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Michelle Karvinen signs with HC Lugano

Karvinen lands in the SWHL after reports connecting her with the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays

IHOCKEY-OLY-2018-PYEONGCHANG-RUS-FIN Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

In a surprising turn of events, superstar Finnish forward Michelle Karvinen has parted ways with Luleå Hockey/MSSK (SDHL) and signed with HC Lugano (SWHL).

Karvinen, 30, is the top Finnish forward in the world. She has spent the last five seasons in the SDHL with Luleå, where she won three championships and three scoring titles. In 2019-20, Karvinen missed significant time due to a concussion, but still finished with 41 points in 25 games.

As a member of Team Finland, Karvinen has won two Olympic bronze medals and five Women’s World Championship medals — one silver and four bronze. She’s also one of just four players in the history of the game to be named the Best Forward of an Olympic women’s tournament. There’s ample evidence to support that she’s the best European forward in the world.

Back in March, SVT Sport and The Ice Garden’s own Meredith Foster reported that Karvinen was going to sign with the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays of the ZhHL (Russian Women’s Hockey League). However, SVT noted that the arrangement was verbal only and had not yet been finalized. Signing with KRS would have meant a reunion with Brian Idalski, her college coach at the University of North Dakota, and fellow Finnish national team player Noora Räty. It also would have meant a significant pay raise.

In all likelihood, the coronavirus pandemic derailed Karvinen’s plans to play in China. As Michelle Jay wrote last week, KRS will be playing out of the Moscow region for the upcoming 2020-21 ZhHL season instead of Shenzhen. Clearly, something happened between Aug. 21 — when Karvinen signed with HC Lugano — and March.

Analysis is still being done to establish translation factors between various post-collegiate leagues, but it is well known that the SWHL is a significant step down from the SDHL in terms of competition. Karvinen, who averaged 2.07 points per-game in Sweden’s professional league, will be a terror in Switzerland if she can stay healthy. It would be shocking if she didn’t win the SWHL’s scoring title in 2020-21.

Karvinen’s departure from Luleå leaves a massive hole in the team’s lineup. Fortunately for Luleå, youngsters Petra Nieminen (21) and Ronja Savolainen (22) both took big strides forward in their development in 2019-20. Interestingly enough, Swiss national team forward Phoebe Stänz left HC Ladies Lugano in January to join Luleå, However, Swiss Hockey News reported that Stänz’s contract was only for the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign.