With the start of the NHL regular season now under a week away, the opening-night rosters of many NHL teams are coming more and more into view. That has a trickle-down effect for the rest of pro hockey, as a player finding out he won’t have his PTO made into a full-time NHL deal could prompt that player to sign a contract with an overseas team, for example. This, alongside the ups and downs of early-season hockey in top pro leagues overseas, has prompted quite a bit of player movement and as always we’ll keep track of those transactions here.
- Seven years after he was selected fifth overall at the 2016 NHL draft, former Vancouver Canucks defenseman Olli Juolevi has made the decision to return to Europe to continue his professional career. The 25-year-old Helsinki native has signed a short-term contract with the SHL’s Timrå IK, a club off to a strong 4-2 start. The deal is set to last until Liiga’s November break. Juolevi had previously been playing for the Arizona Coyotes on a PTO but failed to earn a full-time contract in Arizona after a few preseason contests. Last season was Juolevi’s first since the year he made his NHL debut that he didn’t skate in a single game at the NHL level, and he ultimately played in 38 games for the San Diego Gulls, scoring 14 points.
- 2022 Arizona Coyotes second-round pick Julian Lutz has made an interesting move for his development, leaving defending DEL champions EHC Red Bull München in order to play USHL hockey for the Green Bay Gamblers. It’s a somewhat unusual move, as traditionally players move from developmental leagues into top professional leagues, not the other way around. But this move is somewhat understandable for Lutz, who has been buried in a depth role on a stacked Munich team. Going to Green Bay will allow the six-foot-two, 185-pound winger to play against his peers, and will give him the opportunity to have a monster season and put up the kind of box score numbers his resume currently sorely lacks.
- Former WHL and AHL star Brendan Ranford has signed a one-year contract with HC Slovan Bratislava, the club he previously represented for the 2020-21 season. Since leaving the AHL for Europe in late 2018, Ranford has become an impactful, top-line scorer in three different European leagues. He’s spent the last two seasons in the DEL, posting 95 points across 95 total games. Slovan are likely signing Ranford with the hope of adding an elite scorer, which is what Ranford was when he last played in Slovakia, as he scored 12 goals and 32 points in just 29 games. The historic club based in Slovakia’s capital have gotten off to a slow 2-3-1 start in this 2023-24 Tipos Extraliga season, so perhaps this move will give the club the spark it needs to resume its place among the country’s elite clubs.
- The ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads have signed two forwards just at the start of their pro careers: Nick Nardella and Daniel Hardie. Nardella, 24, signed an ATO with the Cincinnati Cyclones last season at the conclusion of his NCAA career with Michigan Tech. He ended up scoring one assist in four games in Cincinnati before he moved to the Iowa Heartlanders, where he impressed scoring three goals in three games. Now, he’ll head to Idaho alongside Hardie, who hasn’t yet made his pro debut but was once the leading scorer of a QMJHL team, the 2018-19 Charlottetown Islanders.
- Former College hockey star Trevor Mingoia, once an NCAA Champion with Providence College, has had his contract with Liiga’s Kärpät terminated by mutual agreement. This wasn’t the winger’s first go-around in the top division of Finnish hockey, although Mingoia’s time with KooKoo Kouvola from 2019-2021 was notably more successful. Mingoia spent two seasons with KooKoo and scored a total of 27 goals and 64 points in 73 games. Kärpät were likely optimistic they would get that kind of form out of Mingoia after he starred for two seasons in the DEL with the Wolfsburg Grizzlys, helping them to the DEL semifinals last season, but it wasn’t to be and now both parties will look elsewhere moving forward.
- Veteran Swedish forward Robin Alvarez has decided to test himself playing in Finland for the first time in his career, signing a one-year contract with Ilves Tampere of Liiga. The 36-year-old veteran has exclusively played in his native Sweden so far in his career and has logged over 700 career games combined between the SHL and HockeyAllsvenskan levels. Alvarez brings extensive Champions Hockey League experience to Ilves, having played a total of 31 games in the prestigious European tournament. Ilves currently sit fourth in the Liiga table and are looking to gain ground on their neighbors Tappara Tampere, the defending Liiga and Champions Hockey League winners.
- Defenseman Teemu Suhonen, once a star blueliner for Jukurit Mikkeli in both its Liiga and Mestis days, has signed a one-month contract with a rival Liiga club: Vaasan Sport. The undersized 34-year-old defenseman spent last season with Liiga’s JYP, scoring 15 points in 46 games. Sport said in its announcement of the deal that the club needed to act quickly to respond to an injury to defenseman Carl-Johan Lerby, and their signing of Suhonen should help the team survive Lerby’s absence.
- Slovakia’s HK Nitra have agreed on an early contract termination with forward Patrick Bajkov, a key summer signing of the club. Nitra were likely hoping that Bajkov’s prolific scoring at the ECHL level (he managed 69 points in 71 games for the Reading Royals in 2021-22) would translate to the top level of Slovak pro hockey. That hasn’t happened, though, and Bajkov will now conclude his tenure with Nitra at six games, a run where he failed to register a point and found himself tagged with a minus-seven plus-minus rating. Bajkov last played for Nitra in their October 1st contest, but skated under 2:30 of total ice time as the club fell by a 9-3 score. As Nitra seek a reboot after a catastrophic start to the season, it’s been agreed upon by both parties that ending Bajkov’s contract is the best path forward for each side, especially seeing as a replacement for Bajkov, Stephen Harper, was brought in a few days ago.
- The so far undefeated Cardiff Devils have made an addition to their forward corps, signing power forward Brandon Alderson to an EIHL contract. The six-foot-three, 194-pound veteran has been a point-per-game scorer in the OHL, ECHL, DEL2, and Slovak league, and is coming off of an exceptional campaign playing third-division pro hockey in Germany. Alderson scored a whopping 37 goals and 79 points for the Hannover Scorpions, and Cardiff are likely hoping that his track record of high-scoring numbers can translate to the top division of pro hockey in the United Kingdom.
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