Joonas Nättinen, JYP, Liiga
Joonas has once more selected for the Leijonat for the international tournament in Gothenburg. His production in Liiga has slowed down a bit; over the last couple of games he has managed just one assist. He is, however, being trusted with tough minutes and has been selected to the national team because he is a solid two-way centre.
Hopefully I will have some time to chat with Joonas during his time in Gothenburg.
Arvid Henrikson, AIK U20, SuperElit
AIK emerged with two wins last week: a 6-2 win against local rivals Västerås, and a 4-3 win against Mora. Both victories came at home, but still AIK’s struggles from earlier this season have them stuck in last place on the table.
Lukas Vejdemo, Djurgården, SHL
Djurgården is still in the hunt for the last playoff spot, and while the team has played well, Vejdemo included, they have had the bounces go the other way.
Vejdemo’s usage has gone up, and he’s geting more special assignments, playing quite a bit on the penalty kill where he has looked solid. He has been moved up and down the lines, some nights centring the second line, sometimes centring the third.
Magnus Nygren, Färjestad, SHL
The whole Färjestad team has kicked it up a notch just in time for a big playoff push. Two players have stood out lately: Joel Eriksson-Ek and Magnus Nygren. Both are currently with the National team in Gothenburg for the Sweden Hockey Games.
With five more points in the last five games, Nygren continues to show off his accuracy with both his pass and shot.
I got a few words with Magnus just after the first on-ice practice with Tre Kronor earlier this week, and he was quick to point out that even if he had been on a personal roll it is the team coming together that has helped turn things around.
“With the turnover of players that we had at the start of the season it has been tough to come together full-on; add players going to the WJC and it definitely takes time.”
The huge boost was get Joel Eriksson-Ek back from the Minnesota Wild. ”We should just enjoy every moment he is on this side of the pond as hockey fans," Nygren said of his teammate.
The confidence Nygren shows when with the national team is obvious, and that was evident even in this pre-tournament practice.
“When you play for Sweden there is only one thing you play for, and that’s to win; the game and the tournament.”
He did cherish the chance to play in Gothenburg and be part of the home team. “Usually I get some boos here, so it will be great to have the crowd on my side for once. But to be fair, it’s not boos like [P.K.] Subban or [Connor] McDavid get from the opposing fans. Still, it will be great to play in front of the Gothenburg fans in a home jersey.”
Here is the reason why he isn’t that popular in Gothenburg at the moment:
The Champions Hockey League
For the third year in a row, Frölunda was one of the teams in the final of the pan-European competition. For the first time it was a team from outside of Finland and Sweden that faced them at the other end.
A surprising Sparta Prague team had fought valiantly to the final, and brought 600-plus fans with them from Prague, filling two sections with white jerseys and a good amount of noise. The atmosphere was more like that of a soccer game than a hockey game, with the Frölunda faithful trying to drown out the visiting fans. (Once more I wonder why the NHL doesn’t allocate a special section for visiting fans in the playoffs or rivalry games.)
The game itself was a close-fought battle where Frölunda drove play much of the game, but Sparta never relented. When the Czech team equalized in the third period it became a game of nerves, and in the end the final went to overtime.
After a long shift in Sparta’s zone, and Frölunda getting in a line change while maintaining the pressure, the deciding goal came, and Frölunda was the champion once again.
Both sets of fans were great. When Sparta skated back across the ice, it wasn’t only those who’d travelled from the Czech Republic who applauded them. Frölunda’s supporters took up a huge cheer for the valiant team in a great show of respect and admiration. That was reciprocated by the Sparta fans when Frölunda hoisted the trophy.
It was the final the competition needed: a Central European underdog that pushed the game to the brink, showing that teams from outside Sweden and Finland could compete for the cup. It will be interesting to see how the competition evolves from this, as there are rumours that the KHL is interested in a Super Cup where the winner of the CHL would play the winner of the Gagarin Cup for a true European Champion.