Champions Hockey League 2015 Pools Released

On Wednesday, May 13th, the Champions Hockey League pools for 2015-16 were released. This year’s tournament will feature four more teams, increasing the size of the event from 44 to 48 teams. Instead of last year’s 11 groups of four, the 2015-16 season will feature 16 groups of three teams.

The selection of the 48 teams is as follows, according to a CHL press release:

26 founding A-License clubs (Finland, Sweden 6 clubs each, Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland 4 clubs each and Austria 2 clubs)

12 B-license clubs (in principle champions and regular season winners) from the six founding leagues (AUT, CZE, FIN, GER, SWE, SUI)

10 C-license (“Wild Card”) teams from other European leagues to be determined later (of which one license may be assigned to the 2015 IIHF Continental Cup winner)

The changes in group structure will decrease the number of group stage games from 132 to 96, and more than double the number of playoff games. This should provide plenty of added excitement, as last year’s two-game playoff series’ were outstanding.

Here are the group draws:

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There are some interesting draws to note. First, the defending champs, Lulea Hockey, won’t exactly have an easy road out of the group stage. They have Fribourg Gotteron, a founding member of the CHL and playoff team last season, as well as Lukko Rauma, a Finnish league semifinalist and 2014-15 CHL quarterfinalist. One of those three teams won’t be returning to the CHL playoffs.

Last season’s runner-up, Frolunda Gothenburg, have a much easier group. They will face off against JYP Jyvaskyla, who were bounced in the first round of the playoffs last CHL season, and the Sheffield Steelers out of the EIHL. If Sheffield wants to become the first British team to make it out of the group stage in the CHL, they’ll need to knock off mighty Frolunda.

The other EIHL team in the tournament, the Braehead Clan, may have a legitimate shot at the knockout rounds. They have the Vaxjo Lakers, who did not qualify for the knockout stage last season, and ERC Ingolstadt, who finished last in their group. This will be the Clan’s first appearance in the tournament, as with Sheffield.

Finally, watch out for Red Bull Salzburg. They were bounced from last year’s playoffs in devastating fashion, losing to eventual champions Lulea in a shootout after blowing a 7-2 aggregate lead in the final game of the series. They went on to win the Erstebank Eishockey Liga title in dominating fashion. Look for them to have a strong CHL appearance and threaten to win the title.

It should be an exciting season when the puck drops in August.

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