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Blackhawks prospect update for 10/21: Europe

Let’s take a look at the handful of prospects playing in Europe.

Sweden v Finland: Semifinals - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Andy Devlin/ Getty Images

Like most people in and around the Chicago Blackhawks, we’re keeping an eye on what the team’s prospects across the world are up to this hockey season. Up next, the prospects playing in Europe.

Finland

Antti Saarela, Lukko (Liiga)

Stats: 5 points (3 G, 2 A) in 11 games played

After not registering a point until his ninth game last season with Ilves, it looked like Saarela’s switch to Lukko was paying off with two goals in his first two games and five points in 10 games. He’s primarily played third-line minutes.

Unfortunately, Saarela was injured just 1:43 into last Friday’s game, and it’s unknown how long he’ll be out.

Riku Tohila, JYP U20 (U20 SM-sarja)

Stats: 11 points (7 G, 4 A) in 14 games played

Tohila has had a hot start in the Finnish Under-20 league, scoring seven goals with four assists in his first 14 games. This includes a hat trick and four-point night during JYP’s 7-2 win on October 10.

The 6-foot-8 center typically played second-line minutes and is a part of the leadership group as an alternate captain.

Russia

Ilya Safonov, Ak Bars Kazan (KHL)

Stats: 7 points (5 G, 2 A) in 17 games played

Used in a checking line role last year with Ak Bars Kazan, Safonov has been placed on a middle-six, two-way line this season. As a result, he’s seen a solid uptick in his production rate as his points-per-game rate has gone up from 0.27 last season to 0.41 currently.

Despite the slight role change, Safonov is still playing a physical, hard-checking game that’s an inherent part of his game.

One other interesting note: The Athletic’s Corey Pronman mentioned Safonov in his re-ranking of the 2021 NHL draft: Pronman had the defensive center coming in at No. 66 on that list. Safonov was selected No. 172 in that draft.

Sweden

Victor Stjernborg, Växjö Lakers HC (SHL)

Stats: 1 points (0 G, 1 A) in 11 games played

Stjernborg has been quiet in his first 10 games in the SHL this season with just one secondary assist so far. This is not unexpected: he plays a predominantly shut-down role and only had two points (both assists) last season.

Stjernborg was also a member of the bronze medal winning Swedish national team at the 2022 World Junior Championship this past August. He had zero points in seven games during the tournament, but he played an important defensive role for the team and was named “Player of the Game” for Sweden in the quarterfinal game against against Latvia.

Czech

Michael Krutil, HC Sparta Praha (Czechia) / HC Banik Sokolov (Czechia 2)

Stats: 0 points in 3 games played

After playing in the SHL last season, Krutil returned this year to his home country likely hoping for a larger role, but it hasn’t worked out exactly as planned: he has since been demoted from the 1st Czech Republic Hockey League after just three games to the lower Czech league.