AHL Migrants Head for Europe

Three-year Marlies blueliner Juraj Mikus will dress for the KHL's HC Lev next season.

by Clayton Hansler
June 21, 2012

It's been noted 1,800 of the world's 10,000 bird species are long-distance migrants.

Apparently the ratio of hockey players flying away isn't much different. The week has been filled with news of American Hockey Leaguers leaving for a spattering of European teams and leagues.

Born Europeans get a chance to play closer to home, to family and to speak a familiar tongue. Let's not forget the draw of the Nuremburger on the McDonalds menu. For those born on this side of the big A, the financial benefits can be incredibly lucrative (and once again, let's not forget the Nuremburger).

Possibly the most affected by the recent migratory patterns of hockey players are the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Long time Connecticut Cat Justin DiBenedetto was the third member of the 2011/12 roster to announce he's flocking over seas. The four-year Sound Tiger and former Toronto St. Michael's Major (where he played alongside Darryl Boyce) will join three former Bridgeportians on EC Salzburg. Reports are also floating around linking one of the AHL team's rearguards to the DEL, if he signs it will make for 20 percent of the club to have migrated elsewhere.

General manager of the Chicago Blackhawks, Stan Bowman, opened up about the parting of ways with Alexander Salak despite a year remaining on the netminder's contract. Salak played 21 games for Chicago's AHL affiliate Rockford, losing the starting roll to ECHL recall Carter Hutton.

"He made it clear his objective was not to play in the American League next year so at that point we were ready to move on," said the head of the Blackhawks brass. Salak is expected to return to Europe to further pursue his career. The Czech born tender played a season with Farjestads of the SEL prior to signing with Chicago (the team which the Maple Leafs plucked Jonas Gustavsson from).

Hershey Bears forward Jacob Micflikier announced he will be leaving for the Swiss-A league following his second consecutive 20-goal season in the AHL. The Winnipeg native has been a part of five American League teams and an additional three ECHL clubs over his six year professional career after leaving the University of New Hampshire. He noted that the experiences of former teammate Chris Bourque in Switzerland bolstered his confidence, though he admits "I don't know exactly how it will work out." Guess he'll figure it out.

The Marlies too will see a bird leave the nest. A Cezch site announced that Juraj Mikus will join the KHL along with Michal Repik, formerly of the Florida Panthers and San Antonio Rampage.

The defence-first Mikus notched three goals in the final 28 games of the season after going 57 straight without a tally. The Slovakian was one of only two Marlies to dress for all 76 regular season and 17 playoff games for the blue-and-white (Jerry D'Amigo the other - #feardabeard) where he registered a combined plus-25 rating.

Soon after the start of his rookie season when an injury on the Leafs made way for a young Carl Gunnarsson to leave his post alongside Mikus on the Marlies, Eakins noted that the two European rearguards were neck-in-neck for his recommendation to head up-top. Since his recall Gunnarsson has posted 187 NHL games; Mikus has yet to play his first.

Mikus will join HC Lev for their second KHL season. The club registered their first victory in their sixth game of the season on September 26th, 2011 and failed to make the playoffs completing the campaign with 54 points in 54 games.

I'll miss Mikus' timely goals (25% of them doubling as game winners), big blocks and understated sense of humour - he always hammed up his Movember stache.

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