As overseas campaigns 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. After highlighting some key Swedish Hockey League contributors last weekend, we’re moving on to Finland with the Liiga, the country’s top pro league, routinely churning out premier draft prospects and marquee European free agents.
D Michal Jordán – Lahden Pelicans
Jordan, 33, was a 2008 fourth-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes who played 79 games there in 2012 and 2016, serving as captain of their AHL affiliate in Charlotte for a short time as well. He went overseas in 2016 after scoring just one goal in 36 games with the Hurricanes the year prior, and he would spend most of the next seven seasons with Amur Khabarovsk in Russia. The Czech defender is now entering his first Liiga season, joining after registering 15 combined points in 41 games split between Khabarovsk and the NL’s Rapperswil-Jona Lakers last season. He’s still logging minutes internationally, representing Czechia at the last two World Championships. He’s expected to log top-four minutes and play a leadership role for Pelicans, who have already named him an alternate captain.
F Leo Komarov – HIFK Helsinki
Komarov, 36, will play in Finland’s top league for the first time since 2009. The long-time New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs forward left the NHL ranks via mutual contract termination at the beginning of the 2021-22 season, and he’s since played for Luleå HF in Sweden and SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL. He’ll look to regain some offensive confidence in his twilight years with HIFK after recording just nine goals and 18 points in 49 games for Luleå in 2022-23. The versatile, physical forward recorded 63 goals and 170 points in 491 games across nine NHL seasons.
F Lauri Korpikoski – TPS Turku
Korpikoski, now 37, primarily spent his NHL career with the Arizona Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers after the New York Rangers selected him 19th overall in 2004. He’s returning to TPS in the 2023-24 season after playing four out of the last five years there, returning to his youth club in 2018 after a ten-year NHL career and one season in Switzerland with ZSC Lions. A versatile winger with a history of reliable two-way play, Korpikoski finished second on TPS in points last season, scoring 11 goals and adding 13 assists for 24 points in 43 games. In 609 NHL games, Korpikoski recorded 86 goals and 201 points. He last suited up in the 2016-17 season for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars.
F Jori Lehterä – HIFK Helsinki
Lehterä was a top-six center at one point with the St. Louis Blues in the mid-2010s but eventually left for Europe after Finnish police charged him with purchasing and possessing cocaine in early 2019 (as well as his offensive production dropping off a cliff with the Philadelphia Flyers beforehand). Returning to Finland in 2022-23 with Tappara after three years in Russia, Lehtera led the Liiga champions in scoring with 57 points in 57 games and is one of the premier players in the league today. The 35-year-old will suit up alongside Komarov in the country’s capital and biggest city.
D Sami Niku – JYP Jyväskylä
Niku could never really transform into a full-time NHL defender with the Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens, and he’s now gearing up for his second season in JYP after a strong first campaign back home in 2022-23. The 26-year-old blueliner erupted for 42 points in 54 games after spending five seasons in the NHL. A 2015 seventh-round pick, Niku did give the Jets decent value for his selection, but it was frustrating watching him not being able to convert high-end point totals in the minors to an everyday NHL role. He’s now routinely averaging over 25 minutes per game in Finland and is a bonafide power-play quarterback.