Even with the possible suspension of No. 1 goalie Robin Rahm looming over their heads. I still consider Farjestad along with traditional Swedish powerhouse Djurgarden to be the odds on favorites for the Le Mat Trophy. Defending champion HV-71 and Skelleftea should round out the top four.
The signings of Rickard Wallin, Christian Berglund and Jonas Frogren were the highlights of a busy off season for Farjestad. The Elitserien (SEL), now in its 35th year, continues to be a great source of emerging talent for the NHL. At the recently concluded 2010 NHL Entry Draft held in Los Angeles, a total of twenty Swedes were selected, a number only exceed by Canada (99) and the United States (59). In contrast, the number of Swedes taken matched the combined totals of Russia, Finland, and the Czech Republic combined. Last season 53 Swedes wore NHL jerseys.
As is the case each offseason some notable players have departed for North America, including top prospects Jacob Markstrom (Florida Panthers), Oliver Ekman Larsson (Phoenix Coyotes), Jacob Josefson (New Jersey Devils) and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (Edmonton Oilers) to name just a few. For the SEL the offseason is not just about the international transfer market. There is always plenty of movement domestically as well. As of press time a total of 87 SEL players that will remain in Sweden will be wearing different sweaters.
Five SEL teams - Djurgarden, Farjestad, Linkoping, Frolunda, and HV-71 - along with Malmo of the 2nd Tier Allsvenskan will represent Swedish Pro Hockey during the Red Bull Salute Invitation Tourney. This round-robin tourney features some of the best teams from Sweden, Finland, and Switzerland as well as the host club Salzburg. The tourney concludes in Salzburg, Austria September 3-5. The winner will receive the European Trophy and perhaps a chance at meeting the NHL Stanley Cup champion for the Victoria Trophy sometime in 2011.
Bo Lennartsson, tournament director of the European Trophy and sporting director of Farjestad, lauded the growth of the Red Bulls Salute, which this season forms the playoff round of the European Trophy: "Over the last five years the Red Bulls Salute has established itself as one of the premier ice hockey tournaments, and we are extremely proud to be working with the organizers in Salzburg to stage the play-offs of the European Trophy. We are confident, in terms of marketing the tournament as well, of putting together an excellent product." It's no coincidence that both the organizers as well as the participating teams are describing the European Trophy as "Europe’s most prestigious ice hockey pre-season tournament."
Here is a brief guide to the upcoming SEL season (with major prospects in BOLD).
GOALIES: Christopher Nihlstorp (Acquired from Rogle), Robin Rahm (Suspended pending ruling), and Alexander Salak (Rochester Americans/AHL).
DEFENSE: Kristofer Berglund (Acquired from Lulea), Jonas Brodin (Acquired from New Skare), Jonas Frogren (Acquired from Toronto Marlies/AHL), Martin Sevc (Acquired from Dynamo Minsk/KHL), Jonas Junland (Acquired from St. Louis Blues), Markus Karlsson, Sanny Lindstrom, and Anton Grundel.
FORWARDS: Anders Bastiansen, Christian Berglund (Acquired from Rapperswil-Jona), Henrik Bjorklund, Marius Holtet, Emil Kaberg, Patrik Lundh (Acquired from Bofors), Marcus Paulsson, Mattias Sjogren (Acquired from Rogle), Robin Sterner, Dragan Umicevic, Per Aslund, Pelle Prestberg (Acquired from Leksands), Rickard Wallin (Acquired from Toronto Maple Leafs), Michael Jackson, and Dick Axelsson.
COMMENT: The additions of Rickard Wallin, Christian Berglund, and Jonas Frogren will be sure to provide some needed offensive firepower. But the key to the team may be how well two other additions fit in - Martin Sevc and Jonas Junland could end up forming a strong defensive duo. The only fly in the milk is the status of Robin Rahm, who would have been Farjestads No.1 goalie if he hadn’t tested positive for PEDs. Rahm faces an up to two-year suspension and is suspended pending a further ruling by the SEL.
