The Eller brothers are playing for the biggest trophies in their respective hockey leagues.
Lars Eller is a Montreal Canadiens centre in the NHL’s Eastern Conference final versus the New York Rangers. The winner of the series advances to the Stanley Cup final.
Younger brother Mads is an Edmonton Oil Kings left-winger trying to win a Memorial Cup in London, Ont.
Both experienced thrilling Game 7 wins in the last week — Lars against the Bruins in Boston in a conference semifinal and Mads in Portland, Ore., against the Winterhawks for the Western Hockey League championship.
“Him being in the Stanley Cup playoffs and us being here at the Memorial Cup, we’ve been talking about that a little bit,” Mads says.
The Habs were the last Canadian team to win a Stanley Cup in 1993 and the only Canadian team to reach the NHL playoffs this season. Lars is in the eye of a hockey storm in Montreal.
“He talked about how exciting it was, especially beating the Bruins, the huge rivalry there,” Mads says. “I was there three years ago when they played against Boston and experienced how crazy it is there around the city. It’s absolutely amazing.”
Lars, 25, and Mads, 18, are from Rodovre, Denmark. Their father Olaf is the coach of the national junior men’s hockey team.
Lars, six foot two and 215 pounds, was a first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues, who traded him to Montreal in 2010.
Mads is undrafted and it took time for him to adjust to the North American game in his rookie WHL season.
The six-foot-one 196-pound winger had eight goals and 15 assists in 54 regular-season games. Mads stepped up his contributions in the post-season with 12 points in 21 games, including a goal and an assist in the 4-2 win over Portland in Game 7.
“He’s taken a lot of strides,” Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal says. “Before Christmas he was finding himself out of the lineup and then he went to the world juniors for Denmark and played very well.
“The growth of his game, the energy, I don’t think you ever see that kid take a shift off. He’s got amazing power and sometimes he’s got to rein himself in a bit, but he’s really taken a step.
“He’s been huge for us in the playoffs, scored a big goal for us in Game 7 and he’s a big part of our penalty kill.”
The Danes earned promotion this past December to the 2014 world junior championship in Toronto and Montreal starting Dec. 26.
Mads was coached by Olaf in the Division 1 tournament and contributed a goal and four assists — as well as 44 penalty minutes — in five games.
Habs fans won’t get a chance to see the younger Eller in person, however, as Denmark plays its pool games in Toronto. But Mads is enthusiastic about the prospect of experiencing the tournament in Canada again.
The world junior championship fills NHL buildings and draws record television ratings in Canada. Mads discovered that as a 16-year-old forward in the 2012 world junior tournament in Edmonton and Calgary.
“It was absolutely crazy, so many people and media,” Mads said. “Me and (Oliver) Bjorkstrand from the Portland Winterhawks, we experienced in Edmonton and Calgary how big the world juniors are over here.
“We told the guys about the experience and how it is. It’s something every guy on the team wanted to experience. That gave us a little motivation, that it would be in Montreal and Toronto, the next world junior championship.”
Montreal opens its series with New York on Saturday afternoon just prior to the Oil Kings facing the Guelph Storm in the first game of the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
Oil Kings assistant captain Henrik Samuelsson happens to be the son of former NHL player and Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson.
“It is really fun having Henrik’s dad there with the Rangers and Lars with Montreal,” Mads says. “It’s funny.”
Henrik is a first-round draft pick of the Phoenix Coyotes and Edmonton’s leading playoff producer with eight goals and 15 assists in 21 games.
Neither Oil King has watched many Canadiens or Rangers games in the post-season because of time conflicts or partial overlaps with their WHL playoff games.
“I love watching it, but it’s been a little hard because we’ve been playing too,” Samuelsson says. “It’s always fun watching playoff hockey and having family members be a part of it. It’s extra special.”