Welcome to our ECL 8 Elite season preview, and let us start off by stating this is going to be one to remember! Our Prize pool is now 10 000€, which makes ECL the biggest 6vs6 tournament worldwide both measured in team amount, player amount and prize pool by far! We're happy to have all of you back for another season of this greatness. In the last few days we've dropped some exciting news on you guys, such as the involvement of AIK Hockey into ECL and our new partnership with Dr. Oetker Rustica and Elisa Viihde. Now, let's not keep you guys waiting any more than we have and get into the team run downs.
New Swedish pride AIK Hockey enters with a bang as they were announced just before the start of the season. Not many changes have happened over the offseason, as the former Sjukstugan look to continue their strong efforts with the same lineup as in ECL 7. The most notable change is in the goaltending department, where @ICappeI is replacing @Hullued in a switch-up that turns AIK into an all-Swedish team. Both netminders are some of the very best the league has to offer, so the decisive factor here is the flag on their passport. A player to keep your eyes on this season is @Tacterz. The young and tremendously skilled winger was a welcomed addition to the teams offense in ECL7 and is only expected to improve from here on.
Almost Famous were, well - famous for their offensive style of hockey in their previous seasons, but last season there were some serious problems. Troubles to score called for somewhat of a re-build. This season will be better for them, because their team leaders gained experience from ECL7 in Elite and bringing in fresh blood from Cowabunga Hockey (Pro) who are hungry to prove everyone tthat they can compete at the Elite level. Players added were G @Jonitski, LD @Makeaxl and RW @Sokkelo__. All of these players are in for their first season at the Elite level. Let's not forget that aF lost their defensive leader @Aze to Team Frosty, this might take it's toll but the new addition Make seems to possess some talent as he put up 24p in 30 games in ECL 7 Pro.
As one of the five new teams in Elite for this coming season the emergent Swedish team should have some level of familiarity in the opponents that they will be playing. Of course, if they want to make a statement and assure themselves of Elite level play for longer than just one season, then they will have to take the next step in their startlingly fast rise through the ECL structure (Lite in ECL 6, Pro in 7 and now Elite in 8 ) and move outside their comfort zone in order to grind out the invariably close games that often characterise Elite. Regarding where the Bucketeers are predicted to finish, personally I think they will most likely end up somewhere around 10th - 14th place, simply based on the fact that there a lot of unknowns in some of these new teams. As long as the Bucketeers are able to stay above .500 against these aforementioned teams, they should be in a decent enough spot.
It's gonna be really interesting to see how FLY plays this season, since they've underwent a major roster shake-up. The team formerly known as Red Machine gained Elite promotion before ECL 7 due to the folding of Evolution. In their inaugural season in Europes best division, the team put on quite an impressive showing. After clinching the sixth seed they made the playoffs, in which they lost in five games to big-time contender Written in the Stars.
From last years team only three players stayed: Captain @jergelii, @Crisu_rottis and @Roisto999. These good-looking insects lost their most dangerous players in @Vilupoika and @RutonMosse. It's up to the newly acquired duo of @xDoumi and joukki13 (@Joukki) to replace some of the lost offensive capacities. They also acquired veteran defenseman @Totalii which should give them more quality and flexibility on the blue line. With the addition of Goalie @JanneK.(JANURI98) their GAA shouldn't be a problem anyway. Expect these guys to give their all and fight for one of the higher spots in the Elite standing.
DPH managed to claim the ECL 7 Pro title in stunning fashion after a very tough season facing some adversity early on in the playoffs. This is surely the season for redemption as the team will now compete at the highest tier. Their roster underwent no changed but a small downscaling as they now look for all of their players to take the step to the next level. It'll certainly be interesting to see how these guys will find their form and how they stack up against some of the more established teams. DPH could very well surprise, but an expected finish would be around 8th-12th.
The temptation when faced with adversity is to change too much (or even too little), with the consequence being that you take a step backwards. After x seasons in Elite, along with x trips to the playoffs and x semi final appearances, one would certainly expect some growing irritation that they have been so close, for so long, with little to show for it. Regardless of this, Dynasty are coming into the season having made probably the least changes to their roster amongst the teams of Elite, in fact the only changes appear to be the loss of @Filariou and the pick up of familiar face @Haldeem. All in all, barring a massive shift, Dynasty should easily clinch a playoff berth by finishing somewhere around 4th place (+/-: 1), beyond that however, your guess is as good as mine.
