A team of AHL All-Stars will play Swedish League club team Farjestad in the AHL All-Star Classic Feb. 12 in St. John’s, N.L., – right at the start of the Olympic break in the NHL. The All-Stars have plenty of blooming NHLers in the lineup worth checking out.
Mark Wednesday, Feb. 12 down in your calendar because there’s a hockey game you won’t want to miss.
Mile One Centre in St. John’s, N.L., is the venue as the American League All-stars will be playing Sweden’s Farjestad out of Karlstad. It’s the first time a Swedish Hockey League team has competed in North America.
The timing is perfect, even if you’re strictly an NHL junkee. The NHL takes its 17-day Olympic break starting Feb. 9. Olympic action for Team Canada and Team USA doesn’t start until Feb. 13. (There are two Olympic games on Feb. 12 at noon, Eastern Standard Time, the Czechs versus Sweden, and Latvia versus Switzerland.)
Nineteen of the 20 AHL All-Stars have NHL experience, including 14 who have played in the big league this year. Eight AHL All-Stars were drafted in the first or second round of the NHL.
See their roster below.
The AHL is the second best league in the world, probably on par with the Kontinental League. The Swedish League is also very good, but a middling club team (Farjestad ranks eighth in the 12-team SHL with a 13-12-7 record) faces a tough challenge against the best of hockey’s triple-A tier.
With that in mind, THN managing editor Edward Fraser said the AHL All-Stars will beat the Swedes by 16 goals. Hyperbole, to be sure, but he is convinced it will be one-sided.
I, too, think the AHL All-Stars will win handily, but I believe the Farjestad team will make it competitive. Fraser made a wager the AHLers will win by three-plus goals. I see a score like 5-2 or 5-3 for the AHL All-Stars more plausible. If the result is within the three-goal window, Fraser owes me a Swedish meatball sub. If he wins, I’ll buy him an all-American apple pie.
Farjestad will have former AHL standout stopper Danny Taylor in goal. He was lights out for a couple of seasons with Abbotsford before signing in Sweden in the off-season. Then again, the AHL All-Stars will have Martin Jones in goal. He was lights out at the NHL level in December.
Others players of note for Farjestad are Nashville second-rounder Pontus Aberg, Dallas second-rounder Ludwig Bystrom, Los Angeles sixth-rounder Tomas Hyka, Montreal fourth-rounder Magnus Nygren, former New Jersey Devil Christian Berglund, former Minnesota Wild Rickard Wallin, former Columbus Blue Jacket Ole-Kristian Tollefsen.
North American players on Farjestad includes Shawn Belle, a St. Louis first round pick in 2003, David Liffiton, Garrett Stafford, Jack Connolly and Devin DiDiomete.
The two-day event starts with a skills competition Feb. 11.
The AHL All-Stars were selected by a committee of AHL coaches and GMs. Coaching the team will be Jeff Blashill of 2013 Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids, and Rob Zettler of Syracuse.
2014 AHL All-Star Team
Brett Connolly, Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay)
Brian Gibbons, W-B/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh)
Mike Hoffman, Binghamton Senators (Ottawa)
Jason Jaffray, St. John’s IceCaps (Winnipeg)
Travis Morin, Texas Stars (Dallas)
Brandon Pirri, Rockford IceHogs (Chicago)
Colton Sceviour, Texas Stars (Dallas)
Colton Sissons, Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville)
Ryan Spooner, Providence Bruins (Boston)
Ben Street, Abbotsford Heat (Calgary)
Ryan Strome, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (N.Y. Islanders)
Linden Vey, Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles)
Chad Billins, Abbotsford Heat (Calgary)
T.J. Brennan, Toronto Marlies (Toronto)
Cody Goloubef, Springfield Falcons (Columbus)
Alexey Marchenko, Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit)
Brayden McNabb, Rochester Americans (Buffalo)
Frederic St. Denis, Springfield Falcons (Columbus)
Jake Allen, Chicago Wolves (St. Louis)
Martin Jones, Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles)
The game will be telecast internationally.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN