The Lahden Pelicans of Finland’s SM-Liiga are treading in rare territory. Three quarters of the way through the 2011-12 season, Pelicans find themselves in second place in the fourteen team Finnish elite league. The team has never never won a championship and has really never enjoyed any great playoff success. 2011-12 might just be the year of the Pelicans.
Pelicans are led by an Ontario Hockey League grad and the team has recently picked up two more OHL alumni for the playoff run. Justin Hodgman is tied for tenth in league scoring. Czech natives Jan Platil and Radek Smolenak are recent pickups from other SM-Liiga teams.
Justin Hodgman played four years in the Ontario Hockey League with the Erie Otters from 2005-06 to 2008-09. Undrafted, Hodgman spent the past two years bouncing around between the IHL, ECHL and AHL. In 2010-11, Justin played mostly with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL with a few games down in the ECHL with the Reading Royals. This is his first season in Finland.
Jan Platil played for the Barrie Colts for three seasons from 2000-01 to 2002-03. A seventh round pick of the Ottawa Senators at the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Platil spent three years in Ottawa’s farm system with the AHL’s Binghamton Senators before heading to Europe for the 2006-07 season. Jan has since played in Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany and Austria. He began the season with Orli Znojmo in Austria’s EBEL before moving to Tappara in the SM-Liiga.
Radek Smolenak played two seasons with the Kingston Frontenacs, 2004-05 and 2005-06. Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning after his first year in the OHL, Radek excelled in his second season with Kingston, scoring 42 and assisting on another 42 for 84 points in 65 games. Smolenak did get into seven NHL games after turning pro, six with Tampa Bay in 2008-09 and one with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009-10.
Smolenak has been in Europe for the past two seasons. in 2010-11, he played for his hometown HC Sparta Prague. He began the current season in Finland with Assat.