.
It will be an important year for Nygren if he hopes to take the step back over to North America and the possibility of an NHL career. Averaging two points a game through the first two matches of the season is a great way to keep himself in the conversation.