Hockey season has arrived in Europe as the Champions Hockey League kicked off today.
The Champions Hockey League was launched prior to the 2014-15 season with 26 first tier teams from 5 leagues across Europe. The amount of teams and qualifications have changed over the couple of years with 32 teams now comprising the CHL. Wikipedia has the breakdown of how teams are selected:
Starting in the 2017–18 season, the number of teams will be reduced from 48 to 32, with 24 of the entries coming from the six founding leagues (Swedish Hockey League, Finnish Liiga, Swiss National League A, Czech Extraliga, German DEL and Austrian/international EBEL) and all berths will be earned through on-ice achievement: the “founding clubs” will no longer be guaranteed a place in the competition. A maximum of five teams from each country are permitted, with the entries allotted to each country according to a coefficient system (best two leagues get five berths, next two get four, last two get three). The remaining eight places will be given to the champions of the Norwegian, Slovakian, French, Belarusian, Danish, British and Polish leagues, as well as the champion of the Continental Cup. The teams will then be drawn into eight groups of four, with the top two teams in each group advancing to the knockout stage, which will be contested as two-legged ties until a one-match final.
In the first 3 years of the competition, the 26 founding teams had guaranteed spots in the group stage (“A license”). Additional teams from the founding league, that qualified based on sporting merits (“B license”) and the champions from other European leagues (“C license”) completed the field.
The SHL has dominated the Champions Hockey League with Frolunda winning the CHL title the last two years and Lulea winning it in 2014-15.
With that out of the way – it’s important to note that the Canucks are well represented this year with four prospects playing for teams in the CHL. All four of those prospects organizations was playing today.
Elias Pettersson (Vaxjo Lakers – SHL)
Pettersson had a noteworthy effort today notching the tieing goal late in the third period:
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) August 24, 2017
He had another great chance late in the game to win it for Vaxjo:
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) August 24, 2017
He started the game slowly, it looked like he was relying on his teammates to make plays but as the game went on, his confidence grew. He started to make the plays himself and clearly, it paid dividends. His on ice awareness became quickly apparent as he buzzed around the offensive zone.
Shortly after that chance late in the game, Pettersson waited to retrieve a puck to look at the clock. He was able to read how much time was left and slow the play down rather than rush the play. It was just another subtle glimpse into how aware the Canucks prospect is about everything going on.
He played LW on the first line during 5 on 5 play and was on the right point on the 1st powerplay unit.
He ended the game with 2 SOG in 16:17 of ice time.
Vaxjo defeated Bili Tygri Liberac 4-3 in overtime.
Lukas Jasek (Bili Tygri Liberac – Czech)
Canucks prospect Lukas Jasek made the move to Liberac in the off season and appears to be already getting more ice time. The lack of ice time with HC Trinec was a huge concern last season, so ideally he gets a larger role with his new Czech team.
Today, he skated on the second line and saw regular powerplay time. He ended the game with 11:31 of ice time and was +1.
He didn’t make any impact plays but his skating and puck handling were apparent.
Petrus Palmu (TPS Turku – SM Liiga)
2017 6th round pick Petrus Palmu did not dress for TPS today as he is still recovering from a knee injury that he suffered at the TPS Cup tournament last week.
It isn’t a major injury and he is expected to return within 1-3 weeks.
Palmu is still leading all SM Liiga pre-season scoring with 5 points (1-4-5) despite missing the last two games.
Kristoffer Gunnarsson (Frolunda – SHL)
Selected in the 5th round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Gunnarsson is a bit of a wild card prospect. Selected in his draft plus 2 season and already 20 years old, Gunnarsson is further along in his development then some of the other players mentioned above.
He doesn’t have a huge offensive upside but is a dependable, hard nosed defenceman who is positionally sound.
He had a couple good rushes throughout his game today. He doesn’t just toss the puck away, which is encouraging. Gunnarsson also directed quite a few shots towards the net with 5 shots directed towards the goal with 2 being blocked, 2 going wide and 1 hitting the net.
It’s even more impressive since he only had 6:18 of ice time. Frolunda won in overtime 5-4 over ZSC (Swiss).
Ideally, he will take a full-time role with Frolunda and run with it this season. The Canucks retain his rights for four years, so there is no rush on his development and he is likely best served playing in the SHL for the next couple of years.
All four of these teams play again on Saturday.
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