It’s been a busy day across the hockey world, despite just four NHL games on the schedule. Today’s news cycle featured major headlines such as a season-ending surgery for William Eklund and the announcement of Jonathan Toews’ return to the Chicago Blackhawks lineup. Over in Europe, some big games have been played, including two contests in the DEL Semifinals in Germany, and the first game of the SHL semifinals: a 6-2 win for Vaxjo over Frolunda. Two thrilling overtime contests were completed in Finland’s Liiga semifinals, including a double-overtime victory by Champions Hockey League winners Tappara Tampere.
As fans across the hockey world enjoy all the action on offer this Friday, teams in both minor leagues and foreign leagues are completing transactions and either making changes for this season or preparing for 2023-24. We’ll keep track of those moves here.
- Earlier this month, we covered reports that former NHL defenseman Juuso Riikola would be headed to Switzerland for next season. Today, those reports were made official as Swiss club SCL Tigers have announced that they have signed Riikola to a one-year contract for 2023-24. Riikola, 29, has 80 career NHL games on his resume and last played in North America last season, when he scored 35 points in 53 games for the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. This season Riikola scored 19 points in 42 games as an alternate captain for the SHL’s IK Oskarshamn, helping them reach the first round of the SHL’s playoffs. Now, he’ll continue his pro career with the Tigers, hoping to keep them in Switzerland’s top league after the team just barely avoided relegation this season.
- The Coachella Valley Firebirds, the AHL affiliate of the Seattle Kraken, have signed NCAA free agent Max Andreev to an ATO agreement, one that will become a standard AHL player contract next season. The Cornell University product, 23, has scored 65 points in 77 games over the last three seasons he’s played. He made the ECAC’s Third All-Star team last season and served as an alternate captain this season, helping lead Cornell to an upset victory over the defending national champions the University of Denver. He’ll now join one of the AHL’s top teams with the hope of fashioning a professional career for himself and potentially even earning an NHL contract down the line.
- The AHL’s Iowa Wild have signed CHL free agent defenseman Landon Kosior to an ATO agreement for the rest of this season. Kosior, 20, is an undrafted blueliner who spent his major junior career with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders. Kosior served as an alternate captain for the team this season and scored 63 points in 60 games, his first WHL campaign above the point-per-game threshold. As is generally expected for junior players who gain more experience, Kosior’s numbers took major jumps as he got older, and he went from 23 points in his first season with Prince Albert to the aforementioned 63 this season. With this ATO, Kosior will get his first taste of pro hockey with Iowa, and will likely get to follow along as the team prepares for the Calder Cup playoffs.
- 2022 Anaheim Ducks fifth-round pick Connor Hvidston has been signed to an ATO agreement by the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls. The deal allows Hvidston to dip his toes into the waters of professional hockey now that his WHL season with the Swift Current Broncos is over. Hvidston was one of the youngest prospects available at the 2022 draft, just days from being in the 2023 class. He’s scored 21 goals and 65 points in 59 games this season, which ranks him third in team scoring. Seeing as he’ll have to wait until next September to turn 19, he’s still a ways away from turning pro full-time, but with this ATO agreement, he’ll at least get a firsthand look at what it takes to play professional hockey in the Ducks organization.
- Another Cornell University player has signed his first pro contract: defenseman Sebastien Dirven. The 24-year-old teammate of Andreev signed with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers after playing three seasons with the Big Red. The big six-foot-three, 200-pound blueliner doesn’t have much of an offensive game (just 15 points in 93 career NCAA games) but will add some size and snarl to the Nailers’ blueline as they conclude what has been a difficult 2022-23 season.
- 2016 Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Noah Carroll has signed his first professional contract, landing with the ECHL’s Savannah Ghost Pirates. Carroll has spent the last four years with the University of New Brunswick on the Canadian university circuit, playing 59 games there. Before that point, the six-foot-one defenseman played for the Soo Greyhounds and Guelph Storm in the OHL, a major junior career highlighted by a 37-point final season during which he was an alternate captain.
- Cade Borchardt, the captain of one of college hockey’s better programs at Minnesota State, has signed with the ECHL’s Kansas City Mavericks. The 24-year-old’s production took a hit this season, going from 41 points to 20. But despite that decline in numbers, Borchardt earned the honor of captaining his team and finishes his collegiate career with a respectable 85 points in 121 games. In signing Borchardt, the Mavericks, who currently rank second in the ECHL’s Mountain Division, infuse some energetic young talent to their roster as they continue to grapple for playoff position.
- The ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings have signed two players out of St. Cloud State University: Aidan Spellacy and Brendan Bushy. Spellacy, 24, is a forward who scored 12 points in 35 games this season. He’s served as an alternate captain for St. Cloud State and Robert Morris University, and he also captained his high school team, meaning he could bring some off-ice value to the Wings beyond his on-ice utility. Bushy, 24, is a six-foot-two blueliner who scored 11 points in 41 games this season playing in a top-four role.
- Former Owen Sound Attack star and OHL Champion Cameron Brace is transferring to Germany, per an announcement from his new team, the DEL’s Frankfurt Lions. The 29-year-old has spent the last two seasons in the SHL with IK Oskarshamn, scoring 52 points in 99 games there. Brace earned his shot at the SHL level after a proving himself as a professional in Denmark’s top league, where he scored 110 points in 78 games for Herning Blue Fox. Brace has fashioned himself a solid overseas professional career in the last few years, and now that career will continue in Germany.
- Longtime DEL veteran Max Renner has signed a contract for next season with the Augsburg Panthers. The 31-year-old has nearly 300 DEL games on his resume with most coming with the Straubing Tigers, save for the last two seasons spent with the Bietigheim Steelers. Renner scored nine points in 56 games last season and brings an established veteran presence to the Panthers’ defense corps.
- The ICEHL’s Black Wings Linz have signed forward Nico Feldner to a two-year contract, per a team announcement. Feldner has played the past two seasons entirely with HC Innsbruck, save for a six-game stretch with the EIHL’s Sheffield Steelers in England. Feldner scored 17 points in 43 games for Innsbruck this season and should be counted on to bolster Linz’s forward corps for the next two years as they look to return to the ICEHL’s playoffs next season.
- Matus Spodniak, a top scorer at the NCAA Division-III level with Adrian College, has signed an amateur tryout agreement with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. The 25-year-old native of Kosice, Slovakia scored 94 points in 60 games across two seasons with Adrian College, and now the Fuel are looking to roll the dice on him to see if he can translate his game to professional hockey. This tryout will represent a significant jump in competition level for Spodniak, and he’ll have a relatively short period of time to make an impression with one of the East Coast league’s top teams.
- Spodniak’s teammate, Ty Enns, also signed an amateur tryout agreement with an ECHL club: the Toledo Walleye. Enns, 24, scored 50 points in 31 games this season and scored a total of 140 points in 106 games at the Division-III level. As mentioned with Spodniak, this jump to the ECHL will be a significant increase in difficulty for Enns, but at the very least it should be encouraging that the ECHL’s third-best team is willing to give him a tryout opportunity.
- The ECHL’s Maine Mariners are another club to dip into the pool of college free agents, signing University of Windsor forward Sean Olson. The 24-year-old scored 40 points in his 54-game career for Windsor, and standing six-foot-three 203 pounds as some size down the middle to the Mariners’ group of pivots.