The top 10 players to watch in the Champions League

Washington first-rounder Jakub Vrana has already started his season (Photo by Andreas Froberg/Linkoping HC/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images)
Washington first-rounder Jakub Vrana has already started his season (Photo by Andreas Froberg/Linkoping HC/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images)

If you can’t wait for the NHL season to start, maybe turn your attention to Europe, where the Champions League is off and running. The super-sized tournament for club teams features squads from all over the continent and it’s more than just a place to find fun NHL names from the recent past (Chuck Kobasew! Mikael Samuelsson!). A lot of great young talent is on display, including some top NHL prospects and draft eligibles. Below you’ll find 10 players to watch for as the tournament goes on. Not included were skaters on rosters but yet to play in a game, including 2016 prospect Patrik Laine of Finland, 2015′s Michael Spacek of the Czech Republic and Pittsburgh first-rounder Kasperi Kapanen.

Jakub Vrana, RW – Linkoping (Swe.)

The Washington Capitals first-rounder has played in Sweden since he was 15 and has two points in his first two CHL games. The Czech native possesses wicked 1-on-1 skills and a lightning wrist shot.

Andreas Johnson, LW – Frolunda (Swe.)

As he did last year with the European Trophy tourney, Johnson is using the Champions League as target practice. The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect is the leading scorer early on with nine points in two games. He’s quick and very skilled.

Oliver Kylington, D – Farjestad (Swe.)

One of the top prospects available for the 2015 draft, Kylington will most likely be a top-five pick and the second defenseman taken, after Noah Hanifin. Kylington is an incredible skater who’s not afraid to chip in on the offensive end of the ice.

Kevin Fiala, LW – HV 71 (Swe.)

The Swiss national is definitely a tournament type of guy. Fiala played at the world juniors, under-18s and worlds last season and has two points in two CHL games already. The Nashville Predators first-rounder is wicked smart and talented with the puck.

Erik Cernak, D – Kosice (Svk.)

At 6-foot-3, 203 pounds, it’s no surprise why Cernak is in this tournament, despite only being draft eligible this year. The big blueliner skates well for his size and there’s a lot of potential to be unlocked. He already has a world juniors under his belt, as well.

Noah Rod, RW – Geneve-Servette (Swi.)

A gritty, nasty winger, Rod was taken in the second round this summer by the San Jose Sharks. This is his second season playing against men in Switzerland and he will be key to the national team’s world junior squad, as well.

Axel Holmstrom, C – Skelleftea (Swe.)

The Detroit Red Wings prospect was claimed in the seventh round this summer, but you know Ken Holland’s track record. Holmstrom had a huge under-18 tourney and brings a flashy, high-skill game to the table.

Marcus Hogberg, G – Linkoping (Swe.)

The towering netminder moves quickly in his crease and has generally posted good results early in his career. The Ottawa Senators prospect is rocking a .960 save percentage early on for a very good Linkoping squad.

Andreas Englund, D – Djurgarden (Swe.)

Another Ottawa draft pick, Englund was just picked up by the Sens in the second round this summer. The big Swede is a defense-first blueliner whose major asset is making life excruciating for opposing forwards.

Carl Dahlstrom, D – Linkoping (Swe.)

A Chicago second-rounder, Dahlstrom and Robin Norell are both rising Blackhawks prospects to watch on Linkoping’s back end. Dahlstrom has great size, reach and positioning.