Discover more from Hockey Wanderlüst
Hockey Wanderlüst - March 11th
It's a great day for hockey … from Stockholm to San Jose.
KHL Playoffs well underway! - Some NHL prospects
How Euro-hockey is handling Covid
Blimey! (Ice) Hockey’s back in the UK
Meet Ken, Risto, and Simmer
Red Hot NHL Europeans
Top-5 Swedish Hockey Highlights (Video)
SHL News and Notes
Name the Logo Contest
KHL Playoffs are Well Underway! Some NHL Prospects.
Jarmo Kekäläinen is the NHL GM most likely keeping at least one eyeball on the 2021 Gagarin Cup playoffs. His amateur drafts have taken on a distinct Russian flavour in recent years. 2020 first-rounder Yegor Chinakhov has seen three playoff games on the wing for Avangard Omsk after tallying 17 points in 32 regular season games. 2018 2nd rounder Kirill Marchenko was 7th in scoring for Saint Petersburg and has been a solid two-way presence on the wing in five playoff games. 20-year-old 4th-round centerman Dmitri Voronkov is alive and well with Ak Bars Kazan. All three of these teams easily blew through the first round of the postseason, with a grand total of two losses between them.
Marchenko’s teammate, goalie Yaroslav Askarov, who doesn’t turn 19 until June, posted incredible numbers in nine games played in the regular season with the big club. He was the 11th overall pick for Nashville last summer. He’s not top two on the roster in the playoffs (yet). Another SKA “soldier” is Canucks 2019 10th overall pick Vasily Podkolzin; the winger has 3 points in five playoff games.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl swept Helsinki Jokerit – who didn’t play any games at home to minimize travel and avoid crossing the Finnish-Russian border – in the first round in the West. Playoff back-up goalie Ilya Konovalov finished the regular season (behind Toronto native, veteran Ed Pasquale) with nine wins, a .923 save percentage and a 2.29 GAA. He was Edmonton’s 3rd rounder in 2019.
Open the New York Rangers prospect report e-mail each week and there’s usually one name at the top: Vitali Kravtsov. The 21-year-old winger was the New York Rangers first round pick in 2018, ninth overall. Here is he helping Traktor, where he’s officially on loan, in the first round round of the Gagarin Cup playoffs.
His team might get dumped in the first round of the East playoffs against Salavat Yulaev (the team in Ufa, where the USA juniors won gold in 2013) but Kravtsov has been improving, after playing 39 games in the AHL last season. More potential depth and speed for the Blueshirts young core.
Speaking of Ufa, Leafs 15th overall pick in 2020, winger Rodion Amirov is seeing about 13-minutes a night, getting a taste but still looking for his first postseason point.
And maybe the best performer of this little draft sampling; Vegas 2nd-rounder from 2018, Saint Pete’ center Ivan Morozov. A goal and four assists over four playoff games. He had 31 points in 55 regular season matches.
It’s the best time of year in Russia — playoff hockey! With a quick glimpse at some potential NHL futures.
The West semi’s are set: CSKA vs. Lokomotiv and SKA vs. Dynamo Moscow
East: Ak Bars vs. Avangard; Salavat Yulaev awaits winner of Barys/Magnitogorsk
Former Canuck Nikolai Goldobin (Magnitogorsk) leads the playoffs in scoring
Go Away, Covid
Last year, the German hockey league (DEL) was the first one to close its doors due to the pandemic. It was soon followed by soccer, team handball, and basketball, but while the latter three all crowned champions in one way or another, DEL did not. Neither did the Swedish SHL. Or the Finnish Liiga.
And they all will do everything in their power to have a champion in 2021.
In Germany, players took considerable pay cuts, up to sixty percent, and while the league-wide turnover was halved, the pay cuts and state aid (up to €800,000 per club) helped the league to get through the pandemic. That according to league CEO Gernot Tripcke, speaking to NDR, a Hamburg-based public service broadcaster.
The SHL came to this season well-prepared for anything the pandemic might throw their way. They have tested rigorously, with more than 12,000 tests gone to the clubs. They have played in front of empty stands, while using their restaurants as loopholes to get at least a couple of hundred people in and create some revenue. And still, the league has had to postpone sixty games to date. (They play 364 games in total).
