A total of 32 teams from 13 different European top men’s leagues participate in the Champions Hockey League that runs each season. Early CHL action gave our evaluators a good chance to see a few top end NHL draft eligible prospects participate before they suited up with their clubs in regular season league play. Here are a few of those reports from our European evaluators.
August 29, 2019
Coop Norbotten Arena
Augsburger Panthers (3) at (2) Luleå HF
Noel Gunler, F, Lulea, 6”1”, 176, DOB 10.07.2001
Gunler started 2019 CHL campaign on the Luleå’s 4th line but got to see a lot of power play time on the top PP. I think this is a combination that we will see lots of this winter, it feels like they don’t trust his 5on5 play enough yet but they see his shot as a real offensive threat. Gunler’s release when having the puck under control is elite. He gets so much power and accuracy behind every shot he takes with so little effort, he can release it without giving anything away. He loves to use his one-timer and it is deadly, even if everyone knows they are looking for him to one-time it. It is hard to defend against him since he always is in motion creating space. His hockey IQ is really strong, he reads the game well and knows how to position himself to succeed. Defensively he positions himself well but as most junior age prospects he gets a bit passive in the defensive zone. Without the puck he is really good at finding those empty slots where he can get the puck at full speed entering the zone. One concern during this game was that he seemed to have a bit trouble keeping the puck where it bouncing off his stick several times, you could see that he was frustrated. Gunler’s skating is solid, his first few steps are really quick and he is strong on his edges, but his top speed could use some further development. He could turn up the frequency a bit during his shifts as well. He doesn’t like physical contact, he can handle it but is rarely involved in it, right now he is very soft and he needs to get stronger or bigger defensemen in the NHL will neutralize him. At first he looks like a one-dimensional forward but the more you watch him the more you see that he understands the game very well.
August 30, 2019
Stadion Zimowy Tychy
Djurgårdens IF 6 at GKS Tychy 2
Alexander Holtz, F, Djurgardens, 5’11.5”, 192, DOB 01.23.2002
Holtz got a fantastic start to his CHL debut playing over 15 minutes. Holtz was very active this evening shooting five shots on goal and potting two goals. Both of the goals were very sniper like, where he got himself open between the hash marks, quickly received the puck and fired off howitzers. He showed he is deadly accuracy and his ability to shoot the puck hard and accuracy without much time setting it up. He also generated several other great opportunities to score that were stopped. His very un-Swedish-like playing by going straight to the goal and his ability to end up where the puck will find him is phenomenal. Holtz showed maturity to his game as on several occasions he read the play and drove back defensively to cover up for teammates. On the power play he made simple yet smart passes to his teammates, not forcing anything. He also masters many of the small things, stealing the puck at the boards by lifting the opponents stick a few times catching them completely off-guard. While not overly large, he is built like a tank playing with a lot of energy, fore checking hard and is not afraid to use his body. His balance is good which makes him hard to move for the defenders, he is not a guy who destroys people but he is not afraid to play physically. His edge-work is above average as well as is his top-end speed. His first few steps look elite, he has so much quickness and burst. Gaining more strength in his lower body will increase the power in his stride. Holtz is a guy who keeps things loose in the locker room, he is always happy and you could see how he lights up emotionally when or a teammate score a goal. Holtz is an elite goal scorer and tonight he showed why.
September 05, 2019
Frölunda 5 at Graz 99 1
Lucas Raymond, F, Frölunda, 5’10.5”, 170, DOB 03.25.2002
This projected top pick had a really special night. After starting very slowly with limited ice time, he eventually showed his value by scoring two beautiful goals when he was given more ice time in the third period. Both of the goals where pretty similar where he found the open ice in front of the goal, waited for the pass and just hammered the puck into the net. His shot is both hard and accurate, building on what it was last season and he did a really good job disguising the shots between the defenders legs. Tonight he showed he can use his one-time as well. Raymond had some nice plays where he showed his understanding of the play when he sees the need to move to create a passing lane just to help his teammate out of a tricky situation along the boards, he also takes defensive responsibility by being the first guy back. Raymond has some powerful skating and a really strong stride, he has quick first step burst which gives him an edge in the corners. His hands are smooth, he can dangle in those tight areas in the corners and usually succeeds in coming out with possession. He also has the coolness to wait a second before making his move, whether it’s a pass or a deke which gives him a great edge on his opponents. Smaller but strong, he can handle himself whenever he gets pushed around, he is able to keep hold of the puck even if a defender is on him. He does not really play physically, he fore checks hard but instead he focuses on the puck by lifting the stick instead of crushing the defenders. He seems to possess the whole package and can be an overall play driver not just a goal scorer or playmaker. He’s playing with the best team in the SHL and there has been some question marks whether he’ll get to play or not this season but I just think he’s too good to be held out of the line-up as the season goes on. I definitely see him as a future top line guy and someone I see him making the jump to the NHL next year.
September 06, 2019
GKS Tychy 0 at Adler Mannheim 5
Tim Stützle, F, Adler Mannehim, 5’11”, 170, DOB 01.15.2002
Stützle has been a really pleasant watch at the start of the season. Tim has some top level skating, his first few steps really catch your attention and he gets to top speed very quickly. He is so shifty and can move in all directions which makes it so hard for defenders to catch. He is certainly not on the same level in overall skill by any means but he reminds of McDavid in how he moves. When being as fast as Stützle is, being slippery as well really produces time and space for him to do some things. He turns and moves along the boards so fluidly and is constantly moving his feet. Therefore he often comes off the wall with the puck quickly and can make either a pass or make his trademark move, a toe drag around the defender into the slot and firing of his quick shot. His shot is not particularly hard but it is very accurate and often he moves the puck to either side before releasing it making it somewhat deceptive. He holds his hands really high up on his stick which does not allow for high velocity on his shot, but easier to deke around defenders especially in bigger areas of the ice. Immediately when he gets the puck he knows what to do with it and often delivers the pass straight away and with great accuracy. He does show patience as well knowing when not to rush the play, and making sure he has full control before delivering or opening for the right lane to open up. On the PP he is dangerous playing at the left point where he often tries to sneak behind his guy and get open for shot. Defensively he is still pretty naive, he back checks but is far to puck focused, staring at the puck, losing his check. Stützle is not physical at all, he likes to use his stick and try to catch the players with a quick stick lift or block their deke. He is still pretty small and sometimes loses battles along the boards but he will probably improve that a bit at least with added strength.