Blackhawks Europe prospect update for 2/2: Good time for those with ‘S’ names

Feb 2, 2023 - 5:42 PM
Switzerland v Russia: Ice Hockey Friendly
Ilya Safonov of Russia controls the puck during an international game. | Photo by RvS.Media/Basile Barbey/Getty Images

Checking in on the Chicago Blackhawks prospects currently playing in Europe.


Antti Saarela, Lukko (Liiga)

Stats: 17 points (7 G, 10 A), 10 PIM, 86 SOG in 36 games played

Saarela upped his production recently, scoring five points in his last nine games after scoring 12 in his first 27. Saarela’s points are coming with a slight decrease in minutes, with Saarela playing less than 14 minutes in five of his last nine games. That includes a game when Saarela added two assists in just 12 minutes of ice time. Saarela has also become more of a playmaker over his last few games, getting four assists and just one goal despite 22 shots on goal in nine games.

Riku Tohila, JYP U20 (U20 SM-sarja)

Stats: 22 points (17 G, 5 A), 61 PIM, 108 SOG in 35 games.

In his last four games in the Finnish developmental league, Tohila added just one assist, although he’s also generated 10 shots on goal in those four games. Tohila is playing heavy minutes for his developmental squad and also serving as alternate captain. Tohila has also greatly exceeded his point production from his first season with JYP U20, when he scored 15 points in 41 games. Tohila is scoring mostly goals this season, but recently ran into a string of bad luck.


Ilya Safonov, Ak Bars Kazan (KHL)

Stats: 26 points (12 G, 14 A), 9 PIM, 106 SOG in 54 games.

In his last 10 games with Ak Bars, Safonov has five points, including four assists. Safonov put 16 shots on goal in those 10 games, playing around 14 to 15 minutes per game. Safonov is also serving as the captain of his Ak Bars squad, which currently sits atop the Kharlamov division. Safonov, 21, continues to be an exciting prospect for the Blackhawks, well worth the sixth-round pick used to draft him, but the question is whether the Blackhawks can ever tempt him to venture overseas.


Victor Stjernborg, Växjö Lakers HC (SHL)

Stats: 5 points (0 G, 5 A), 0 PIM, 16 SOG in 30 games.

Stjernborg continues to not score goals for the Vaxjo Lakers, although in his most recent appearance with the team, he added an assist in an overtime win in 12:16 of ice time — his most since early December. Stjernborg recently returned to action following the World Juniors, where he captained Team Sweden. Stjernborg’s lack of goal-scoring is likely in part because of his lack of shot production, generating just 16 shots on goal so far this season. To be fair to Stjernborg, however, he’s not getting that many chances to generate shots, as he’s played 1:59, 9:35 and 8:54 in recent appearances with Vaxjo.


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

Stats: 0 points, 10 PIM, 27 SOG in 27 games.

Krutil continues to spend this season pointless, although the defenseman continues to get on ice for Banik Sokolov in a bottom-pairing role, not great in the second league for Czechia. Since his return home, the former fourth-round pick is only looking worse and worse and his stock is only plummeting. There’s just nothing really positive to say here.

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