Overseas Exodus - Zengerle Leaves Lehigh Valley For Sweden

Monday, May 22, 2017
Mark Zengerle is moving on to pro hockey in Sweden in 2017-18. Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Zengerle: "I always thought Europe was going to be a destination for me."

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

After just one season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and three total years of professional hockey in North America, Mark Zengerle is looking forward to the next chapter of his pro hockey playing career in the fall.

Zengerle signed a one-year deal with Linköpings HC last week to play in Sweden's top pro league for next season, following his Phantoms' teammate and good friend Andy Miele (Malmö - SHL) overseas.

It was a little different for Zengerle than Miele, whose move overseas was well in the works even before the Phantoms' season came to an end. For Zengerle, it 'happened quick'. A week to week and a half later the deal was done.

"All of a sudden at the end of the year, I got a few phone calls and heard that they were interested," Zengerle explained of how quickly his deal with Linköping came to be. "With Miele going over and getting to talking, I always thought Europe was going to be a destination for me in my career at some point. I figured it would be a good time to get at it now and try to work my way up the ladder over there."

Before making the decision to sign with Linkoping, Zengerle explained in an exclusive phone interview with Highland Park Hockey that he talked to Phantoms defenseman Robert Hagg and some of his former Swedish-born Grand Rapids Griffins teammates about Sweden, the SHL and more.

"One thing that was easy for me to make a quick choice on it is that they speak English over there," Zengerle said. "I think that's pretty important and makes the transition a lot better. All the Swedes I've played with have been great guys and spoke English well. I spoke to (former Phantoms forward) Andrew Gordon and he says he loves it. Everyone recommended it. It was an easy choice to make after talking to a lot of the guys."

While his good friend and teammate during his entire pro career will also be playing hockey in Sweden, Zengerle will face off against Miele for the first time when Linköpings HC and Malmö meet in the SHL's regular season this fall.

"We will meet up a few times," Zengerle said when asked about facing a familiar face in Miele."It will be fun playing against him," he added. "We will probably be giving each other little jabs out there. I look forward to playing against him, and hopefully we are playing together again down the road over there."

Zengerle admitted his decreased role with the Phantoms this past season as opposed to his previous two years with Grand Rapids was tough to take at times, especially early on in the season.

Used to top-six minutes and extra time on the power play, Zengerle was primarily a bottom-six forward with Lehigh Valley this past season and was even a healthy scratch from time to time due to the team's depth at the forward position.

At 28 years old, Zengerle was approaching the crossroads that many AHL players come across in their late 20's. The window to make the jump to the NHL is quickly closing - if it hasn't already - and the lure of overseas hockey with a more skill/skating based game, less games and a physically less demanding and better paying job entices many hockey players to give the larger international rink their best shot.

"You just do what you can to help out, and be successful in your own way," Zengerle said when asked about how hard it was to accept a lesser role in Lehigh Valley. "Stuff like that, I get that. That's how the NHL and AHL are going, and another thing that contributed to my decision to leave. They're only going younger, so that helped my transition to head over now."

Zengerle said he hadn't had any conversations with the Phantoms since the season ended, and wasn't sure if they had any interest in bringing him back for next year - adding that's a conversation that usually doesn't happen for AHL-only contracted players until a little later in the summer.

"When this deal [with Linköpings HC] was available, I sort of jumped on it right away," Zengerle said.

Still, Zengerle had nothing but nice things to say about the organization and his time in the Lehigh Valley. Here's what he had to say when asked about it.

"It was sweet. We had a great team and unbelievable fans there in Lehigh Valley," Zengerle recalled of his time with the Phantoms' organization. "It was awesome to make playoffs. It's too bad that we lost as early as we did. The support we had, even away from the rink, was awesome. It was great to be a part of that team that got the organization back into the playoffs. Hopefully they'll be good again next year."


PerttuJunnonaho said...

Good, because he would never had a chance to play for the Flyers!So that opens up jet another spot to our draft picks to perform!

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