European Hockey: Friday’s Five for 30 November

RUSSIAN THROUGH LIFE: Playing at home in Russia during the lockout has made the NHL a second-though for many Russian stars like Ilya Kovalchuk

BY JEFF ANGUS

It is Friday and it is time for Friday’s Five covering five of the most interesting stories from the world of European Hockey. This week, we discuss Evgeni Malkin, an interesting promotional video from the KHL, a promising prospect to keep an eye on from Finland, Cory Schneider, and more.

5. Evgeni Malkin, to no one’s surprise, is enjoying playing in Russia. He even went as far as to say he does not miss the NHL. A lot of the players over in Russia tend to say things that Russian media and fans want to hear, but there is no doubt in my mind that Malkin would rather be playing in Pittsburgh right now.

The good news – Malkin is healthy, fit, and playing a lot (and very well) for his hometown team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk. He has 11 goals and 33 points in 24 games. And you know you are a diehard hockey fan when you can spell Magnitogorsk without looking it up. If the NHL is locked out for the entire season, Malkin could lead Magnitogorsk to a KHL Championship.

INTERESTING BETS
Magnitogorsk to win the KHL Championship +650

4. In one of the most bizarre/entertaining promotional videos to ever come out of the sport of hockey, watch Ilya Kovalchuk and some of his SKA St. Petersburg teammates get their break dancing on:

(No word on whether or not that is Maxim Afinogenov doing his own break dancing).

SKA recently fired their coach and hired a new one, which is bizarre considering they were and remain the top team in the KHL. Despite this controversy, SKA is still the favourite to capture the KHL Championship (+340) on PlayNow Sports.

3. He doesn’t sound Finnish, but Aleksander Barkov is one of the most promising young hockey players to come out of Finland since Mikael Granlund. Barkov’s father, also named Aleksander, is a former pro hockey player in Russia. The younger Barkov currently plays for Tappara in the SM-liiga, the same team that Canuck right winger Jannik Hansen is suiting up for during the lockout.

Barkov is pegged by many scouts to be a top five pick at next June’s NHL Draft. North American hockey fans will be able to get a good look at Barkov in a few weeks at the 2013 World Junior Tournament in Ufa, Russia (don’t forget to set your alarm clocks). It only makes sense that the World Junior tournament would be played in the middle of the night during the season in which the NHL is locked out.

Tappara are heavy favorites (+144) in their matchup against Lukko Rauma tomorrow.

Lukko defeated them 4-1 back on November 24th, but Tappara won the first matchup of the season 5-0 on October 30th. The two clubs currently stand 7th and 10th, respectively, the SM-liiga table.

2. Sidney Crosby is inching closer to making a decision about where to play in Europe. He has been reluctant to make the leap across the pond, for a few reasons. One, he has been involved in the CBA negotiations. Two, Pittsburgh may be hesitant to let him go over and run the risk of another injury, and three, Crosby’s insurance costs are going to be incredibly high for whichever team is lucky enough to land him.

“Insuring Crosby’s future contract value (and business/brand value, should he decide to insure that as well) would not be cheap. It also wouldn’t be a tab he’d be expected to pick up given the competition for his services. But contrary to many reports, it’s not a case of Crosby being uninsurable due to his concussion risks — anything can be insured for the right price — it’s that it may not make sense from a business perspective for any team to take on the cost of that insurance.”

Crosby’s insurance costs could run upwards of $300,000-$400,000 per month. Yes, you read that right, per month. Switzerland appears as the early front-runner to land Crosby’s services. Several NHL stars have loved playing in Switzerland, including Rick Nash, Joe Thornton, Tyler Seguin, Patrick Kane, and Logan Couture.

1. Speaking of Switzerland, Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider is off to play for HC Ambri-Piotta in the NLA, and he will get his first start tomorrow. Ambri-Piotta is far from a powerhouse in the league, but Schneider will get a lot of ice time and a chance to shake off a few months of rust.

“Ambri-Piotta, known locally as the “Bianco-Blu” (white and blues), has scored 61 goals this season and surrendered 92. In other words, the team’s defense has been like, well, Swiss cheese.”

Schneider holds a dual Swiss passport, so Ambri-Piotta didn’t have to use up an import spot on him. Schneider will likely steal the starting gig from Nolan Schaefer, the younger brother of former Canuck/Senator Peter Schaefer. He is now the third Canuck to sign in Europe, joining Hansen and Dale Weise. While some are looking at this signing with doom and gloom, as Schneider has been heavily involved in CBA discussions, there are two ways to view it:

A) He sees the season as lost and is tired of the fruitless discussions.
B) He wants to make sure he is in game shape and ready if and when the NHL returns in early January.

Let’s hope for the latter.