“I have made a huge mistake and am extremely remorseful about it and wished I had it undone, "said Rahm. The late signing of Alexander Salak keeps Farjestad’s title hopes alive. Farjestad has won the SEL title twice in the past four seasons.
Key NHL/SEL Transfers: Marcus Johansson, Jonas Holos, and Henrik Karlsson
GOALIES: Andreas Andersson and Daniel Larsson (Acquired from Detroit Red Wings).
DEFENSE: Adam Almqvist, Johan Bjork, Daniel Fors, Pasi Puistola, Nichlas Torp, Lance Ward, Mikko Luoma (Acquired from Atlantic HK), Juuso Hietanen (Acquired from Bryn), and Jesper Williamson (Promoted from U-20 team).
FORWARDS: Fredrik Bremberg, (Acquired from Jokerit), Kris Beech, Johan Davidsson, Andreas Falk, Teemu Laine, Per Ledin, Johan Lindstrom, Andre Petersson (Ottawa Senators), Oscar Sundh, Martin Thornberg, Jukka Voutilainen, Simon Onerud, Jesper Fasth (Acquired from U20-team) , Kamil Piros (Acquired from Timra), and John Linn Anderson (Promoted from U-20 team).
COMMENT: The losses of Mattias Tedenby and veteran goalie Stefan Liv hurt, but the revamped defense built around Daniel Larsson and defensemen Mikko Luoma and Jusso Hieranen should be one of the stingiest units in the SEL. The defending champions have been crowned SEL champions four out of the last seven seasons.
Key NHL/SEL Transfers: Mattias Tedenby and David Ullstrom
GOALIES: Joacim Eriksson (Acquired from Leksands/Philadelphia Flyers), and Andreas Hadelov.
DEFENSE: Niclas Burstrom, Tim Erixon (Calgary Flames), Marcus Hogstrom (Acquired from Perm), Adam Larsson, Fredrik Lindgren (Acquired from Farjestad), David Rundblad (Ottawa Senators), Pavel Skrbek, Petter Granberg (Promoted from U-20), Ivan Majesky.
FORWARDS: Pierre-Edouard Bell Mare, Jimmie Ericsson, Johan Forsberg, Erik Forssell, Yared Hagos, Melker Karlsson, Oscar Lindberg (Phoenix Coyotes), Mattias Lindstrom, Martin Lundberg, Adam Pettersson, Anders Soderberg, Christian Soderstrom, Petr Tenkrat, Joakim Lindstrom (Acquired from Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod/KHL), Fredrik Warg.
COMMENT: Skelleftea is once again loaded with future NHL prospects. They are fast earning a reputation of being a real hockey factory. If they keep this up the phrase “Made by Skelleftea” may someday rival what “Made by Modo” used to mean.
Key NHL/SEL Transfers: Brad Moran (Edmonton Oilers)
GOALIES: Stefan Ridderwall and Mark Owuya.
DEFENSE: Josef Boumedienne (Acquired from Dynamo Minsk/KHL), Alexander Deilert, Andreas Holmqvist, Oscar Eklund, Kim Lennhammer, David Printz, Marcus Ragnarsson, and Stefan Lassen (Acquired from Leksands).
FORWARDS: Patrik Cehlin, Nils Ekman (Acquired from SKA St. Petersburg/KHL), Christian Eklund, Daniel Brodin, Tim Eriksson, Marcus Krüger (Chicago Blackhawks), Nichlas Falk, John Norman (Promoted from U20-team), Kristofer Ottosson, Mathias Tjarnqvist, Jimmie Olvestad, Arvid Stromberg (Promoted from U20-team), Mario Kempe (Acquired from Rogle), Stefan Soder and Daniel Widing (Acquired from Davos).
COMMENT: Local heroes Josef Boumedienne and Nils Ekman return from the KHL, but the key may be young Marcus Krüger. Loss of ace goalie Gustavus Wesslau will hurt.
Key NHL/SEL Transfers: Andreas Engqvist, Gustavus Wesslau, Jacob Josefson, and Kyle Klubertanz (Montreal Canadiens).
