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Across the Pond

Latvian job sends Nolan on another adventure

Wednesday, 08.03.2011 / 9:41 PM / Across the Pond

Lindsay Kramer - Correspondent

During the course of his long coaching career, Ted Nolan has heard job pitches from individuals, teams and organizations.

But entire countries? Never.

So when he picked up the phone last week and Latvia was on the line, Nolan was taken aback.

Well, OK, maybe not the entire country, but it seemed that way to him.

Latvia's top hockey officials were interested in hiring him to coach their national team, and Nolan took it with the appropriate amount of reverence.

Metropolit makes most of time in Zug

Wednesday, 08.03.2011 / 3:32 PM / Across the Pond

Bill Meltzer - Correspondent

In two months, the NHL will pay its first visit to Zug, Switzerland, when the New York Rangers take on EV Zug of the Swiss Nationalliga A in an exhibition game at Bossard Arena as part of the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere Challenge. One long-time NHL player who needs no introduction to the city of 26,000 is EV Zug forward Glen Metropolit.

A veteran of 407 regular-season games with seven NHL clubs, Metropolit signed a one-year guaranteed contract last summer with EV Zug that included an option for a second season. Metropolit then led the Swiss league in scoring (53 points in 47 games) for the second time in his career. In the playoffs, he helped lead the fourth-place team to the semifinals, compiling a dozen points (2 goals, 10 assists) in 10 games. He also proved to be a dominant faceoff man and top-notch penalty killer in addition to his lofty scoring statistics.

Yakupov aims to be NHL's first Tatar superstar

Wednesday, 07.20.2011 / 1:11 PM / Across the Pond

Bill Meltzer - Correspondent

Over the course of Russian hockey history, the country's vast landscape has given rise to a variety of NHL and international hockey stars. One region that has not been the birthplace of a future NHL star is the Republic of Tatarstan. Seventeen-year-old Sarnia Sting right wing Nail Yakupov aims to change this.

An early candidate for top pick of the 2012 Entry Draft, Yakupov is an ethnic Tatar who hails from the city of Nizhnekamsk, which is located about 500 miles east of Moscow.

Selected second in the 2010 CHL import draft, he dazzled NHL scouts this past season with a spectacular 101 points (49 goals, 52 assists), the fourth-highest total in the league and most by a first-year player since Patrick Kane had 145 points in 2006-07. He won the OHL's Rookie of the Year award, and his scoring output shattered Steven Stamkos' team record for a rookie (92 points in 2006-07).

European prospects face tough decisions

Wednesday, 07.13.2011 / 2:50 PM / Across the Pond

Bill Meltzer - Correspondent

Most young hockey prospects, regardless of where they live, dream of playing in the NHL someday. For some European prospects, however, there is a difficult decision to be made as to whether to play junior or collegiate hockey in North America or to gain experience in one of the European professional leagues.

The first option provides somewhat increased exposure to NHL scouts and earlier experience playing on the smaller North American ice surface. The latter offers the benefit of playing against men, some of whom have previous NHL or major international experience.

Kladno roots run deep in new Flyers teammates

Wednesday, 07.06.2011 / 10:23 AM / Across the Pond

Bill Meltzer - Correspondent

Located in Central Bohemia, about 15 miles northwest of Prague, the town of Kladno, Czech Republic, has produced a disproportionate share of hockey players who not only have played in the NHL, but in many cases stand among the best in the game. The working-class steel mill town of about 70,000 gave rise to the HC Kladno hockey club and its legendary development program.

Among the luminaries who hail from Kladno -- or at least got their hockey start in the town's hockey program -- are current players Tomas Plekanec, Patrik Elias, Tomas Kaberle, Ondrej Pavelec, Tomas Vokoun, Michal Frolik and Marek Zidlicky. Likewise, recently acquired Philadelphia Flyers right wing Jakub Voracek is a Kladno native and a product of the HC Kladno junior system.

Former NHL players help Czechs roll to inline gold

Thursday, 06.30.2011 / 10:07 AM / Across the Pond

Bill Meltzer - Correspondent

For many professional hockey players, the early offseason presents an opportunity to rest after the marathon-like season before they prepare for their next training camp. A handful of players, however, opt for inline skates and the jerseys of their national team to participate in the Inline Hockey World Championship.

The recently completed 2011 Inline Worlds were held in Pardubice, Czech Republic. Among the participants were former NHL players forward Petr Tenkrat and defenseman Karel Rachunek. The two accepted an invitation to play for the host nation, and played pivotal roles in their squad capturing its first gold medal in tournament history.

