An Eye on European Leagues

The Ottawa Senators under Bryan Murray have rarely dipped into European leagues except to draft players out of Sweden (the last player drafted by Ottawa outside of Sweden was Kaspars Daugavins in 2006).  They have brought in veterans to play in Binghamton (such as Justin Mapletoft from the DEL in 2007-08) and I think it’s worth looking at the top-performers in the leagues and the undrafted young players who are older than the usual draft age.

While there’s debate over which European league is the best outside the NHL, most opinions I’ve read settle on the SEL (the Swedish league).  The KHL is usually next, but I’ve listed it at the end of this both because of the difficulty in getting players to come to North America and Ottawa’s particular problem in attracting Russian players.  As I go through the leagues I’ll list the top-scorers and then the most interesting prospects (if any).  The most intriguing players are highlighted and I delve more into them at the end of the article.  I’ve indicated where prospects were ranked by Central Scouting where applicable.

Here’s a glance at the SEL (in terms of prospects I’ve also looked at the Allsvenskan, the Swedish second-tier pro league).

Nicklas Danielsson, RW, MODO, 35-15-21-36 (2003 Vancouver pick who was never signed)
Mike Iggulden, C/W, Vaxjo, 34-13-19-32 (unsigned out of college he spent 4 years in the AHL)
Mikael Johansson, C/W, Farjestad, 36-6-25-31 (2003 Detroit pick spent part of one season in the AHL)
Jakob Silfverberg, C/W, Brynas, 32-13-17-30 (Ottawa’s 2009 draft pick)
Per-Age Skroder, LW, MODO, 35-13-17-30 (undrafted Norwegian has spent his career in Europe)
Richard Gynge, RW, AIK, 36-18-11-29 (undrafted 24-year old)
Jason Krog, C, HV71, 33-10-19-29 (career AHLer)
Bud Holloway, RW, Skelleftea, 37-11-17-28 (2006 LA pick spent 3 years in the AHL)
Johan Davidsson, C, HV71, 37-6-21-27 (1994 Anaheim pick spent 2 years in North America)
Calle Jarnkrok, C, Bryas, 38-11-15-26 (2010 Detroit pick)

John Norman, LW, Djurgarden, 37-4-9-13 (21-year old; #174 CSE 2009)
Niclas Burstrom, D, Skelleftea, 34-5-4-9 (20-year old undersized blueliner; #153 CSE 2009)
Oscar Fantenberg, D, HV71, 35-3-4-7 (20-year old defenseman)
Nils Andersson, D, Vaxjo, 34-1-6-7 (20-year old defenseman; #72 CSE 2010)
Frederik Styrman, D, Skelleftea, 17-1-3-4 (20-year old undersized blueliner; #46 CSE 2009)
Adam Pettersson, C/RW, Sundsvall (Allsvenskan), 36-9-12-21 (20-year old; #9 CSE 2010)
Victor Backman, LW/RW, Boras (Allsvenskan), 30-7-9-16 (20-year old; #39 CSE 2011)
Jesper B. Jensen, D, Rogle (Allsvenskan), 34-4-10-14 (20-year old; #84 CSE 2010)

The Finnish league (SM-Liiga) is the European league considered to be closest to the North-Amerian-style of play.  The Mestis the Finnish second-tier pro league.

Tomas Zaborsky, LW/RW, Assat, 38-28-15-43 (2006 Ranger pick spent a couple of years in the ECHL)
Stephen Dixon, C, Assat, 38-12-28-40 (2003 Pittsburgh pick spent 3 years in the AHL)
Mikael Granlund, C, HIFK, 31-16-23-39 (2010 first-rounder for Minnesota)
Ryan Lasch, RW, Pelicans, 36-13-22-35 (undrafted undersized college player is in his second year in Europe)
Matti Kuparinen, C, KalPa, 37-10-21-31 (undrafted European vet has never come over)
Eric Perrin, C/LW, JYP, 36-7-24-31 (36-year old won a Cup with Tampa Bay)
Sakari Salminen, RW/LW, KalPa, 34-16-14-30 (undrafted 23-year old)
Ville Vahalahti, LW, TPS, 37-14-15-29 (undrafted European vet has never come over)
Tuomas Kiiskinen, RW, KalPa, 38-10-19-29 (undersized foward was never drafted)
Ville Peltonen, LW, HIFK, 31-14-14-28 (1993 San Jose pick played nearly 400 games in the NHL)

