By Mitch Brandner
With the NHL lockout still ongoing without an end in sight, many players have taken their talents overseas. It’s not easy for players to adjust to the larger ice surfaces and the different style of play, but staying in shape and keeping the hockey mindset is what is important.
There are a few Phoenix Coyotes playing in Europe, and a few of them are putting up some solid numbers.
Radim Vrbata (BK Mlada Boleslav)
Vrbata has played two games for his hometown team in the Czech Republic’s second division. He has two points so far but playing against much weaker competition it is expected that he’ll put up big numbers. Vrbata has led the Coyotes in goals two out of the past three years and they will need that trend to continue when the NHL starts back up.
Lauri Korpikoski (TPS)
Playing for TPS in Finland, Korpikoski has 13 points in nine games which is good for second on the team despite playing less than half as many games. Korpikoski is a player that can play any role well. He’s excellent defensively, he’s a great penalty killer, and he has been just shy of 20 goals the past two years. The Coyotes got Korpikoski in a trade from the Rangers and has been a vital part of the team ever since. It’s nice to see him putting up points in the SM-liiga because the Coyotes will need him to produce even more offence than he has previously.
Martin Hanzal (HC Ceske Budejovice)
Coyotes fans don’t need to be told how important Hanzal is to their team. He only has three points in six games in the Czech league but offence isn’t what makes Hanzal so valuable. He is one of the best shutdown centers in the league and that isn’t going to change no matter how many points he puts up during the lockout.
Mikkel Boedker (Lukko)
Like Korpikoski, Boedker is playing in the Finnish Sm-liiga. Boedker is second on his team in points with 16 in 16 games. The most promising stat is the 11 goals he has. Boedker seemed to finally break out in last year’s playoffs playing on a line with Shane Doan and Antoine Vermette and it looks like it wasn’t just a fluke. If Boedker can reach his offensive potential the Coyotes forward core will instantly be a lot stronger than people think. His stats in the SM-liiga are a good sign. Boedker is only 22 years old, so there’s still plenty of time for the former first round pick to prove his offensive skill.
The number that NHLers put up in the European leagues should be taken with a grain of salt, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored completely. In the case of these Coyotes players, mainly Korpikoski and Boedker, maybe the forward core of this team isn’t as weak as it is advertised to be.