(Photo from Färjestad’s Instagram)
The American Hockey League enters its 2014 All-Star Game break, right in the midst of the Olympic Break taking place in the NHL. This year, the AHL’s All-Star Game features a bit of a twist as the league welcomes Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League to St. John’s, Newfoundland to take on a team of AHL All-Stars. The two teams will compete in a skills competition tomorrow night, with the game taking place the following night from the Mile One Center.
Färjestad comes to North America as the first Swedish Hockey League team in history to compete on the continent. One season after falling in the then-Elitserien’s semi-finals, Färjestad is currently sitting two points out of a playoff spot in the SHL standings. Färjestad’s roster features two second-round draft picks from the 2012 NHL draft in Ludwig Byström and Pontus Åberg, drafted by Dallas and Nashville respectively. Åberg sits second on the team in scoring in the SHL with 26 (13 G + 13 A) points in 46 games, while Byström is third in defensive scoring for Färjestad with 10 (2 G + 8 A) points in 46 games as well.
Färjestad is led in scoring by 25-year-old Joakim Hillding with 35 (14 G + 21 A) points. Hillding is currently in his third season with Färjestad and is having his best season to date, with point totals of 13 and 20 his previous two seasons. Other Färjestad players with NHL experience include Christian Berglund (New Jersey and Florida), Rickard Wallin (Minnesota and Toronto), and former Oklahoma City Baron Shawn Belle (Minn., Montreal, Colorado, and Edmonton).
The AHL All-Stars are coached by defending Calder Cup champion Jeff Blashill and the man he beat for that Cup, Rob Zettler. Seven of the AHL’s Top 20 scorers will be on the AHL team on Tuesday night, including league-leader Travis Morin. Morin enters the game with 68 (27 G + 41 A) points for the Texas Stars in 44 games this season. His teammate Colton Sceviour also made the cut, sitting third in the AHL scoring race with 53 (29 G + 24 A) points in 43 games and currently leads the league in goals scored.
Defenseman T.J. Brennan leads the d-corps of the AHL team, sitting fourth in the AHL’s scoring race with 51 (20 G + 31 A) points in 48 games – thirteen points ahead of the next-highest scoring defenseman, rookie Brenden Kichton. Kichton is the lone St. John’s IceCaps player making the All-Star team, scoring 38 (9 G + 29 A) points so far this season.
The goaltenders for the AHL All-Stars will be Chicago net-minder Jake Allen and Hamilton’s Dustin Tokarski. Allen is second in the league in wins with a 21-12-2 record so far. Tokarski is 16-11-2 this season.
If you’re needing a hockey fix before the Olympic games for Canada and the US begin on Thursday, there are a multitude of ways to catch the All-Star game. AHL Live will broadcast both the game and the skills competition free of charge on the AHL Live website. Sportsnet ONE will broadcast both events live in Canada, and the US will have to catch both events on regional sports networks for a television broadcast. Both events begin at 6:30 PM Eastern Time with the skills competition on Tuesday night, and the game taking place Wednesday night. You can check out the local listings at the AHL site here.