Even though the National Hockey League has postponed the start of the 2020-21 season until January 1st, 2021 at the very earliest due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that hasn’t stopped other hockey leagues from taking to the ice.
Well... sort of.
Hockey has been played — and is currently being played — in a handful of different places, including Finland, Sweden and Russia, among others. But just how long that hockey will continue to be played isn’t fully certain.
After starting up their season at the start of October, the QMJHL has already had to impose temporary-but-serious shutdowns, with two out of its three divisions halting play. There have been some really concerning case numbers coming out of the KHL. And while the SHL is still operating, the Swedish government is reconsidering the lax approach it initially took to the pandemic.
So... yeah. There’s some hockey for now! How long will that last, and where will it last? Nobody knows for sure! I suppose that, for now, all we can do is enjoy it, and hope that all the players in action right now are able to stay as healthy as possible.
Let’s take a quick look at which Dallas Stars prospects have been playing and how things have been going for them thus far.
Before sports leagues were shut down all across the world in the spring, forward Fredrik Karlström was one of the hottest prospects in the Stars’ system. A 2016 third-round pick, Karlström had spent a couple of years bouncing around Sweden a bit and trying to find his rhythm. Something seemed to have clicked for him around the midway point of the 2019-20 season, though, as he began burying goals — lots of them. The change didn’t go unnoticed by Dallas, as he earned his entry-level contract while other prospects were left untendered. That hot hand seems to have carried over into the fall, as his four goals and six points are both tied for the Växjö team lead through eight games.
Not one, not two, but three Dallas prospects are currently playing for Färjestad in the SHL this season: Albin Eriksson, Oskar Bäck and Jacob Peterson. Bäck and Peterson are logging a regular shift on the team, and both have already scored goals. But like last year, ice time has been hard to come by for Eriksson, as his current average is only a paltry 8:31. However, if he can keep producing assists like the one below, it will be hard to keep him on the bench for too much of the time.
Have the Stars managed to find more fifth-round draft magic? While it’s still way, way, way too early to say that for certain, it is worth mentioning that Daniel Ljungman has 12 goals through 12 games in Sweden’s top junior league, and has also spent some time up with the Linköping pro club, mostly practice and training.
Yevgeni Oksentyuk, newly added by the Stars with the 2020 draft’s 162nd overall pick just a few weeks ago, is a Belarusian native who spent last season with Ty Dellandrea as a member of the OHL’s Flint Firebirds. But with the OHL still on hiatus, Oksentyuk has been playing instead for Yunost Minsk in his home country’s top hockey league. It’s far from the highest level of professional hockey in Europe, but hey, it’s better than not playing at all. He has one assist so far through seven games, and it was a pretty nice helper.
Excellent assist by Oksentyuk (№9) in a today game against HC Mogilev. It’s his first point of the season.— Хоккей Беларуси | Hockey.by (@hockey_blr) October 8, 2020
HC Yunost won 2:1 on the road. pic.twitter.com/sSP4HhW3CB
North American Juniors
Mavrik Bourque, the newest shiny penny in the Dallas prospect pool after the organization used their 2020 first-round selection on him, knows the expectations on him are high. Not only does he have that lofty draft status — and the expectations that come along with it — to contend with, he was also named the newest captain of the Shawinigan Cataractes. That pressure hasn’t seemed to phase him, however, as he has six points through four games thus far, and was named the first star of the game in his past two contests — right before his team’s schedule was put on pause.
Xavier Bourgault is someone I can see moving up my rankings as the season progresses.— 2021 NHL Draft (@NHLDraft2021) October 14, 2020
Here he makes a really nice touch pass to Mavrik Bourque who has no problem finishing.
Bourgault is off to a good start this season with 5PTS (3G/2A) in 4GP.#2021NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/wtb8Vjah11
Gatineau Olympiques goaltender Rémi Poirier, who was picked by the Stars in the sixth round at 185th overall in this year’s draft, has a 3-1 record and a nice .919 save percentage through four games. Like the past two seasons, he is already facing a ton of rubber and dangerous scoring chances, something that is likely to continue if he stays with Gatineau all season.