Canadiens Well Represented in Europe
National Hockey League fans may still be waiting patiently for the return of NHL action to their television sets, but as the lockout drags on there is still hockey being played around the globe. Some of the leagues premier players have made the move overseas to find a new place to play during the work stoppage, and those who wear the 'bleu, blanc, et rouge' of the Montreal Canadiens are no different. With Habs players in many leagues, ranging from the Swiss National League to the Czech Extraliga, it can be hard to keep up with how they're performing. The seasons have only just gotten underway, but lets take a closer look at the Habs who are overseas, and the teams they are now calling home.
Kladno, Czech Republic is a town with fewer than 100,000 people, but it's home to more than it's share of NHL players – including Jaromir Jagr, who owns the local Hockey Club Rytíři Kladno. Not only is Jagr playing for his hometown club during the NHL lockout, but he is joined by two Montreal Canadiens – Tomas Plekanec and Tomas Kaberle. Plekanec has been on fire for the team, putting up 15 points in 9 games with HC Kladno, playing on a line with Jagr. Kaberle has been able to hold his own on the defensive side of things, and while he would like to be producing a little more, 3 points in 6 games isn't too bad.
Another player who has returned to his native country during the lockout is Habs blue-liner Andrei Markov. After being sidelined for much of the past two seasons with lower body injuries, Markov finally seems to be back to full health. A lockout may be just what Markov needs as he'll be able to work off any rink rust without the intensity of NHL hockey. Or at least, you would have though so until he signed with a team known for 'roughing it up' to say the least. Markov has signed a deal with Vityaz Chekhov of the KHL, who are famous for their on-ice brawls more so than winning hockey games. Markov has been able to register just one assist in three games, but on a team without any notable scorers it will be hard to judge him based on the number of points he puts up. The most important thing is that he comes back to Montreal conditioned and ready to play.
The Swiss National League is the new home of three Canadiens' players, including two defensemen from the country. Yannick Weber has been playing with Geneva, where he has been able to put up a respectable three goals and three assists for six point in just nine games. Impressive numbers for a defenseman, and he will look to build on that. Meanwhile, Rafael Diaz has been blowing away the competition with EV Zug, as he is over a point-per-game with ten points in nine games. Surprisingly, the least productive Hab in Switzerland is the Canadiens' star power forward Max Pacioretty, who has only been able to register one goal in five games with HC Ambri-Piotta. He's been firing from everywhere on the ice, totalling 22 shots, but he just hasn't been able to put the puck in the net with any consistency. He'll be looking to come back and be more productive after he recovers from a flu that sidelined him for a few days.
While it may not be the same as watching our beloved Montreal Canadiens in NHL action, there is at least a number of Habs players doing quite well for themselves in Europe. With prospects such as Sebastian Collberg, Magnus Nygren and Andreas Engqvist all playing in top leagues, there will also be many chances to see some of the Habs brightest young talents develop despite the work stoppage. With that being said, hopefully this lockout ends sooner rather than later so we can get back to watching the entire Canadiens roster playing in one spot.