No league has contributed more players to the National Hockey League than the Swedish Hockey League. Since 2010, more than 90 Swedish or Sweden-based players have found a home in the NHL or its affiliates and Swedes now rank as the second-most prevalent players in the NHL after Canadians.
The drain of talent, however, has done little to dim the SHL, and now the Swedish league is fighting back and beginning to attract North American players. The league adopted a series of rule changes intended to bring the Swedish circuit more in line with how the NHL plays. The move has paid off as a number of young American and Canadian NHL-draftees have ditched North America for the SHL.
The biggest name to join the Swedish Hockey League is American Jeff Taffe. The former captain of the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, Taffe had stints in the NHL with Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Minnesota and the New York Rangers. The 33-year-old center signed with Linköping, where he plays on a line with fellow American Broc Little. A former Yale University standout, Little has spent three years toiling in Europe. Centering both players is Canadian Jacob Micflikier, Taffe’s teammate and assistant captain at Hershey.
Linköping isn’t alone in signing North American players. Two-time defending champions Skellefteå turned to Andrew Calof, a 22-year-old first-year pro who graduated from Princeton in May.
SAIK also coaxed American Rob Schremp back to Sweden after two seasons. Schremp last played in Sweden in 2011-12 when he was at MODO, where he recorded 19 goals and 22 assists. Schremp, who played for the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders, said he looked forward to returning to the SHL.
"I’m really excited to come back, especially with a team like Skellefteå,” said Schremp in an interview on Skellefteå’s web-TV. “They have a really strong team and when I got the opportunity I was really excited to join this.”
The North Americans are already having a major impact on the SHL. After eight games, the top four scorers are all North Americans with Micflikier and Taffe tied for the lead with 10 points, while Calof and Little were even with eight points.
Skellefteå remains the team to beat and leads the SHL after eight games. The Växjö Lakers and Frölunda also appear set to make a strong run for the Le Mat trophy.

NHL style rules
The league, during the winter, adopted several NHL-style rules, modified icing and enlarged the offensive zone. The linesmen will now have the discretion to call or wave off icing based on whether the officials believe an offensive can reach the puck before the defense. League officials say they expect the new icing rule to open up play and create a more free-flowing brand of hockey.
The league has decided to move both blue lines five feet closer to the center of the ice, increasing the size of the offensive/defensive zones. The increase in space puts more weight on teams to have strong skaters and technically skilled players, not only in their forward lines but also defensive players must be able to move more freely.
The larger offensive zone will also give more opportunities on the powerplay by stretching the box, creating more space down low and a likelihood of more extra-man goals this season.