The Finns have also taken some more visible measures to protect the game from the virus: All players now have to wear a full-face visor and the players are recommended to stay within their very small bubble outside the rink.
Also, according to Finnish media reports, the league may move away from best-of-seven format in the playoffs in favour of the best-of-five.
In Switzerland, the National League has also been through a pause and postponement of games, with the playoffs pushed back to April. Once there, the teams will enter two bubbles; one at the rink and another at home, which includes only documented contacts within the team and with people who live in the same household.
While there has been speculation about an NHL-styled bubble in both Sweden and Finland, the cost of putting one up is a major obstacle, and both leagues are likely to go the Swiss route, or possibly play portions of the playoffs in select rinks.
But there will be champions.
Stiff Upper Hip Check
Back in September, The UK Elite Ice Hockey League’s chairman Tony Smith announced that the league would suspend its operations for 2020-21.
“We operate around 75 percent to 100 percent capacity at our venues and this is the level of crowds we would need in order to go ahead at any point, which isn’t a realistic option right now,” he said.
However, on March 3, the league announced a four-team Elite Series between the Manchester Storm, the Nottingham Panthers, the Coventry Blaze, and the Sheffield Steelers to be played in April-May.
"Our number one priority in the Elite Series is to make sure that most of the Great Britain national team players are included. We have already been working with Pete Russell to ensure that as many of the players that he has in mind for the World Championships in May, as possible, will be included, if they’re not already playing abroad,” Smith said.
More than eighty eligible British players participated in the Elite Series draft. Each of the four teams could protect five players that played for them in 2019-20 or were under contract for the suspended season.
The round-robin regular season begins on April 3, and the best-of-three playoffs on April 30. A champion will be crowned by May 3, the latest.
All games will be played at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham.
It’s been three weeks since the Detroit Red Wings learned of the death of their beloved team massage therapist “Cheeka”; 65-year-old Sergei Tchekmarev. They learned of his passing after their 7-2 home defeat at the hands of the Florida Panthers on Friday, February 19th. The ugly loss meant nothing. Head coach Jeff Blashill after the game:
Once again, we’re reminded that hockey teams are indeed families. The best part of being a player, a coach, or a broadcaster is the camaraderie. It’s one thing when an alumni, an “oldtimer” as we used to call them, or an ancient Hall-of-Famer passes away at a distance, but its different when its a member of that active brotherhood, especially when its someone as significant as Cheeka.
A FOX Sports Detroit segment re-iterated this, with an emotional testimonial from Kris Draper front and center.
Our friend, the Red Wings’ exquisite play-by-play man Ken Daniels, added some thoughts for us.
“Cheeka was never without a smile on his face. I sat across from him for many years while he played dominoes on Red Bird (the team plane) with the guys, and he’d inevitably lose the dominoes under his seat. He was always the scorekeeper, claiming that someone else was cheating but never him, and then he’d laugh,” Kenny relayed.
“He’d have some soup and he’d look over at me with a smile and say ‘Kheny, soup good!’ Whenever I’d walk by Cheeka in the room there was never a time he wouldn’t say ‘CHELLO!’ (his way of hello). And how many times I played in hockey games up in Traverse City and he always had those big hands with the best back massages/rubdowns you could get.”
“A few years before the Olympics were in Sochi he was so proud, but he had to keep saying Sochi to me, because I had never heard of it. Five times in his thick accent and I never understood what he was saying until finally he spelled it out for me on a napkin.” Of course Ken teased him and he feigned anger. “He was so pissed I couldn’t understand him.”
Secondary to his amazing outlook and demeanour, was Cheeka’s background. Andrew Waters put it well in this brief synopsis of his remarkable career in hockey.
Day to day in the brotherhood. And now Cheeka is gone. Our ongoing condolences to his friends, family and teammates.