Julius Junttila, LW/RW, Karpat, 33-8-9-17 (20-year old undersized winger; #41 CSE 2010)
Jesse Mankinen, LW/RW, SaiPa, 37-7-8-15 (20-year old undersized winger; #182 CSE 2009)
Charles Bertrand, LW, Lukko, 35-7-6-13 (20-year old; #104 CSE 2010)
Juha-Pekka Pietila, D, Pelicans, 7-0-5-5 (20-year old blueliner with good size)
Olavi Vauhkonen, RW, Jokipojat (Mestis), 31-18-11-29 (big 22-year old; #159 CSE 2008)
Toni Jalo, C/LW, TuTo (Mestis), 34-5-23-28 (22-year old)
Samuli Virkkunen, C/RW, Sport (Mestis), 31-8-17-25 (21-year old)

The Swiss league (NLA) has been a steadily improving league and probably features more overall talent than the Finnish league, but plays the distinctively European-style of hockey.  The NLB is the second-tier pro league.

Damien Brunner, RW, Zug, 35-19-29-48 (25-year old was never drafted)
Julien Sprunger, RW, Gotteron, 37-23-17-40 (2004 Minnesota pick never come over to North America)
Pavel Rosa, RW/LW, Gotteron, 35-16-23-39 (1995 LA pick spent five years playing pro in North America)
Jaroslav Bednar, RW/LW, Lugano, 34-13-26-39 (2001 LA pick spent parts of three season playing in North America)
Tommi Santala, C/W, Kloten, 35-8-31-39 (1999 Atlanta pick spent three years in North America)
Petr Sykora, C, Davos, 34-19-17-36 (1997 Detroit pick spent parts of three seasons in North America)
Simon Gamache, LW/C, Gotteron, 37-17-19-36 (2000 Atlanta pick played over 300 games in the AHL)
Jeff Tambellini, LW, ZSC, 37-19-16-35 (2003 LA pick spent last year with Vancouver)
Micki DuPont, D, Kloten, 38-4-31-35 (2000 Calgary pick played over 300 games in the AHL)
Bjorn Christen, RW, Zug, 36-13-20-33 (undrafted long-time European player)

Simon Moser, LW/RW, Langnau, 38-15-16-31 (22-year old; #154 CSE 2009)
Ronalds Kenins, LW, ZSC, 37-4-11-15 (20-year old)
Anthony Huguenin, D, Biel, 37-0-13-13 (20-year old undersized blueliner)
Jeremie Kamerzin, D, Lausanne (NLB), 34-6-19-25 (23-year old blueliner)
Marco Pedretti, C/LW, Ajoie (NLB), 28-10-14-24 (20-year old)

The German league (DEL) is not a great development league, as its dominated by imports (typcally former AHL-players).  Regardless, I think it’s the next best among the European leagues.  I haven’t included any players from the tier-two league (Bundesliga).

Derek Hahn, C, ERC, 34-16-23-39 (undrafted college-grad is a long-time European player)
Daniel Pietta, LW, Krefeld, 35-13-23-36 (undrafted 25-year old)
Kai Hospelt, C, Grizzly Adams, 34-14-19-33 (2003 San Jose pick never played in North America)
Eric Schneider, C/LW, EHC, 35-10-23-33 (undrafted CIAU-grad is a long-time European player)
Daniel Kreutzer, RW, DEG, 34-6-26-32 (undrafted 32-year old is a career DEL player)
Adam Mitchell, RW, Adler, 34-9-22-31 (undrafted college-grad has spent his career in Germany)
Chris Lee, D, Adler, 35-6-22-31 (undrafted college-grad was a long-time minor-leaguer)
Robert Hock, C, Iserlohn, 35-5-26-31 (undrafted 39-year old is a career European player)
Patrick Reimer, RW, DEG, 35-16-14-30 (undrafted 29-year is a career DEL player)
Laurent Meunier, C/RW, Straubing, 34-13-17-30 (undrafted 32-year old spent a year in the ECHL)

David Wolf, LW, Hamburg, 30-9-17-26 (big 22-year old)
Laurin Braun, RW, Eisbaren, 32-7-11-18 (20-year old undersized forward; #109 CSE 2009)

The Czech league (Extraliga) is not what it used to be, but it’s still a professional and competitive league.  From here on out I’ll only include the top-five scorers; there are no young intriguing prospects to include.

