3 Things We Can Learn From The Olympics - 2. European Hockey

3 Things We Can Learn From The Olympics - 2. European Hockey

05 Mar 2018Adrian J»
 

One week ago the Olympic Games finished for another four years with USA taking Gold, Canada the Silver and Finland the Bronze in the Women's competition. In the men's tournament it was OA Russia who took Gold, the Silver went to Germany and Canada the Bronze. In this second article we look at the what the Games revealed about the current state of hockey outside the NHL.

 
 
 
 

One week ago the Olympic Games finished for another four years with USA taking Gold, Canada the Silver and Finland the Bronze in the Women's competition. In the men's tournament it was OA Russia who took Gold, the Silver went to Germany and Canada the Bronze.

In this second article we look at the what the Games revealed about the current state of hockey outside the NHL.

European talent

Those of us who follow hockey from inside of Europe knew this already, but European hockey is in great shape. Two of the top four teams this year were from the smaller hockey nations, with the Czech Republic's fourth place their best position since 2006. Just think, the German team was only 55 seconds from the biggest upset in hockey history and medalled for the first time since 1932. This team was made up almost entirely of players who have had their whole career only in Germany. For example, the player who came fifth overall in Total Points, Patrick Hager, has played 11 seasons with four different clubs in their top division Deutsche Eishockey Liga, the DEL.

A young man's game

Although many teams had counted on their mature, experience players to hold it all together, the tournament was in many ways a showcase of younger talent. Former New Jersey Devils forward, Ilya Kovalchuk, was the only one of the top five in Total Points who is over 30, or for that matter, has ever played in the NHL. He was beaten into fourth in that competition by club and country teammate Nikita Gusev. The 2012 Tampa Bay Lightning drafted player finished the Games with 12 points, including four goals in just six matches. The 25 year old scored twice in the final, including the game tying goal with only 55 seconds of the match remaining. He gained an assist when he served the puck to Kaprizov who slotted home the Gold winning goal in Overtime.

In third for Total Points the 18 year old Finn, Eeli Tolvanen showed why he was Nashville Predators 1st round draft pick in 2017 with nine points, also including four goals. Surely he will start next season with the Predators' AHL affiliate, Milwaukee Admirals. But it was Harvard whizz-kid Ryan Donato who at only 21 who got the most goals. The American centre was drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2014 and scored five goals in five games.

The KHL's impact

It was a tournament that saw the best of the German DEL, the Swiss NLA and the Swedish SHL fight it out. But credit for the most influential league must go to the Russian KHL. The Gold winning OA Russia was cleverly built as an amalgamation of just two KHL teams, SKA St Petersburg and CSKA Moskva. Half of the Czech team that came in fourth play in the league and Sweden's top scorer, Linus Omark, also has his day job in Russia.

We can add that seven of the top ten Points getters at this year's Olympics have played in the league and that the goalkeepers from five of the top eight nations currently play there too. And as a writer with a bit of a soft spot for defenders, I have to give a shout out to Canada's back pair of Mat Robinson and Chris Lee who play for CSKA Moskva and Metallurg Magnitogorsk respectively. Not only was Lee one of Canada's top points producers, but the pair had an ice time of over 24 minutes in every single match outside the group stages including the Bronze medal game. They will definitely feel that they earned that third place.

So while Germany and OA Russia make take all the headlines, it was in many way the KHL that shone in these Games.


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Leagues

Czech Rep.:  Tipsport extraliga | 1.liga | 2.liga

Finland:  Liiga | Mestis

Germany:  DEL | DEL2

Russia:  KHL | VHL

Slovakia:  Tipsport Extraliga | 1.liga

Sweden:  SHL | HockeyAllsvenskan

Switzerland:  NLA | NLB

Other:  EBEL | Belarus | Croatia | Denmark | Estonia | France | Great Britain | Iceland | Italy | Latvia | Lithuania | MOL-liga | Norway | Poland | Romania | Serbia | Slovenia | Spain | NHL | AHL |

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