As overseas campaigns get ready to kick off at the beginning of next month, we’ll highlight some notable former NHLers suiting up for teams in major European leagues over the next few days. First up is the Swedish Hockey League, which sees a new face this year in Örnsköldsvik’s MoDo Hockey, which earned promotion from the second-tier Allsvenskan to play in the top flight for the first time since 2016.
D Christian Folin – Frölunda HC
Suiting up as an alternate captain for Frölunda this season, the 32-year-old Folin has two years remaining on a deal with the club he signed in 2021. A veteran of 244 NHL games, the left-shot defender most recently suited up for 16 games with the Montreal Canadiens in the 2019-20 campaign. His career-best season came with the Los Angeles Kings in 2017-18, the second of three consecutive seasons he managed to avoid AHL assignment. In 65 games, Folin recorded average possession numbers and finished the year with three goals and ten assists for 13 points. He appeared in all four playoff games as his Kings lost to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in a first-round sweep. Since returning to his home country, the two-way defender has represented Sweden internationally at the World Championship and Winter Olympics, although his offensive game is beginning to decline. He recorded just seven assists in 37 games for Frölunda in 2022-23.
F Oscar Lindberg – Skellefteå AIK
Lindberg has played overseas for the past four seasons, but only in Russia and Switzerland. 2023-24 will be his first time playing in the Swedish top flight since 2013, and he’s doing so with the only SHL club he’s ever known in Skellefteå. Initially a second-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in 2010, Lindberg saw 134 out of his 252 games of NHL action in a New York Rangers uniform after he was sent there in a 2011 swap of prospects. Now 31, Lindberg recorded a career-high 13 goals and 28 points in 68 games during his rookie season with New York in 2015-16, but he never quite displayed the ability to become a long-term top-nine fixture in the NHL. He made later career stops with the Golden Knights and Ottawa Senators before leaving for Switzerland’s EV Zug after the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.
F Magnus Pääjärvi – Timrå IK
The most NHL-seasoned forward on this list, Pääjärvi will play a depth role in helping Timrå avoid relegation to the Allsvenskan for a third straight season after getting promoted in 2021. Pääjärvi also played his last NHL game with Ottawa in 2019, much like Lindberg, although he’d been in the league since the start of the decade. Now 32, Pääjärvi was the tenth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, going off the board to the Edmonton Oilers. It looked like a solid selection at first – he rattled off 34 points in 80 games during his rookie season as a 19-year-old in 2010-11 on a struggling Oilers squad. However, he wouldn’t put up double-digit goal totals again until his final season in the NHL with Ottawa, instead bouncing around the Oilers, Blues and Senators as a depth forward in a fourth-line role over nearly a decade. He did appear in a very respectable 467 NHL contests before heading overseas in 2019 with the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, however. He hasn’t been a huge offensive factor since returning to Europe, recording just seven goals and 13 points in 40 games for Timrå last season.
F Tobias Rieder – Växjö Lakers HC
This will be Rieder’s third consecutive year suiting up for Växjö after he departed the NHL for Sweden in 2021. It’s been a fruitful tenure for the German-born forward, as he’s put up double-digit goal totals in both seasons and won an SHL title in 2022-23. Once a promising middle-six talent with the Arizona Coyotes in the mid-2010s, things went off the rails for Rieder after signing as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers in 2018. Viewed as a surefire bet for at least around 15 goals and 30 points, Rieder instead put up a goose egg in the goal column despite playing in 67 games. Later tenures with the Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames went similarly poor, and the 30-year-old will likely play the rest of his career overseas.
D Anton Strålman – HV71
Strålman is returning home to Sweden after spending last season in the Boston Bruins organization. He played just eight games in the NHL, however, instead being relegated to the AHL’s Providence Bruins for most of 2022-23 after earning a contract off a PTO. The 37-year-old is likely done in the NHL after quite a respectable 938-game, 16-season career, but he’ll look to log heavy minutes for HV71 and try and rediscover his offensive touch against some easier competition. It’s a nice bookend for Strålman, who was once one of the better complementary defenders in the game and played against tough competition as a premier two-way defender for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the mid-to-late 2010s.
Honorable Mentions: F Henrik Borgström (HV71), D Brandon Davidson (Rögle), F Christoffer Ehn (Linköping), F Remi Elie (Linköping), G Jhonas Enroth (Örebro), D Oscar Fantenberg (Linköping), F Janne Kuokkanen (Malmö), F Anton Lander (Timrå), F Pär Lindholm (Skellefteå), F Alan Quine (Malmö), D David Rundblad (MoDo), D Joakim Ryan (Malmö), F Mattias Tedenby (HV71)