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Blackhawks Europe prospect update for 11/8: Ilya Safonov flourishing in KHL

Catching up with the Blackhawks prospects across the pond.

Ilya Safonov (No.24) of Russia seen in action during the... Photo by Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

With the Chicago Blackhawks, not playing again until Thursday, we continue our tour through the team’s prospect pipeline by checking in on the players in Europe.


Antti Saarela, Lukko (Liiga)

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

Due to an injury, Saarela has not played since our last European prospect update on Oct. 21. Lukko announced on Monday that Saarela was rehabbing but his return to action is still to be determined.

Riku Tohila, JYP U20 (U20 SM-sarja)

Stats: 16 points (12 G, 4 A) in 21 games played

Tohila finished October strong and carried that momentum into November, scoring five goals in seven games since the last update. He’s shined while playing on both the second and third lines, and has also been a key part of the power play.


Ilya Safonov, Ak Bars Kazan (KHL)

Stats: 12 points (9 G, 3 A) in 24 games played

In his last seven games, Safonov has tallied five points (4 G, 1 A) while playing on the second line for Ak Bars Kazan. The very physical forward is not afraid to do the dirty work: it’s not uncommon to see him establish net-front presence and dominate in the crease. While it’s too early to make any predictions, if Safonov can continue to grow in this role and translate his KHL game to the North American style of play, he could become a fan favorite in Chicago.


Victor Stjernborg, Växjö Lakers HC (SHL)

Stats: 3 points (0 G, 3 A) in 18 games played

While not the points machine some of his peers have shown to be, Stjernborg is a very skilled skater and passer. The three assists on his stat sheet do not give proper justice to how pretty some of his passes have been.

This is a player who has some serious vision and good hands:


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

Stats: 0 points in 10 games played

While Krutil showed his big body presence and skills along the boards this past summer, an injury kept him out of the lineup for HC Sparta Praha and he was eventually demoted. Krutil turned 20 this summer and there’s still plenty of hockey left to be played this season, but it hasn’t been an ideal start to the season for the Blackhawks’ 2020 fourth-round pick.