A look at some European top teams

A look at some European top teams

09 Jan 2019 | eurohockey.com
 

The standard of hockey continues to improve across Europe as increasing numbers of youngsters get into this exhilarating sport. The World Junior Championship has highlighted just how healthy the situation is in countries like Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, Finland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Hockey fans on the continent can look forward to an exciting 2019 packed full of drama, intrigue and excitement. Here are the top teams to look out for this year:

 
 
 
 

SKA St Petersburg

Russian ice hockey is enjoying a golden period at the moment after they seized gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Canada and the USA did not send full strength teams to the tournament, but credit must still go to the Olympic Athletes from Russia, who vanquished Germany in overtime to win the final. That team was largely composed of SKA players, who have won a number of KHL trophies in recent years. Pavel Datsyuk, Nikita Gusev, Alexander Barabanov, Egor Yakovlev, Igor Shestyorkin, Ilya Kablukov, Dinar Khafizullin and Vladislav Gavrikov have a winning mentality deeply ingrained in them now, and SKA have been the standout team in the KHL of late. They have won the Opening Cup for the last two years, they clinched the Gagarin Cup in 2016/17 and they finished runners-up last season. If you check the KHL winner betting odds with leading sportsbooks such as sportsbetting ag, you will notice that they are the favourites to win the Gagarin Cup again this season. They have won 32 of 42 games so far, leaving them with 97 points, and they will be a force to be reckoned with once again in the playoffs.


Växjö

Defending champions Växjö remain the favourites to win the SHL once again this season in spite of an inconsistent campaign thus far. Hallam Sam’s men lost three of their last four games of 2018 to slump to sixth in the standings. However, the table is extremely tight at present, and they are just six points behind leaders Frolunda. The Indians have won four on the bounce and they are in impressive form, but everyone in the league will be wary of the threat the Vaxjo Lakers pose. Even after their dismal recent run, they have won as many games as any other team in the league this season and they are blessed with a wealth of talent. They miss Elias Pettersson after he left for Vancouver, but former Edmonton Oilers star Liam Reddox is now an SHL stalwart, Roman Horak is an exciting forward and the likes of Linus Fröberg, Janne Pesonen and Brendan Shinnimin look dangerous, while Joel Persson has emerged as an assist king. The SHL looks delicately poised right now, with a number of strong teams vying for glory, but Vaxjo deserve their status as narrow favourites and it will be fascinating to see if they can defend their crown.


Kärpät

Kärpät returned to the summit of the Finnish Liiga last season and went on to win a gripping Finals series against Tappara. That was their eighth championship and it cemented their status as the most dominant Finnish team of the 21st. They came flying out of the blocks once more this team and they have a healthy lead over TPS Turku at the top of the SM-liiga table. They are odds-on favourites to win a ninth championship and NHL scouts will be watching developments closely. Stars like Mikael Granlund have come through the ranks here, and current stars like Ville Leskinen and Veini Vehviläinen could well go on to make a similar impact in North America. Tappara will fight them every inch of the way, but Karpat are on fire right now and we should look forward to some scintillating hockey from them in 2019.





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