The KHL has just stopped for its first regular-season pause, and the top four European national teams gather in Finland to dispute the 2019 Karjala Cup.
KHL representatives: Marek Langhamer (Amur), Jakub Jerabek (Vityaz), Andrej Sustr (Kunlun Red Star), Dmitrij Jaskin (Dynamo Moscow), Andrej Nestrasil (Metallurg), Lukas Sedlak (Traktor), Hynek Zohorna, Tomas Zohorna (both – Amur).
For the first tournament of the season, Milos Riha decided to form a pretty young roster, with only two players over 30 years of age, one of them being Amur's star Tomas Zohorna. Marek Langhamer is expected to have a significant role between the piping, as he's more experienced than his colleagues. On defense, Jakub Jerabek and Andrej Sustr will eat up minutes on the blue line – it will be the first time that Sustr will wear the Czech jersey since the 2016-17 season.
Other than a full set of Zohorna brothers, Riha will count on Dmitrij Jaskin, on a great shape of lately, and Nestrasil and Sedlak. The Chelyabinsk forward is at his debut with the Czech National team. The Czech side will also count on several former KHL players like Jan Kovar and Michal Repik. Last year, the Czechs finished in the third position but managed to defeat the Russians in the final day of the tournament.
This tournament will be Johan Garpenlov's premiere with the Swedish National team – he's now the Tre Kronor's head coach after having worked three years as Rikard Gronborg's assistant. Traditionally, the Swedish bench boss called to Finland mostly players from the domestic league, with only five players from the KHL. Oddly enough, most of the time, the Tre Kronor are backstopped by KHL goalies, and Hellberg and Reideborn will be called to some robust challenges by their fellow league-mates. No KHL representatives are at their first call with the Swedish national team. Considering that it will be the first tournament for Garpenlov and that he sent to Finland an experimental roster, it's hard to feel the Swedes as the favorites.
KHL representatives: Juho Olkinuora (Admiral), Harri Sateri (Sibir), Teemu Eronen, Mikko Lehtonen (both – Jokerit), Juuso Hietanen (Dynamo Moscow), Atte Ohtamaa (Barys), Ville Pokka (Avangard), Miro Aaltonen (Vityaz), Marko Anttila, Henrik Haapala (Jokerit), Sakari Manninen, Teemu Hartikainen (both – Salavat Yulaev).
Once again, to please the home crowd, Jukka Jalonen decided to name a top-heavy roster for the EHT's home phase, with 12 KHL representatives – including Atte Ohtamaa, who joined Barys literally a couple of days ago from Switzerland. On defense, the KHL players will be the leaders, especially Mikko Lehtonen, Ville Pokka, and Juuso Hietanen. The three are having a fantastic season this year, and Jalonen will be glad to have players in such great shape. On the attack, the Leijonat will also have at its disposal some excellent options in Miro Aaltonen, Sakari Manninen, and Teemu Hartikainen. Not to talk about one of the heroes of the 2019 IIHF WC – Jokerit's Marko Anttila. The team led by Jalonen is probably going to compete with Team Russia for the gold medal.
KHL representatives: Igor Bobkov (Avangard), Ivan Bocharov (Dynamo Moscow), Alexander Samonov (SKA), Artyom Blazhiyevsky (CSKA), Yaroslav Dyblenko, Artyom Zub (both – SKA), Ivan Mishchenko (Admiral), Rushan Rafikov, Nikita Cherepanov (both – Lokomotiv), Kamil Fazylzyanov (Ak Bars), Artyom Sergeyev (Salavat Yulaev), Damir Sharipzyanov (Neftekhimik), Igor Ozhiganov (Ak Bars), Sergei Shumakov, Kirill Semyonov (both – Avangard), Anton Slepyshev, Pavel Karnaukhov, Konstantin Okulov (all – CSKA), Dmitry Kagarlitsky, Anton Burdasov, Artyom Shvets-Rogovoy, Andrei Kuzmenko (all – SKA), Alexander Kadeikin, Nikita Soshnikov (both – Salavat Yulaev), Pavel Kudryavtsev, Denis Alexeyev, Artur Kayumov (all – Lokomotiv), Damir Zhafyarov (Torpedo), Alexei Makeyev (Vityaz).
It will be the first tournament as a head coach not only for Johan Garpenlov but also for Team Russia's bench boss Alexei Kudashov. And it will be the debut also for several players in the Russian squad, like Artyom Shvets-Rogovoy – who recently moved from Vityaz to SKA – Neftekhimik's Pavel Poryadin, and Lokomotiv's young gun Pavel Kudryavtsev. Naturally, Kudashov called some habitues for Team Russia, like Alexander Kadeikin, Artyom Zub, and Sergei Shumakov. The tournament will also be a chance to revitalize the season for some players, like Dmitry Kagarlitsky, who had a slow start of the season with SKA.
The 2019 Karjala Cup starts on November 7. It will be played as the tradition dictates at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland, except for the game between the Tre Kronor and the Czech Republic in Leksand, Sweden. The four teams compete on a three-game round-robin through Sunday, November 10.