Group G Preview: Returning Finalists Red Bull Munich have challengers
Farjestäd Karlstad, Red Bull Munich, Ambrì-Piotta & Banská Bystrica contest Group G

Like many groups, very little is clear-cut about what will happen in Group G. Of the four teams, the one with the most success in the Champions Hockey League by far is Red Bull Munich from Germany, and they look to be a favourite to advance again. Färjestad Karlstad from Sweden and HC05 Banská Bystrica both have experience in this competition but not much success, so they’ll be looking to change that. The one newcomer is HC Ambrì-Piotta, but with the ever-growing stature of Swiss hockey, they come in with a very realistic chance of advancing as well.

Färjestad Karlstad

Färjestad are historically one of the most decorated teams both in Sweden and in Europe with nine domestic titles and plenty of international experience. However, they have gone through a bit of a lull recently with some mediocre SHL finishes. Likewise, in their first three CHL appearances, they never went beyond the Round of 16. This past season saw a return to form after several years of rebuilding and the youth movement now seems to be paying off with several homegrown talents. In 2018/19, they finished first overall in the SHL regular season for the first time in a decade, and then appeared in the league semi-finals for the first time in five years.

Some of their key players from last year have moved on, with top-scoring defenceman Jesse Virtanen going to Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL and youngsters Oskar Steen, Joakim Nygård, Fabian Zetterlund and goalie Adam Werner getting NHL try-outs. Jesper Olofsson, Johan Ryno and veteran goalie Markus Svensson are back to lead this largely Swedish lineup – the only imports so far are all new additions Jonathon Blum from the USA, Vojtěch Mozík from the Czech Republic and Ville Leskinen from Finland.

 

Red Bull Munich

  • Qualified as DEL Regular-Season Second-place finishers
  • Fifth CHL appearance
  • Club information
     

Last season, Munich finished second in just about everything – the CHL as well as the DEL Regular Season and Playoffs in what turned out to be the final season for veterans Michael Wolf, John Mitchell and Matt Stajan. Still, this Red Bull team has plenty of experience, led by goaltender Danny aus den Birken, defencemen Daryl Boyle and Yannic Seidenberg, Frank Mauer, Danish international Mads Christensen and CHL MVP Trevor Parkes. All told, this team has eight players from the 2018 Winter Olympics. That includes six German silver medallists and a couple of new additions – Derek Roy and Chris Bourque – who represented Canada and the USA, respectively.

Although their three-year reign as German champions came to an end with their loss in the DEL Finals to Adler Mannheim, their run to the CHL Final was a tremendous accomplishment, becoming the first German team to advance beyond the Round of 16. This year, they will definitely have their eyes on a return to the knockout stages.

HC Ambrì-Piotta

  • Qualified as National League Regular Season Fifth-place finishers
  • First CHL appearance
  • Club information

This season, five teams from Switzerland have qualified for the CHL and the big benefactor of that is Ambrì-Piotta, the fifth-placed team in the National League. This past season marked Ambrì’s best season domestically since 2001/02, when they finished fourth, and this coming season marks the first season that the club has qualified to play in a European club championship of any kind.

Much of what they accomplished last season was due to the scoring exploits of Czech winger Dominik Kubalik, who has now signed with the Chicago Blackhawks, and goaltender Benjamin Conz, who needed hip surgery in the off-season and will be out until at least November. That means the goaltending duties will be somehow covered by the trio of Swiss Daniel Monzato, Swede Viktor Östlund and Czech Dominik Hrachovina. Up front, they still have veteran internationals such as Canadian Matt D’Agostini, Austrian Dominic Zwerger and Slovene Robert Sabolič.

HC05 Banská Bystrica

After years of mediocrity, Banská Bystrica currently have a dynasty going on in Slovakia with three straight domestic championships. That has earned them three straight CHL appearances. Unfortunately, they have not yet managed to get out of their group. While that will be their aim this season, it won’t be easy to finish in the top two of this group.

With a fair bit of player turnover, it’s difficult to know what to expect from this Slovak squad. Gone is top scorer Éric Faille and top defenceman Ben Marshall, as well as key pieces Guillaume Asselin and Ján Sýkora. Veteran Tomáš Surový has retired. With American goaltender Stephon Williams moving on, the goaltending duties will likely be shared by Canadian Tyler Beskorowany – who helped the Belfast Giants qualify – Russian Ivan Lasutin and Slovak Matěj Gajan. Key additions could be forwards Tomáš Hrnka, Patrik Lamper and Joona Jääskeläinen, as well as defencemen Ryan Glenn, Ville Räsänen and the re-acquisition of Ján Brejčák.