Joonas Nättinen, 24, C/RW, JYP Jyväskylä
JYP finished third in the playoffs last season, after winning the bronze medal game against Lukko.
This season's team is hardly the same as last year though. Arguably the three most important players in last year’s team - Mikko Mäenpää (Ambri-Piotta), Eric Perrin (TPS) and Markus Hännikäinen (Columbus) - have left the club. To add salt to the wound, Juuso Ikonen left for Kärpät as well, and while he's not as important as the other players, he was still a big part of the team.
Last year the team placed fourth in the league and moved up to third in the playoffs, where they were knocked out by the eventual winners, Kärpät. This year they will have a good test early, when they face off for the top spot in the CHL (Champions Hockey League) group stage against Frölunda.
It's debatable whether or not JYP can make the playoffs this season, the should but it is in no way guaranteed, which means that Nättinen will be in a similar situation to last year when he played in MoDo in the SHL. I don’t think he will suddenly be the break-out player the Canadiens could hope for, however, it does seem that Joonas Nättinen will be on the first line for JYP, and will get the chance to shine with the added responsibility.
Artturi Lehkonen, 20, LW/RW, Frölunda
Frölunda finished second in the league last year, and were knocked out in the semifinal by eventual winners Växjö Lakers. In the CHL they lost a close, hard-fought final to Luleå.
This year, the team and the city expect more. While having lost a few players, most notably Andreas Johnson (Toronto), Anton Blidh (Boston), and Mikael Wikstrand (Fӓrjestad), they are still expected to be contenders. Frölunda may not be up to par with the big three this year: Luleå, Skellefteå, and Fӓrjestad, who will be fighting it out for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Lehkonen will most likely play on the first or second line, while maintaining last year's same linemates. We should expect more from Lehkonen this year, as he has played a full preseason and should have adjusted quite well to Sweden by now.
I have projected Frölunda to finish fourth, and anything lower than fifth is a "bad" season, and a semi-final appearance should be the goal. The Frölunda players themselves say they want to win both SHL and CHL, so they're definitely setting lofty targets. Time will tell whether or not the goals are realistic.
Frölunda will play Nättinen's JYP Jyväskylä in the group stage of CHL. They should advance, but since it’s a new set up I am not entirely certain on how many second place teams will progress. The third team in the group is the Sheffield Steelers, and no one really wonders who will finish last in that group.
Lukas Vejdemo, 19, C, Djurgårdens IF
Djurgården made the wild card round last year as one of the lower ranked teams, (teams 7 and 8 play team 9 and 10 for a place in the quarterfinals).
This year I think they will get a bit better, and make the wild card round again, but as a favorite to go through rather than the underdog. Lukas himself says he wants to have place on the team and in the two preseason games so far he has played both center and wing. Djurgården has not really lost any important players, and are filling up the team with U18 and U20 players. There should be a good chance to see Vejdemo play somewhat consistent minutes throughout the season in the SHL.
Djurgården is also in CHL, playing in a relatively tough group against Tappara (Finland) and Zug (Switzerland). This could be a hornets nest, but can also provide Vejdemo with some good opportunities to play against quality teams. and gain international experience.
Martin Reway, 20, C/LW, Sparta Prague
After having been knocked out of the playoffs in the semifinal last year, Sparta Prague looks to challenge once more for the title.
Reway will be an integral part of that challenge, stepping up his game even further. The team doesn’t seem to have lost any important players, but has brought in Ryan Glenn, a former Canadiens draft pick from 2000.
With a relatively easy league, the challenge to go deep into CHL takes precedence. With his added weight during the summer, Reway he should be able to be stronger around the boards, as well as moving his game more into the slot for clearer scoring opportunities.
In CHL Sparta will face off against Geneve-Servette (Switzerland), and Hamar (Norway). They should go through, but an OT loss to Geneve-Servette might complicate things, and after beating Hamar 3-2, the goal difference is not on Sparta's side at the moment. Although they have upcoming home games against both teams in order to secure a playoff spot.