Steady defenseman Brodin awaits Entry Draft

Wednesday, 06.22.2011 / 10:40 AM / Across the Pond

Bill Meltzer - Correspondent

"Jonas has a lot of maturity for a player his age, and we had total confidence in him on the ice. He doesn't panic under pressure, and that's the biggest thing for a young defenseman. There's little doubt that he has what it takes to be a good player anywhere, including the NHL." -- Vienna Capitals coach Tommy Samuelsson

Every successful NHL team has a few defensemen that may never put up gaudy point totals but who are mobile puck movers and are reliable in their own end of the ice. Seventeen-year-old Färjestads BK defenseman Jonas Brodin fits this profile.

Ranked third by Central Scouting among European team affiliated prospects for the 2011 Entry Draft, the teenager is actually ahead of the curve in terms of his decision-making with and without the puck. That is why the Karlstad, Sweden native is already a regular on the team that won the championship of Elitserien, the Swedish Elite League and is projected as a mid-to-late first-round pick.
Talk to any NHL scout who watched Brodin play this past season or to any NHL team official who met him at the annual Draft Combine and they inevitably use the adjectives "mature" and "level-headed" to describe the youngster.

Stanley Cup guaranteed to visit Germany

Wednesday, 06.15.2011 / 3:11 PM / Across the Pond

Bill Meltzer - Correspondent

Sports enthusiasts in Germany still are abuzz over the NBA championship and playoff MVP award won by native son Dirk Nowitzki. But there is another compelling story for Germans taking place in the Stanley Cup Final. At the conclusion of Game 7 in Vancouver, there will be a German-born and -trained player lifting the Cup for just the second time in NHL history.

The only question: Will it be Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg or Vancouver Canucks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff? Both players have been crucial contributors to their respective clubs’ success, in the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Seidenberg, 29, has been on the ice an average of 27:34 per game during the postseason while playing stellar defense alongside Zdeno Chara. He also has 1 goal and 9 points in the playoffs after totaling a career-best 32 points in 81 regular-season games. A skilled puck-mover, Seidenberg also is one of the NHL's best shot-blocking defensemen. After snuffing out 174 opposing shots during the regular season (eighth-most in the League), he's blocked a playoff-high 72 shots heading into Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The offensive-minded Ehrhoff, 28, has contributed a dozen points in the Playoffs despite missing a pair of games in the Western Conference Finals. During the regular season, he scored 14 goals and a career-high 50 points while playing an average 23:59 per game. His 28 points on the power play tied for fourth among defensemen. 

Hansen hopes to become first Dane to lift Cup

Wednesday, 06.08.2011 / 11:37 AM / Across the Pond

Bill Meltzer - Correspondent

The Stanley Cup has traveled throughout the world and visited the hometowns of dozens of European players from various nations around the continent. Denmark is one country that has yet to have one of its citizens play on an NHL champion. If Vancouver Canucks right wing Jannik Hansen has his way, the Scandinavian nation will join the list of hockey countries that has produced a member of a Stanley Cup championship squad.

Better known as a defensive forward, the slick-skating native of Herlev set up Raffi Torres' game-winning goal late in the third period of Vancouver's 1-0 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. He also did yeoman work in helping the Canucks kill six penalties in that game. Overall, through the first 21 games of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Hansen has recorded 3 goals and 8 points after recording 8 goals and 29 points during the regular season. The Canucks currently lead the Bruins, two games to one.

'Robocop' Samuelsson anxious to coach Modo

Wednesday, 06.01.2011 / 12:11 PM / Across the Pond

Bill Meltzer - Correspondent

During his playing days as an NHL defenseman, Ulf Samuelsson was known for being one of the League's most rugged -- and sometimes ruthless -- players. His aggressive style made him a controversial figure at times, but there was no denying his effectiveness on the ice. In 1,080 career regular season games, he finished with a plus-173 defensive rating to go along with 333 career points and 2,453 penalty minutes. But Samuelsson's reputation hid the fact that he was a student of the game and possessed an enviable work ethic. He was a logical candidate to pursue coaching after his active career ended.

For the last five years, Samuelsson served as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes. The Fagersta, Sweden native has made his permanent home in the US for years and his son, Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Philip Samuelsson, represents Team USA internationally. But when the opportunity recently arose to become the head coach of Modo Hockey Örnsköldsvik in Sweden's Elitserien, the 46-year-old known as Robocop and "Tuffe Uffe" (Tough Ulfie) jumped at the chance to return to his homeland.

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