GOALIES: Chistian Engstrand (injured), Fredrik Norrena, and Tero Leinonen (Acquired from HC Lev/KHL)
DEFENSE: Erik Andersson, Dennis Bozic, Mattias Backman (Promoted from U-20), Viktor Ekbom, Niclas Havelid, Magnus Johansson, Robin Persson, Andreas Pihl, and Klas Dahlbeck.
FORWARDS: January Hlavác, Jaroslav Hlinka, Michael Holmqvist (Acquired from Djurgarden), Mikael Hakansson, Andreas Jamtin, Sebastian Karlsson, Martin Laumann-Ylven, Erik Lindhagen, Andreas Molinder (Acquired from Modo), Sebastian Ottosson (Promoted from U-20); Pontus Peter Power, Jari Tolsa, Patrik Zackrisson, and Johan Andersson (Acquired from Farjestad).
COMMENT: A disappointing playoff run coupled with some big offseason defections turns up the heat on the Linkoping front office. A good start is critical but may be difficult to manage.
Key NHL/SEL Transfers: None
GOALIES: Johan Holmqvist and Joakim Lundstrom (Acquired from Sundsvall)
DEFENSE: Peter Andersson, Christian Backmann, Mikko Maenpaa (Acquired from HPK), Ville Mantymaa, Henry Tommernes, Tobias Viklund, and Oscar Hedman.
FORWARDS: Per-Johan Axelsson, Riku Hahl, Michael Jackson, Tomi Kallio, Niklas Andersson, Andreas Karlsson, Carl Klingberg (Atlanta Thrashers), Nicklas Lasu, Joel Lundqvist, Toni Koivisto (Acquired from Metallurg Magnitogorsk/KHL), William Wallen (Acquired from Mississauga/OHL), and Mika Pyorala (Acquired from Adirondack/AHL)
COMMENT: It should be interesting to see what kind of an impact Toni Koivisto can have in the SEL. Forwards William Wallen and Carl Klingberg are the youngsters that most bear watching. International veterans Per-Johan Axelsson (Ex- Boston Bruins), Riku Hahl (Finland) and Christian Backmann (Norway) form a solid core.
Key NHL/SEL Transfers: Philip Larsen, Joakim Andersson, Fredrik Pettersson, and Mathis Olimb.
GOALIES: Magnus Akerlund and Juha Pitkamaki (Acquired from Ilves).
DEFENSE: Sebastian Erixon, Elias Granath, Antti Halonen (Acquired from TPS Turku), Mattias Karlsson, Thomas Forest, Fredrik Sonntag, Par Styf, and Mikko Jokela (Acquired from Dynamo Minsk).
FORWARDS: Anton Axelsson, Daniel Corso, Kim Hirschowits (Acquired from IFK Helsinki), Fredrik Hynning, Gabriel Karlsson, Anton Lander, Alexander Larsson Acquired from Sparta Sarpsborg), Timo Parssinen, Bjorn Svensson, Martin Roymark (Acquired from Frolunda), Ilka Pikkarainen (Acquired from CSKA Moscow/KHL), and Per Hallin (Acquired from Sodertalje).
Key NHL/SEL Transfers: Anders Lindback and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson
GOALIES: Anders Nilsson, David Rautio (Acquired from Oskarshamn).
DEFENSE: Elias Falth (Acquired from Almtuna), Pierre Johnsson, Robin Jonsson, Lars Lřkken Ostli (Acquired from Big Hamar), Jan Sandstrom, Fredrik Stryman, Topi Jaakola (Acquired from Sodertalje), and Janne Niinimaa (Tentative move from HV71 is very possible).
FORWARDS: Chris Abbott, Cam Abbott, Par Albrandt, Anders Burstrom, Karl Fabricius, Simon Hjalmarsson (Acquired from Rogle/St. Louis Blues), Kim Karlsson (Acquired from Almtuna), Mats Lavander, Sebastian Meijer (Acquired from Vasteras, Sweden), Niklas Olausson, Thomas Raffi, Joonas Vihko (Acquired from HPK), Sebastian Feldt (Acquired from Almtuna), and Sebastian Eriksson (Acquired from Almtuna).