All they do is win - no matter what. That seems to be the case with Finnish juggernaut FILADELPHIA. In their first season in the Elite division they immediately clinched the top seed for the playoffs after finishing with a record of 23-4-1. In the playoffs FILA kept on torching their opponents and ultimately finished with an incredible postseason record of 12-3. In the finals they had to battle though, beating Symphony in six games. I_Eki_I (@Eki) scored the championship-clinching goal in double overtime while teammate @PleeMaker grabbed the Playoff-MVP trophy after racking up 29 points in 15 playoff-games. Taking a look at FILADELPHIAs roster for ECL 8, they were able to keep their most impactful players and added top-tier defenseman @jtorro1233 from rival SKY. Captain @Patzlaf will still be flanked by the aforementioned and highly skilled wingers Eki and PleeMaker with @mikaasi providing the much needed forward-depth. The defensive-trio of @Janzuh, jtorro1234 and @vatalisti is arguably the best in the game. Both goalies, Zande95 (@sibeelius) and @FinKonna, are well-experienced guys and know how to handle pressure. It's hard to find any flaws in the star-studded finnish roster. The question is: Do they have what it takes to to build a dynasty (no pun intended) and become the first ever consecutive champion?
HC WILDCARD aka veterans squad. They appeared in ELITE filling the spot of Northern Ascendancy after a few interesting turns of events but they surely can pose a difficult opponent on any given night. Even though it’s their first season in ELITE they boast a squad with lots of experience. They signed the notorious Kinnunen brothers as known from Rusty Blades, @kinnun3 came from there, but @kikiukko came from Almost Famous where he had a short stint. Let's also not forget the recent addition of experienced offensive threat @Nampa77, who pent last season in aF with kiki. These signings increase their chances to stay put in Elite, but it surely won't be an easy fight.
Much of the same is the modus operandi for this storied team. After another playoff appearance (and quit exit) NOS were faced with a similar question that Dynasty have been tasked with answering, in essence, what is the next step? Dynasty attempted to remedy the situation by picking up a new defender, whilst NOS appear to have done the same with the acquisition of @Nieppii, after that however the similarities drop off for the most part. This is due in part from NOS apparently going nuclear and trying out a, let’s just say, unorthodox lineup with @ma0niii (long time RD) playing C and Chimera being moved over to RW. Whether this pays off is yet to be seen, but at the very least this change (if they stick to it of course) should give them some new looks offensively, as Chimera will be allowed to take more risks given that he won’t have as much defensive responsibility to deal with. As for where I think they’ll finish, I’m going to say 8th place, not because I necessarily think they’ll end up there (they could easily finish one spot higher for instance) but rather I want the ‘yo-yo’ from them to continue since they’ve finished in 7th, 8th and 7th for the last three ECL seasons now.
It's name reflects it's programme. The team formerly known as Monte Carlo will now participate in ECL Elite - just a couple months after applying for ECL Lite. Yep, you read that right. Captain @Jiihooo86 and his squad put together a decent first season in the Pro division. He was the biggest difference maker himself, recording 3 shutouts and a save percentage of 82,38% during the playoffs. After losing 7 of their last 10 games in the regular season, they definitely resurrected in the postseason before losing to Synergy Hockey in the semifinals. They bounced back (again) from some bone-headed plays (bad one, I know) and defeated SIKA in the relegation series. The offensive line of @Artuzio, johtaja699 (@J0HTAJA) and @xKeskitalo was pretty much clicking constantly. The same can't be said for the defense though. Even though @Nikmes7 had a strong regular season, the team barely got any production from the blue line in the playoffs. The majority of the team felt a change was necessary, leading to @Veikkonator getting replaced by the rugged defenseman TheFakiiR1(@FakiiR1). It will be interesting to see if the new D-pairing will be able to hold their own against some of the best forwards in the game. Jiihooo might need to play out of his mind on a daily basis if Resurrection wants to compete.