Meet Ken, Risto, and Simmer - The Basics
Ken Yaffe has been working in pro sports for more than three decades; much of that focused on the sport of hockey. He carried the NHL flag for 19 seasons as a senior executive. During that time he saw the League transform as an international business and evolve into the digital content age. Yaffe produced over 100 NHL games and other hockey events in a dozen countries internationally and was responsible for navigating the League's commercial rights overseas. Since leaving the NHL in 2012 he has worked with Yaffe Sports Ventures to bring innovation to sports through technology, while advising a range of media and consumer product companies on sports marketing strategies.
Risto Pakarinen is a freelance writer, whose byline has appeared in The Hockey News, The Sporting News and ESPN.com, as well as NHL.com and IIHF.com. He’s covered nine world championships and the 2010 Olympics for IIHF. He’s authored or co-authored several books on hockey (and he debuted with a novel in 2019). You’ll find him on Twitter as @puckarinen.
Since 2013 Rob Simpson has been a play-by-play commentator for multiple networks in the US and Canada. He’s the former co-host of “Stellick and Simmer” on SiriusXM NHL Network radio. For three years he was the featured host on the weekday talk show NHL Live broadcast from New York City. Simpson spent three seasons (2005-2008) as the Boston Bruins rink-side reporter for NESN and also hosted the TV show “Rubber Biscuit”. Simpson previously created and hosted Maple Leaf America on Leafs TV in Toronto. Earlier he made stops in Australia doing voice work, in Hawaii for five years as a news reporter, weatherman, and sports anchor, and in Idaho as a hockey, baseball and tennis play-by-play man and TV host. He’s authored five books.
1. Red Hot NHL Europeans
Which countries have bragging rights? March 3 to March 10
*Four of the top 5 NHL scorers last week were Europeans
(PPP - power play points, P/GP - points per game)
Rickard Rakell - (ANA) Sweden - 4 GP, 4G, 4A, 8 PTS, +4, 2 PPP, 2.00 P/GP
Filip Forsberg - (NASH) Sweden - 4 GP, 1G, 7A, 8 PTS, +1, 3 PPP, 2.00 P/GP
Mikko Rantanen (COL) - Finland - 4GP, 4G, 3A, 7 PTS, +1, 3 PPP, 1.75 P/GP
Anze Kopitar - (LA) Slovenia - 4GP, 2G, 5A, 7 PTS, +0, 5 PPP, 1.75 P/GP
Sergei Bobrovsky - (FLA) Russia - 3 GP, 3W, 0L, 2.67 GAA, .924 Save%
2. The Week That Was - Swedish League
Five fancy goals
Lars Bryggman, Malmö, with a breakaway and top-shelf backhand
Patrik Lundh, Linköping, with a laser from the slot.
Robin Kovacs, Örebro, finishes after a nice set-up by Robert Leino.
Albert Johansson, Färjestad, beats Oscar Alsenfelt on the short side.
Linus Öhlund, Brynäs, taps it in from the doorstep after a nifty tic-tac-toe play.
3. Hej from Sweden!
Rögle on top. The SHL Standings with less than a month to go:
The Swedish standings are limping along, with Oskarshamn having played only 43 games while two teams have already played 48. At the top of the standings, Växjö has two games in hand while four points behind Rögle and two wins in regulation would take them to #1 with a two-point cushion.
Djurgården’s William Eklund has battled with injuries and Covid-19, but his 11 goals and 20 points in 36 games are enough for second in scoring for players born 2001 or later, behind only…
… Rögle’s giant of a German defenceman, Moritz Seider. The 192cm, 94kg Red Wings loan averages 20+ minutes a game and has tallied six goals and 26 points in 37 games.
Third in junior scoring is another Red Wings prospect, Albert Johansson (whose father Roger watched from the bench as Peter Forsberg scored the 1994 Olympic gold-medal winner). Johansson has 18 points in 39 games.
4. Name the LOGO: (answer Sunday)
5. Answer to Sunday’s quiz:
Ahem … well, there was no Sunday quiz, because this is the first issue of Hockey Wanderlüst. But we’ll be testing you in three days. Be ready.
Meanwhile, some food for thought: The Finnish term for “icing” is “pitkä kiekko”, literally “long puck.”
See you on Sunday.
Enjoy the hockey action !