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Semester abroad: Checking in on Blackhawks prospects loaned to European teams

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Hockey season has already started on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Lausanne HC - ZSC Lions - Swiss National League Photo by RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images

While the top tiers of North American hockey are yet to start the 2020-21 season, several of the top European hockey leagues have already been playing for a few months. In hopes of finding extra ice time for their prospects, the Blackhawks loaned out six players to teams on the other side of the pond.

With the reported start date of the NHL season drawing closer, several of those loans have expired or are on the verge of doing so. Here’s an update on how those stints went:

Matej Chalupa (Mountfield HK, Czech Republic)

A free agent signing by the Blackhawks in March, Chalupa had been playing with Mountfield HK in the top tier of hockey in Chalupa’s native country. In six games, the 22-year-old forward notched a pair of assists. According to this tweet (with an assist from Google Translate), the loan ended on Nov. 24, with Chalupa reportedly returning to the US soon after.

Brandon Hagel (HC Thurgau, Switzerland)

Hagel was named the Blackhawks AHL MVP last season after leading the IceHogs with 19 goals. He turned that success into an NHL debut on March 11 against the San Jose Sharks, which remains the last hockey game played at the United Center.

Hagel is flourishing in Europe, with 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 14 games while playing with HC Thurgau in Switzerland’s second division. This article from The Athletic caught up with Hagel as he reflected on his first European hockey stint. Hagel’s best outing was a five-point performance (three goals, two assists) on Nov. 17.

Hagel was recalled from his loan last week, allowing time for Hagel to return home and prepare for the upcoming Blackhawks’ training camp.

Philipp Kurashev (HC Lugano, Switzerland)

Kurashev remains one of the more intriguing offensive prospects in the Blackhawks organization after his first full professional season in ‘19-20. This season, in 12 games with HC Lugano in the top division of Swiss hockey, Kurashev doesn’t have a goal but he doesn’t have eight assists.

It’s been a few weeks since Kurashev — Chicago’s fourth-round pick (120th overall) in the 2018 NHL Draft) — has stepped on the ice, though. Several Lugano players tested positive for the coronavirus on Nov. 30 and the team has not played in a game since.

Tim Soderlund (Almtuna, Sweden)

Soderlund made his North American debut last season, skating in 29 games with the IceHogs while scoring one goal with two assists. Returning to his native Sweden on loan this season while playing for Almtuna in the second division, Soderlund — whom the Blackhawks selected in the fourth round (112th overall) in 2017 — has a team-high nine goals and his 15 points are the second highest mark on the team.

Scott Powers of The Athletic recently talked to Soderlund about his time in Sweden.

Pius Suter (GCK Lions/ZSC Lions, Switzerland)

Suter was the league MVP in Switzerland’s NLA last season after scoring 53 points (30 goals, 23 assists), drawing immediate comparisons to Blackhawks forward Dominik Kubalik, who was MVP of the same league before joining Chicago for the ‘19-20 season.

Suter’s ‘20-21 hockey season started with the GCK Lions in the second tier of Swiss hockey, where Suter led the team with five points (two goals, three assists) in six games. Suter was then re-assigned to the ZSC Lions in the top division, the same team Suter played for during his MVP season. In four games with that team, Suter has one goal and three assists while playing on the same team as former Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger.

Michal Teply (BK Mlada Boleslav/Litomerice, Czech Republic)

Teply’s time in Europe is likely over after being named to the traveling roster for the Czech Republic’s World Juniors team. That tournament will be played in Edmonton and Teply will likely stay in North America afterwards to prepare for the upcoming AHL season.

Teply, a fourth-round selection (105th overall) in the 2019 NHL Draft, started his European stint with one game for Mlada Boleslav in the top Czech division without scoring a point. He was re-assigned to Litomerice in the second division and notched three assists in three games.