Players from 19 KHL teams will line up for their national teams at the third Euro Hockey Tour stage in Sweden.
The Euro Hockey Tour is back for the February stage in Sweden, for the Beijer Hockey Games. As during the other two phases, KHL players will have a pivotal role in their teams as 43 of them will line up for Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, and Russia from February 7-10 at the Hovet arena in Stockholm (with Russia facing Finland in Yaroslavl on February 7).
Like most of the other teams, Czech Republic’s head coach Milos Riha called an experimental roster to the Beijer Hockey Games, with only five KHL representatives. All the five players – Hrbas, Polasek, Sekac, Vitasek and Zohorna – play a significant role at their KHL clubs, and it is thus expected from them to have the same in Sweden. For the first time this season, the Czechs will have no KHL representation in goal, with both Kovar and Furch. Another first time in the season is the call of the forward Matej Stransky, who started the season with Severstal Cherepovets before moving to Sweden in late December. The team features several former KHL players, and maybe the teams’ scouting staffs will notice some player that we will see next year with a KHL uniform.
Jukka Jalonen keeps on rotating players at the Euro Hockey Tour, and the KHL representatives are no exception to this policy. However, all these players were already called to the previous stages, even if they did not take part in all the games. Neftekhimik will send two of their three Finns, with Juuso Puustinen getting some rest after having played in both Finland and Russia so far. His teammate Mikael Ruohomaa and Ville Pokka will try to open their account with the national team for this season, as both are yet to score at the EHT level. Just as the Czech Republic, the Finns are also renouncing to KHL goalies, with both Juha Metsola and Joni Ortio taking some days off. With the heavy rotation Jalonen is having this year, it’s hard to predict how the Finns will fare in Sweden, however, they have enough good players to do some damage.
Team Sweden’s head coach Rikard Gronborg decided to slightly increase the number of KHL representatives after the December’s tournament in Russia. This time, five players will move to Stockholm, opposed to the four who hit the stage in Moscow. Defensemen Dahlback and the recent All-Star Game participant Holm already played at the Channel 1 Cup in Moscow, while Hellberg and Rasmussen played in the previous stage in Finland. The Swedes will bring to their home tournament a young roster, but not without experience, with only three players debuting for the national team. If Magnus Hellberg can continue on his strong play and the rest of the roster delivers, the Swedes may have a chance to surprise the Russians, who won both the previous EHT tournaments.
KHL representatives: Ilya Konovalov (Lokomotiv), Igor Bobkov (Avangard), Pyotr Kochetkov (HC Sochi), Alexander Samonov (Vityaz), Zakhar Arzamastsev (Salavat Yulaev), Artyom Zub (SKA), Alexei Bereglazov (Metallurg), Andrei Mironov (HC Dynamo), Alexei Vasilevsky (Avtomobilist), Rushan Rafikov, Alexander Yelesin (both representing Lokomotiv), Ivan Mishchenko (Admiral), Evgeny Kulik (Spartak), Dmitry Kagarlitsky, Vadim Shipachyov (both representing HC Dynamo), Anatoly Nikontsev (Spartak), Sergei Shumakov, Denis Zernov, Ilya Mikheyev (all representing Avangard), Andrei Kuzmenko, Alexei Kruchinin (both representing SKA), Andrei Svetlakov, Konstantin Okulov (both representing CSKA), Alexander Kadeikin, Anton Burdasov (both representing Salavat Yulaev), Grigory Denisenko, Denis Alexeyev, Kirill Slepets (all representing Lokomotiv).
Team Russia’s head coach Ilya Vorobyov decided to bring to Sweden a good mix of old and new faces. Experienced players like Dmitry Kagarlitsky and Vadim Shipachyov will re-join the national team, while recent WJC sensations like Denisenko, Slepets, and Kochetkov will have their debut. However, the WJC medalists won’t be the only players to have their first chances, as some players will wear the most-desired jersey in Russian hockey for the first time. Two of the most exciting debutants will be Lokomotiv’s Ilya Konovalov and Denis Alexeyev. Both very young, they are having a fantastic season in Yaroslavl, and it will be interesting to check whether they will be able to fight for a spot at the IIHF World Championship in Slovakia. Moreover, Konstantin Okulov has been in great shape recently, and he will look forward to opening his account with Team Russia. Based on the previous tournaments’ results, the Russians are again the team to beat, but this time around the roster is very experimental.
The Beijer Hockey Games will start on February 7. The four teams will compete on a three-game round robin through Sunday, February 10. Around the same dates, Team Russia B will compete in Slovakia at the Kaufland Cup.