The Swedish Hockey League opened the 2015-16 season and after 10 games, it’s clear that once more, North American players will be center stage in the circuit.

No team relied more on North American talent last season than surprise champions Växjö Lakers. Four of the top six scorers on the team were Canadian or American and the North Americans played with a physical edginess not often found in Swedish hockey. Two of the biggest departures came when team captain Tommi Kallio decided to retire and Noah Welch jumped to MODO Hockey. Kallio, a former Pittsburgh Penguin, spent three seasons at Växjö and helped turn the team into a winner. Welch, meanwhile, leaves a gaping hole on the blue line as he turned down several offers to return to the American Hockey League and chose instead to take his talents to the “hockey factory” in Ornskoldsvik.


With the departure of North Americans Rhett Rakhshani, Jeff Tambelllini and Nick Johnson, Växjö’s first six will have a whole new look and much of their offense will now ride on the reunited combination of Robert Rosen and newly acquired Richard Gynge. Rosen and Gynge were a successful duo for AIK in 2011-12, in which the pair took a clean sweep of the league’s scoring awards. The turmoil on the scoring lines has been evident as Växjö has stumbled out of the game, winning just three of its first 10 games, while tying two. Goals have been few and far between, and to bolster its offense the Lakers picked up Joey Crabb, a free agent the Phoenix Coyotes cut just before the start of the NHL season. The 32-year-old American had 28 points last season for the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL and in 2011-12, played 67 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, scoring 26 points.

Frölunda is already shaping up as the team to beat, with seven wins in its first 10 games. The Chiefs made an early statement, knocking off Skellefteå, Luleå, Växjö and Färjestad. Frölunda is looking to improve on its past three season which have seen the Chiefs finish in the top four during the regular season only to crash out of the playoffs in the first round. American Ryan Lasch currently leads the team in scoring with 11 points while new signing Spencer Abbott has 8 points. Abbott, a Canadian, joined Frölunda from the Rockford IceHogs, but spending the majority of his pro career in the Toronto system, Abbott has a knack for creating space for his teammates in scoring positions and plays the point on the power play.

Meanwhile, MODO, once the powerhouse of the league, has undergone a complete makeover, bringing in eight North American players. General Manager Per Svartvadet also hired Canadian coach Larry Huras and brought in experience with his Transatlantic deals, signing in the NHL merited Ryan Whitney, Bobby Butler and Maxim Lapierre to try to settle the ship and take MODO back to a playoff contender. MODO also boasts one of Sweden’s youngest talents, Carl Grundström, who is set to be one of the top prospects heading into the 2016 NHL.

MODO has gotten off to a slow start, with just three wins in its first 10 games and taking a blow on Oct. 20 when Whitney decided to retire after just two games, citing injuries as the reason. American Bobby Butler currently leads the team in scoring with 16 points on eight goals and eight assists.

The Malmö Redhawks are also going American. The newly promoted Redhawks grabbed up Canadian defenseman Derek Meech to stabilize its blue line and American winger Peter Mueller to bolster the attack. Meech played in 144 NHL and 455 AHL games and his knowledge and ice-cold demeanor is just exactly what the Redhawks need. Mueller, meanwhile, spent the last two years in Switzerland, working his way back from a concussion that ended his career with the Colorado Avalanche. The Minnesota-born winger was the final piece in Malmö’s first-line pairing up with Canadian T.J. Galiardi, who he played with during his time in Colorado, and also Andreas Thuresson. Mueller has five points in the Redhawks’ first 10 games.

Linköping has gotten out of the gate almost as fast as Frölunda, winning six of its first 10 games, thanks in large part to the arrival of Andrew Gordon. A defensive-minded center, Gordon had five goals and three assists in LHC’s five preseason games and hasn’t slowed down. He has notched two goals and eight assists in 10 regular season games, and along with Americans Derek Roe and Chad Billins, and Canadian Broc Little, leads the team in scoring. Linköping took a blow on Oct. 20 when Roe ruptured his Achilles tendon and will miss 12 weeks of the season.

For all its preseason talk of being one of the top contenders, Luleå has been something of a flop in the early going, losing six of first 10 games. Luleå also gambled big on North Americans, signing Jacob Micflikier, Toni Rajala, Bill Sweatt and Jacob Lagace, who led the Allsvenskan season in scoring with 20 goals and 37 assists. Like his team, however, Lagace has gotten off to a slow start, scoring just two goals and notching one assist in 10 games.