Rusty Blades made one of the most interesting acquisitions of the off-season when they managed to secure the services of the former NOR duo @MartindalexC and @Foppatofflan. On top of this, they added @The_Alpha_Furyan to bolster their ranks in defense. The preseason games of Rusty have showed some promise as it seems they have kept their identity of playing a simple game, but the new additions have added some speed and offensive ability that wasn't there before. The combination of the two have turned into a dangerous mix that could quickly turn the opposing teams night into a bad one. Rusty could very well see their best season yet, as they should now finish in the top 8.
This season they start as runner-ups of ECL 7 where they lost to FILADEPHIA in game six of the finals. The main story going on now is, will they be able to take the last step towards becoming the Champ? Could very well be, because they have made some great updates to their squad recently, even though they lost some of their leaders they got an equal trade for them. For example they lost top goalie @ICappeI, who went AIK Hockey, but they stole another great G from Gotham Knights in @swagx88. They also added the talented @RutonMosse from Butterfly Effect, who is now walking in his brothers footsteps and finally looking to overshadow the older one. A great point is that SYM managed to hold on to their amazing defensive trio @entii112, @vSilenttio and @Ilmari_30. Expect these guys to be contenders again.
Joining Elite as one of the two automatic promotions from Pro due to a finals appearance we have the Swedish side of Synergy. As far as similarities go with Synergy and the Bucketeers, well, both are Swedish and that’s about it. Of the newly promoted teams, no other has the same amount of Elite experience as Synergy. For instance, their projected starting line-up (sans goalie) contains three players who have each played two full seasons in Elite previously (@Normark, @Supremski & @Egyptologen), so there should not be that big of an issue of players not being sufficiently prepared for the level of Elite, mentally speaking of course. All things considered then, I think that SYN, as well as DPH, probably have the best chance of making a claim towards a playoff position out of the new teams. Although, I think if either of them do end up doing as much, it will not be by a large margin. Ergo, I can see Synergy finishing being a fringe team on the ‘outside looking in’ so to speak, somewhere around 9th - 10th place.
@Vilupoika, @Penatski and @Aze. That's a trio that when added to any team in the league would certainly provide a welcomed boost! After a tough first Elite season, captain @Zip player was a man on a mission for their return in ECL 8. He made the biggest and most spoken-of signings of the off-season and didn't waste any time in getting his team going for ECL 8. The preseason has been a bit up and down for Frosty, but we expect the experienced lineup to get it together come the first puckdrop. Aze will be their defensive leader, but it'll remain to be seen if @After8 (will_yo7) will manage to fill the shoes of a consistent performer at the Elite level. TF will be a playoff team.
The veteran team built around Anhel_Kuru (@Anhel) missed last season's playoffs by a lone point. Yeah, that's rough. Not as rough as being Cody Parkey (NFL reference) these days, but still. That bad break should solely ignite some new desire to get back to the postseason, especially because they completely kept their core. One of their biggest struggles last year was their lack of offense. UB only scored 40 goals in 28 games, despite having a decent powerplay. It will be interesting to see if they can make the right adjustments without really changing anything significant in their roster. Expect the horseshoes in the playoff hunt once again.
Written is always a contender, but they never fail to provide a let down come playoffs. For 3 seasons straight away they are among the best regular season teams, but they are always coming short of being the best in Europe. Last season they already reached the semi-finals, where they lost to Symphony 1-4. They lost some good players like @jtorro1233, who went to FILA, @Bugimir who announced his retirement, @JOHTAJAVIRTANEN who turned his talents to FIFA Pro clubs, and one of the best goalies in the scene: @JanneK. to Butterfly Effect. SKY needed to quickly make up for their losses, which seemed not to be a problem at all. The team signed @Buantso from Symphony and @Nassustelija from Butterfly Effect in quick succession. To help out in net@poliskontroll from Northern Ascendancy was added. Follow this team during the current season, because their time to win should be due.
Well, there you go, gamers. We're happy to have brought you yet another preview for yet another season. Some teams change, some remain the same. We'll see who the champion turns out to be! Don't forget to tune in to our broadcasts this season on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in Finnish at Elisa Viihde Sport or the Elisa Viihde Twitch-channel. Broadcasts will also be available in English or without commentary at the NHLGamer Twitch-channel.