After falling in the SHL semifinals, Swedish powerhouse Skelleftea AIK is already moving forward with their plans for next season. The team has announced a list of players who will not be returning in 2021-22 and it includes some notable NHL names. Edmonton Oilers’ defenseman Philip Broberg, Detroit Red Wings’ forward Jonatan Berggren, and Carolina Hurricanes’ defenseman Roland McKeown are all among those who will not return to Skelleftea next year and all are expected to instead be in the NHL. Broberg, 19, has in fact already made the jump, as he was recalled by the Oilers earlier this week. The 2019 No. 8 overall pick has been in Skelleftea on loan for two years since being drafted, but the big two-way defenseman is ready for the next step in his career. Berggren appears to be prepared to make that leap as well. Detroit’s 2018 second-round pick was Skelleftea’s leading scorer this season, recording 45 points in 49 games. The 20-year-old skilled play-maker is one of a number of promising Red Wings prospects, but Berggren’s dominance at the pro level this year should give him a leg up in training camp battles. McKeown is the outlier of the group; the 25-year-old blue liner made his European debut this season on loan from the Hurricanes. The former top prospect out of the OHL had faded from relevance among the Hurricanes’ deep defensive group and wished to stay in Sweden this year rather than play yet again in the AHL. While McKeown may join Carolina as a depth option in the playoffs now that his SHL season is over, his days with the organization are numbered. Slated for Group 6 unrestricted free agency this summer, McKeown may not be back with Skelleftea but he certainly won’t be staying in Raleigh either. He will have other options on the open market to find a more clear path to NHL opportunity.
- Another prominent name in Europe who won’t be returning to his current team is Boston Bruins center Alexander Khokhlachev. The 27-year-old center was a key cog for Gagarin Cup champions Avangard Omsk this season, recording 34 points in 59 games as a top-six forward, but the team has nonetheless announced that Khokhlachev has decided to leave the club. This could very well mean that Khokhlachev is finally eyeing a return to North America after five years away, and the timing of the move is key. The Bruins’ rights to Khokhlachev finally expire on June 30th. While it’s not impossible that Khokhlachev could give the Bruins another shot under his old AHL head coach Bruce Cassidy, there are certainly better opportunities for an NHL role elsewhere if he instead waits to become a free agent this summer.
- One player who isn’t rushing back to his NHL rights holder is goaltender Marek Langhamer. Despite the possibility that the Arizona Coyotes could have some more opportunity in net next season with Antti Raanta headed for free agency, Adin Hill expected to be exposed in the Expansion Draft, and Darcy Kuemper still a hot name on the rumor mill, Langhamer won’t be involved. Even after two strong seasons in the KHL, Langhamer has decided to stay in Europe, signing a one-year-deal with the Liiga’s Illves. It’s unclear if Langhamer is averse to re-joining the ’Yotes or just the NHL overall, but regardless he will see his rights expire on June 30th of next season and can then return to North America as a free agent if he chooses.