Group F Preview: 4 experienced teams fighting for 2 spots
Adler Mannheim, Djurgården Stockholm, Vienna Capitals & GKS Tychy contest Group F

Sixteen-time Swedish Champions Djurgården Stockholm, six-time CHL participants Vienna Capitals, DEL Regular Season and Playoff champions Adler Mannheim and back-to-back Polish Champions GKS Tychy will all fight in Group F to make it to the later rounds of the competition. What ties all four of these teams from four different countries together? Ambition.

 

Adler Mannheim

After a year’s absence, Adler Mannheim return to the CHL off the back of a domestic double – winning both the Regular Season of the DEL and the Playoffs, where they beat last year’s CHL Finalists Red Bull Munich in a thrilling five-game Finals series. Mannheim featured in the first four CHL seasons but failed to qualify for 2018/19. Their highest ever finish in the competition was in the 2017/18 season, when Mannheim advanced from the Group Stage from first place but were unable to overcome SHL side Brynäs IF in the first elimination round.

Head coach Pavel Gross, who has been at the club for two years now, has had a very busy transfer window. He had to deal with the departure of last season’s top scorer Chad Kolarik (21 goals and 48 points in total) and many more first team players, but strengthened with a variety of talent from Europe’s top leagues - goaltender Johan Gustafsson joined from SHL Champions and last season’s CHL Champions Frölunda Indians, Jan-Mikael Järvinen joined from fellow CHL participants Tappara Tampere and Borna Rendulic signed from the KHL. With a refreshed squad, Mannheim will hope to continue their domestic success into the CHL and finally make it past the first elimination rounds of the competition.

Djurgården Stockholm

  • Qualified as: Regular Season Fourth-place finishers
  • Fifth CHL appearance
  • Club information
     

Sixteen-time Swedish champions Djurgården Stockholm are the most successful Swedish club ever. Despite not having the same pedigree of success in the CHL, Djurgården are strongly regarded as favourites to win Group F and they themselves aren’t shy about their ambition to once again become a top European club. Djurgården have participated in the CHL four times but have only made it as far as the Round of 16. Last season they finished third in the Group Stage and missed out on the elimination rounds of the competition.

Similarly to Adler Mannheim, Djurgården have also had a busy summer. They had to let all three of their most productive and highest scoring players go – defenceman Emil Bemström and forward Jakob Lilja both transferred to the Columbus Blue Jackets and forward Daniel Brodin to Swiss National League side Fribourg-Gottéron.

Many more first team players followed them, but with some clever business, Djurgården were able to lure in suitable replacements: 31-year-old forward Patrik Berglund returns to his native Sweden after 11 seasons spent in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues and the Buffalo Sabres and 29-year-old goaltender Niklas Svedberg also offers Djurgården countless years of KHL, AHL and NHL experience. Will this be enough to propel Djurgården back amongst Europe’s elite?

Vienna Capitals

Austrian CHL regulars the Vienna Capitals make it six appearances in a row this year after winning the EBEL Pick Round, but despite knowing the ins and outs of European hockey, they’ve had trouble applying their knowledge on the ice. In their last three campaigns, they have failed to make it past the Group Stage every time and will finally be looking to break their bad luck this year. To do so, they’ve parted way with players who just didn’t fit the bill and held on to the most productive ones, extending most of their current contracts.

To add to the team, head coach Dave Cameron, who has over 150 games worth of NHL experience as a player, has targeted experienced American and Canadian players from all over Europe to strengthen its ranks. Perhaps the biggest signing the Capitals have made this off-season, was recruiting former CHL standout goaltender Ryan Zapolski, who signs in the Austrian capital after three seasons in the KHL. In his two previous CHL campaigns for Lukko Rauma in 2014/15 and 2015/16, Zapolski recorded save percentages of 95.9% and 94.1 respectively.

Defencemen Brenden Kichton and Mark Flood both join after seasons in the Finnish Liiga last season, whilst Cameron’s side also managed to pry away rivals Graz99ers’ second top point scorer last season, Ty Loney. Could this just be Vienna’s year?

 

GKS Tychy

Polish team GKS Tychy return for a second shot at the CHL after defending their National Champions title again this year – their eighth. Head Coach Andrei Gusow enters his second year with the club and will look to continue his excellent work with the team. Despite finishing last in their group last year, Tychy made history by becoming the first ever Polish team to not only register a point in the CHL, but also win a game (their 5-3 home victory over Bolzano). Their good performances, brutal force on the ice and amazing fans all caught their opponents by surprise.

There hasn’t been much change on the Tychy roster heading into the 2019/20 campaign, which in itself is a positive thing, as the club was able to keep a hold of its top talent. Michael Cichy, who won the CHL’s Top Goal award last season returns, and is joined by new addition Michael Szmatula, who himself has had a strong AHL and ECHL career to date.
 

All in all, Tychy will be looking to make their mark once against in the CHL in 2019/20. This year they are rightly feared by all of their Group F opponents, who all agree that facing Tychy won’t be an easy task.