Petr Ton, RW/LW, HC Sparta, 36-19-19-38 (undrafted 38-year has spent his career in Europe)
Petr Nedved, C, Liberec, 33-16-21-37 (1990 Vancouver draft pick played close to 1,000 games in the NHL)
Petr Koukal, C, Pardubice, 35-15-20-35 (undrafted 29-year old has spent his career in Europe)
Jiri Burger, C, Vitkovice, 33-12-23-35 (undrafted 34-year old has spent his career in Europe)
Radek Duda, RW/LW, Plzen, 35-17-17-34 (1998 Calgary draft pick never played pro in North America)

The Austrian league (Erste Bank Liga) is very similar to the DEL in being dominated by imports (former AHL-players primarily).

John Hughes, C, Olimpija, 35-15-32-47 (undrafted 24-year old has spent his career in Europe)
Mike Ouellette, C, EHC, 36-15-30-45 (undrafted 29-year old spent two years in the minors)
Brett Lysak, RW/C, Graz, 36-16-27-43 (1999 Carolina draft pick played less than 200 AHL games)
Benoit Gratton, C, Vienna, 34-17-24-41 (1995 Washington draft pick played over 400 games in the AHL)
Zdenek Blatny, LW, Graz, 35-16-24-40 (1999 Atlanta draft pick played over 200 games in the AHL)
Istvan Sofron, RW, Szekesfehervar, 37-24-15-39 (23-year old)

The Slovakian league (Extraliga) has suffered even more than the Czech league since the break-up of Czechoslovakia, but still produces players taken in the draft.

Zigmund Palffy, RW, HK 36, 36-20-45-65 (1991 NYI draft pick played close to 700 games in the NHL)
Rene Skoliak, C, HK 36, 39-14-35-49 (undrafted 32-year old career European player)
Martin Kulha, RW, SKP, 39-27-19-46 (undrafted 35-year old career European player)
Miroslav Satan, RW/LW, Bratislava, 35-17-22-39 (1993 Edmonton draft pick played over 1,000 NHL games)
Tomas Bulik, C, Bratislava, 39-19-19-38 (undrafted 26-year old has spent his career in Europe)

Michael Vandas, C, SKP, 33-8-23-31 (20-year old)
Martin Bakos, LW, Bratislava, 38-10-19-29 (21-year old; #148 CSE 2008)
Andrej Stastny, C, Trencin, 36-7-15-22 (big 20-year old; #42 CSE 2009)

The Danish and Norwegian leagues are the only other ones (besides the KHL) which receive some attention.  Typically good prospects graduate to the Swedish junior leagues before putting themselves on the map, but it’s not always the case.  Given that, here are the leaders in the Norwegian league (Get Ligaen) and Danish league (AL-Bank Ligaen):

Martin Strandfeldt, LW, Stavanger, 31-28-27-55 (undrafted 30-year old career European player)
Ryan MacMurchy, RW, Stavanger, 30-30-24-54 (2002 St. Louis pick spent five years in the minors)
Justin Donati, C, Valerenga, 21-14-37-51 (undrafted 25-year spent three years in the minors)
Shay Stephenson, LW, Valerenga, 30-15-33-48 (2003 Carolina pick spent parts of three years in the minors)
Knut Henrik Spets, C/RW, Lorenskog, 31-14-33-47 (undrafted 29-year old has spent his career in Norway)

Mats Rosseli Olsen, LW, Valerenga, 30-14-26-40 (20-year old)
Fredrik Killi Csisar, C, Valerenga, 30-11-26-37 (21-year old)
Andreas Martinsen, C/RW, Lillehammer, 31-15-19-34 (21-year old)

Christoffer Kjaergaard, LW, Sonderjyske, 31-23-20-43 (undrafted 31-year career European player)
Jordan Smotherman, LW, Esbjerg, 30-22-19-41 (2005 Atlanta draft pick played nearly 400 games in the AHL)
Jannik Karvinen, RW, Rodovre, 30-25-14-39 (undrafted 25-year old career European player)
Kim Lykkeskov, RW, Sonderjyske, 31-14-25-39 (undrafted 28-year old has spent his career in Europe)
Quinn Hancock, C/LW, Sonderjyske, 31-14-25-39 (undrafted 34-year old spent three years in the minors)

Finally there’s the KHL. One of the best league’s outside the NHL, high payrolls retain many players who would otherwise play in North America.

