By Carrie Young | Follow me on Twitter @carrieyoung512
With the upcoming 2020-21 NHL season on an indefinite pause, NHL and AHL teams have been loaning players to overseas professional leagues such as the Finnish Liiga in order to provide them with conditioning and playing time. The Bruins are no different, with two prospects recently making the move to Europe. These loans will last until pre-season training camp begins.
The Boston Bruins have loaned defenseman Urho Vaakanainen to SaiPa of the Finnish Liiga, reported by eliteprospects.com. Vaakanainen is signed through the 2021-22 season and will be looking to earn a roster spot on a depleted Bruins back end this coming season. The 21-year-old played previously for SaiPa in 2017-18 and recorded 11 points in 43 games.
The Providence Bruins have loaned defenseman Cooper Zech to HK Nitra of the Slovak Extraliga, as reported by Mark Divver on Twitter. Zech was signed as an undrafted free agent by Providence in 2019. He put up 18 points in 57 games over the past two seasons, as well as two goals in four playoff games. Zech will be playing alongside Providence teammate Robert Lantosi in Nitra.
Providence defenseman Cooper Zech headed to Slovakia’s HK Nitra on loan from Bruins until start of NHL camp, according to HK Nitra release. Zech signed 2-year AHL deal coming out of Ferris State in 2019— Mark Divver (@MarkDivver) November 23, 2020
Skating with professional teams in Europe will keep prospects in game shape and ensure that they continue to improve, even as the NHL season is delayed. Teams are relying on overseas loans with no AHL or ECHL affiliate teams currently active. Many of these loaned players have skated in European professional leagues before (such as Vaakanainen). Still, some former NCAA prospects (like Zech) will be playing outside the continent for the first time. Bruins fans can follow Vaakanainen’s and Zech’s seasons on SaiPa’s Twitter page and HK Nitra’s website while we all wait for professional hockey to return to North America.