Key NHL/SEL Transfers: Mattias Game and Johan Fransson
GOALIES: Pontus Sjogren and Riku Helenius (Tampa Bay).
DEFENSE: Stefan Bemstrom, Pierre Hedin, Tim Heed, Mikko Kalteva (Acquired from Jokerit), Luke Kihlstrom, Blaz Gregorc, Markus Seikola (Acquired from Ilves), and Timo Seppanen (Acquired from KalPa).
FORWARDS: Jonas Almtorp, Andersson Fredric, Robert Carlsson, Mattias Carlsson (Acquired from Linkoping), Joakim Eriksson (Acquired from Linkoping), Andreas Grondal (Promoted from U-20), Julian Jakobsen, Petrik Pakaslahti, Linus Vidella, Patrik Carlsson (Acquired from Leksands), Martin Chabada (Acquired from Lulea), Jonas Engstrom, Thom Flodqvist, Alexander Lagerstrom, and Ryan Lasch (Acquired from St. Cloud State University).
Key NHL/SEL Transfers: Linus Klasen
GOALIES: Niclas Svedberg (Acquired from Modo) and Bjorn Bjurling (Acquired from Sodertalje).
DEFENSE: Niclas Andersén, Victor Berglind, Simon Bertilsson, Dale Clarke (Acquired from HIFK), Mattias Ekholm (Acquired from Mora), Lars Jonsson, Simon Lof, and Jorgen Sundqvist.
FORWARDS: Andreas Dackell, Jonathan Granstrom, Mads Hansen, Calle Jarnkrok (Detroit Red Wings), Magnus Kahn Berg, Sebastian Lauritzen, Jonas Nordquist, Anton Rodin, Emil Sandin, James Silfverberg, Eero Vuori, Alexander Sundstrom, and Sebastian Wannstrom (Acquired from U-20/Nashville Predators).
Key NHL/SEL Transfers: Jacob Markstrom and Eddie Leak
GOALIES: Nicklas Dahlberg (Acquired from Skelleftea), Roman Malek, and Tuomas Tarkki (Acquired from Karpat).
DEFENSE: Alexander Bonaksen, Charlie Cook (Acquired from Lukko Rauma), Daniel Josefsson (Acquired from Sodertalje), Eddie Larsson, Mattias Timander, Jens Westin, Per Stay Berg, Hans Jonsson, and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (Acquired from Philadelphia Flyers).
FORWARDS: Jacob Blomqvist (Acquired from Bofors), Nicklas Danielsson (Acquired from Djurgarden), Kristian Forsberg, Anton Hedman (Acquired from Vaxjo Lakers), Magnus Haggstrom, Morten Madsen, Robert Rosen (Acquired from Vaxjo Lakers, Per-Age Skroder, Niklas Sundstrom, Per Svartvadet, Byron Ritchie (Acquired from Dynamo Minsk/KHL), John Westin (Promoted from U-20-team/Montreal Canadiens) Niko Dimitrakos (Acquired from CSKA Moscow/KHL).
Key NHL/SEL Transfers: Mats Zuccarello Aasen
GOALIES: Christopher Heino-Lindberg, Viktor Fasth (Acquired from Vaxjo).
DEFENSE: Fredrik Carlsson, Dick Tarnstrom, Stefan Johansson, Jonas Liwing, Josh MacNevin (Acquired from Vaxjo), Patrik Nemeth (Dallas Stars), Filip Olsson, Mikael Osterberg, Peter Nolander (Acquired from Bryn).
FORWARDS: Viktor Ahlstrom, Oscar Ahlstrom, Johan Andersson (Acquired from Almtuna), Matthias Beck, Patric Blomdahl (Acquired from Frolunda), Daniel Bang, Andreas Dahlstrom, Tobias Ericsson, Richard Gynge, Joakim Nordstrom, Daniel Rudslatt (Acquired from Cologne) , Christian Sandberg, David Engblom, Oscar Steen (Acquired from Modo), and John Salmon (Acquired from Davos).
Key NHL/SEL Transfers: None