While we are waiting with baited breath for the Montreal Canadiens’ season to get underway, the European calendar has already completed a full month of competition. Between the start of the top overseas leagues and the Champions Hockey League (CHL), high level hockey has been taking place since late August. For the group of Habs’ prospects overseas – Magnus Nygren, Martin Reway, Lukas Vejdemo, Joonas Nattinen and Artturi Lehkonen – that means we have plenty to talk about.
Nygren never really seemed to fit in North America, playing only a combined 31 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs between 2013 and 2015. Though he doesn’t seem particularly inclined to ply his trade on this side of the ocean, the fact remains that he could prove to be an interesting player.
So far, his return home to Sweden has proven fruitful. Serving as Captain for the legendary Farjestads squad, he has four points in his first four Swedish league games, along with two more points in five CHL games. The certainty of staying in one place along with being placed in a leadership position are serving him well so far.
If any term describes Reway’s play, it is consistency. He was a point-per-game player last year and that is again the case early on this season. He has seven points in seven Czech league games, along with six points in five CHL Games. His level of consistency, especially considering it is against men in pan-European competition, is impressive given that he’s only 20 years of age.
Once he comes over to North America, he could make an impact on the Canadiens sooner rather than later.
A draft pick this past summer, Vejdemo isn’t quite as well-known as the other prospects yet. At 6’2″, 195 lbs, he comes with interesting power-forward potential. That hasn’t translated to the senior level yet, as he only has one point in his first nine games between the Swedish league and the CHL Djurgardens.
Last year, though, in the Swedish Junior league, he racked up 48 points in only 34 games. It will be interesting to see how his performance and his role evolve over the course of the season.
Joonas Nattinen struggled last year. He was under 50% in the faceoff dot – not good for a supposedly defensive reputed forward – and did not put up many points during his stay with MODO in Sweden.
Returning to his native Finland this season, the move has been kind to him. He is a point-per-game player in the CHL and already has two points in his first three games of Finnish league play.
While not the biggest player, Lehkonen has a reputation for being willing to play in the corners and has the skill to make his efforts pay off. And both Martin Lapointe and Trevor Timmins called him Montreal’s most underrated prospect.
Despite that skill and promise, he didn’t exactly light things up last year with Frölunda in the Swedish league, but he was a bigger factor in CHL play. The same can so far be said this year. In his first four Swedish league games, he only has a point. In contrast, he already has six points in four CHL games.
The season is still young and he is truly brimming with potential. If he can grow into a larger role in Sweden, he could compete for a spot in Montreal as soon as next season.
The CHL Round of 16 concludes next week. Between that and continued play across Europe, we should have plenty to dissect next month.