Alexander Radulov, RW, Salavat, 35-20-29-49 (2004 Nashville pick left while still signed by the Predators)
Vadim Shipachyov, C, Severstal, 39-16-31-47 (undrafted 24-year old)
Tony Martensson, C, St. Petersburg, 35-13-27-40 (2001 Anaheim pick spent two years in North America)
Petr Vrana, C, Amur, 37-18-19-37 (2003 New Jersey pick spent four years in North America)
Mikelis Redlihs, RW, Riga, 38-9-28-37 (undrafted 27 year-old spent one year in the EJHL)

The highlighted players:
Richard Gynge, RW, AIK, 36-18-11-29 +9; DOB 1987, 6’1, 196 lbs
He leads his team in goals and is second in team scoring.  He lead the Swedish junior league in scoring (05-06) and was part of Sweden’s WJC (06-07).  This is his third season with AIK, which was promoted from the Allsvenskan two years ago.  His contract expires this year.  Elite Prospects writes, “A technically skilled player with a good scoring touch. Gynge is skilled offensively, but lacks some defensive skills. His skating could use some improvement as well.”  I have no idea when that description of Gynge was written, so keep that in mind.  Players his age are rarely signed and even more rarely have success, but Ville Leino is a comparable in that sense.
Vadim Shipachyov, C, Severstal, 39-16-31-47 +13; DOB 1987, 6’0, 178 lbs
He leads Severstal in scoring and has consistently been a top scorer for the team for the past three seasons.  He’s never played for Russia on an international level.  His contract extends through next season (it may or may not have an opt-out clause).  I suspect interest in Shipachyov is limited both due to the lack of exposure and whatever he makes in the KHL.  He’s clearly talented enough to dominate in that league, so it would be a matter of him wanting to make the leap to come to North America.
Sakari Salminen, RW/LW, KalPa, 34-16-14-30 +12; DOB 1988, 5’11, 159 lbs
He leads the team in goals and is second in points.  He played in the WJC (07-08) and has been a full-time player in the SM-Liiga for the past five seasons.  His contract extends to 2013/14.  He was ranked #135 by Central Scouting in 2008.  Elite Prospects writes, “A talented, left-handed winger who skates well. Not very large or physical.”  I’m not sure how accurate his weight is, but clearly he couldn’t survive across the Atlantic without bulking up.
Simon Moser, LW/RW, Langnau, 38-15-16-31; DOB 1989, 6’2, 207 lbs
He leads his team in goals and points.  He’s never represented Switzerland internationally.  His contract runs through 2013/14.  He was ranked #154 by Central Scouting for the 2009 draft.  With his size I’d have to guess a lack of exposure is what kept anyone from taking a flyer on him.  The more time you spend studying the draft since it was reduced to seven rounds the more dependent on international events you realise scouts are when it comes to drafting out of Europe.
David Wolf, LW, Hamburg, 30-9-17-26 +12; DOB 1989, 6’3, 216 lbs
He’s second in points (first in points-per-game).  He played in the WJC (08-09) and was awarded one of the top-three players on his team.  His contract runs through 2012/13.  With good size it might be his skating that’s kept him off the radar.  Results in the DEL aren’t a great indicator for the NHL (think of Marcel Mueller), but I still wouldn’t be surprised if someone invites him to camp to at least assess what he can offer.

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5 Comments

  1. […] update on my list of intriguing European free agents (link) and how they are performing (recent performance is in brackets): Richard Gynge (AIK, SEL) […]

  2. […] wrote about European leagues back in January (link) with an eye on potential signings (prospects and veterans).  With the regular seasons completed […]

  3. […] writes about intriguing European free agents (something I touched on in January) noting a number have already been signed (like SEL star Richard Gynge in the KHL), but […]

  4. […] wrote about European leagues back in January and March with an eye on potential signings (prospects and veterans).  I thought I’d revisit […]

  5. […] he’s been on my radar since 2015.  Swedish defenseman Oscar Fantenberg (on my radar since 2012) was signed by LA after a solid season with HK Sochi (KHL).  San Jose signed Czech […]


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