The Blackhawks have sent seven of their own over to Switzerland this week to participate in the final preseason preparations for Swiss NLA club HC Lugano’s upcoming season.
The players will spend a week in Switzerland training with Lugano.
How did this all come about?
Lugano is now coached by Barry Smith, an old friend and assistant of Scotty Bowman’s. Smith served as a pro scout for the Blackhawks last season.
One of Chicago’s top European scouts, Mats Hallin, also has a hand in this. Hallin was a left wing in the NHL during the 80’s with the New York Islanders and Minnesota North Stars. He won a NLA championship with Lugano in his brief stay with that club in 1987. He’s been a scout with the Hawks for the past five years.
Hallin will be on hand this week as will other Blackhawks’ representatives. Practices will take place in Lugano at the Resega Ice Arena. Since its still officially off season, no Blackhawks coaches can partake in these, technically summer sessions. Hallin will act as an instructor.
Goaltender Anton Khudobin is also attending Lugano’s camp as a guest, as is 37-year old Alexei Yashin.
Khudobin is under contract to the Boston Bruins. There are nine invited “guests” in all, seven belonging to the Blackhawks.
Yashin has spent the last two years with SKA (St. Petersburg). He’s currently without a contract but said to be negotiating with KHL clubs. There have also been rumors of Yashin feeling out interest of NHL clubs. Over the past two seasons with SKA, Yashin has posted 36 goals and 105 points in 116 games overall. He turns 38 in November. Yashin last played in the NHL with the New York Islanders during the 2006-07 season.
Yashin played for Smith in St. Petersburg during the 2009-10 season prior to Smith resigning from his position.
Lugano does have exhibition road games this week in Zurich and Bern, Thursday and Saturday. Hawks players will not attend, nor play in those games.
NHL Veterans Rob Niedermayer, Hnat Domenichelli and defenseman Petteri Nummelin are the notable members of Lugano this season.
They will be backstopped by Benjamin Conz, star of the Cinderella Swiss Under-20 team at last year’s World Junior Championships in Buffalo. Switzerland beat Germany and Slovakia, lost a 2-1 to the U.S. on New Years Eve in the preliminaries before they were eliminated by Canada in the quarter-finals.