While St. Louis’ Patrik Berglund will be playing for no salary in Sweden, he’ll see some familiar faces: NHL Central Division rivals Patric Hornqvist and Roman Josi. All three men will be playing in the Swedish Elite League, though for different teams. Hornqvist will be on the roster for the Hockey Allsvenskan team Djurgardens IF.
The move will be nothing new for Hornqvist who played both professional and junior hockey for the Swedish squad. Most notably, Hornqvist made an impact with the team in the 2006-07 season where, as a 19-year-old, lead the team with 23 goals. Josi, who is eligible to skate in the minors, is expected to play alongside Hornqvist. Playing with and against more experienced NHL’ers in Sweden may prove to be beneficial for Josi, as it’s anticipated he will share the blueline with Predators superstar Shea Weber when the lockout eventually ends.
Some claim that the Swedish Elite League is one of the best in Europe. The addition of players with NHL experience will bring a heightened level of play, as well as a bigger spotlight. There’s no question that as the European leagues are big on the radar of scouts and team administrators, they now become a bigger part of many NHL fans’ vocabulary with the addition of first-line names.
Back in the NHL, the Predators have made it clear that they have no plans for layoffs during the lockout. Good news to members of the Nashville organization, but one has to wonder how long the lockout will last. And if the lockout does last longer than expected, some are questioning if the Predators can or will stick to that commitment.
In the meantime, the players are looking for opportunities. Many of the younger skaters on Nashville’s roster are moving to the American Hockey League and playing for the Predators’ affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. Younger players, who qualify for the AHL based on a scale that involves NHL experience and age, are looking forward to playing in the American league rather than going overseas. While playing in Europe provides more experienced competition, the AHL is an opportunity for younger players to stay sharp. Expect the level of play and intensity in the AHL to rise exponentially while the NHL is under hiatus.
One Predator who will be donning an Admirals jersey during the lockout will be forward Gabriel Bourque. The left wing from Quebec recently signed a contract extension with Nashville, that included two-years for $1.55 million. Before coming to Nashville, he played for Milwaukee in 25 contests where he totaled two goals and 14 assists. Bourque will have company in Milwaukee as teammate Ryan Ellis joins the Admirals for the duration of the lockout.