An Eye on European Leagues (Redux)

I wrote about European leagues back in January (link) with an eye on potential signings (prospects and veterans).  With the regular seasons completed in Europe, I thought I’d revisit the data focussing exclusively on younger players.  Players that are particularly intriguing are highlighted in bold.

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

Richard Gynge, RW, AIK, 36-28-16-44 (undrafted 24-year old; 6th in league scoring)
John Norman, LW, Djurgarden, 55-4-13-17 (21-year old; #174 CSE 2009)
Niclas Burstrom, D, Skelleftea, 51-6-6-12 (20-year old undersized blueliner; #153 CSE 2009)
Nils Andersson, D, Vaxjo, 45-1-7-8 (20-year old defenseman; #72 CSE 2010)
Oscar Fantenberg, D, HV71, 37-3-4-7 (20-year old defenseman)
Frederik Styrman, D, Skelleftea, 19-1-3-4 (20-year old undersized blueliner; #46 CSE 2009)
Adam Pettersson, C/RW, Sundsvall (Allsvenskan), 52-10-19-29 (20-year old; #9 CSE 2010)
Alexander Hilmerson, C/RW, Mora (Allsvenskan), 52-18-11-29 (21-year old)
Victor Backman, LW/RW, Boras (Allsvenskan), 44-10-16-26 (20-year old; #39 CSE 2011)
Jesper B. Jensen, D, Rogle (Allsvenskan), 50-6-13-19 (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 is the Finnish second-tier pro league.

Sakari Salminen, RW/LW, KalPa, 53-23-23-46 (undrafted 23-year old)
Jesse Mankinen, LW/RW, SaiPa, 58-16-13-29 (20-year old undersized winger; #182 CSE 2009)
Julius Junttila, LW/RW, Karpat, 56-13-15-28 (20-year old undersized winger; #41 CSE 2010)
Charles Bertrand, LW, Lukko, 54-11-11-22 (20-year old; #104 CSE 2010)
Juha-Pekka Pietila, D, Pelicans, 17-0-6-6 (20-year old blueliner with good size)
Olavi Vauhkonen, RW, Jokipojat (Mestis), 42-24-11-35 (big 22-year old; #159 CSE 2008)
Toni Jalo, C/LW, TuTo (Mestis), 45-5-30-35 (22-year old)
Samuli Virkkunen, C/RW, Sport (Mestis), 41-10-21-31 (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, 4525-35-60 (25-year old was never drafted; 1st in league scoring)
Simon Moser, LW/RW, Langnau, 50-18-16-34 (22-year old; #154 CSE 2009)
Ronalds Kenins, LW, ZSC, 47-6-12-18 (20-year old)
Anthony Huguenin, D, Biel, 50-0-15-15 (20-year old undersized blueliner)
Jeremie Kamerzin, D, Lausanne (NLB), 44-12-25-37 (23-year old blueliner)
Marco Pedretti, C/LW, Ajoie (NLB), 39-12-22-34 (20-year old)

The German league (DEL) is not a great development league, as it’s dominated by imports (typically 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).

Daniel Pietta, LW, Krefeld, 52-17-30-47 (undrafted 25-year old, 10th in league scoring)
David Wolf, LW, Hamburg, 46-12-23-35 (big undrafted 22-year old)
Laurin Braun, RW, Eisbaren, 47-9-14-23 (20-year old undersized forward; #109 CSE 2009)

The Czech league (Extraliga) is not what it used to be, with most of their top-prospects playing in the CHL, but it’s still a professional and competitive league.

Jan Kovar, LW/C, HC Plzen, 52-18-33-51 (undrafted 21-year old, 7th in league scoring)

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, 50-21-47-68 (undrafted 24-year old, 1st in league scoring)
Istvan Sofron, RW, Szekesfehervar, 50-31-21-52 (undrafted 23-year old, 6th in league scoring)

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

Martin Bakos, LW, Bratislava, 53-13-22-35 (21-year old; #148 CSE 2008)
Michael Vandas, C, SKP, 36-10-23-33 (20-year old)
Andrej Stastny, C, Trencin, 50-11-18-29 (big 20-year old; #42 CSE 2009)

The Danish (AL-Bank Ligaen) and Norwegian (Get Ligaen) 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.  Keep in mind ECHL stars can dominate these leagues, so the caliber of talent is a step down.

Fredrik Killi Csisar, C, Valerenga, 44-16-35-51 (21-year old)
Mats Rosseli Olsen, LW, Valerenga, 35-17-30-47 (20-year old)
Andreas Martinsen, C/RW, Lillehammer, 45-17-26-43 (21-year old)

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

Vadim Shipachyov, C, Severstal, 54-22-37-59 (undrafted 24-year old, 3rd in league scoring)

The highlighted players:
Richard Gynge, RW, AIK, 55-28-16-44 +12; DOB 1987, 6’1, 196 lbs
He lead his team in goals and was 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, 54-22-37-59 +16; DOB 1987, 6’0, 178 lbs
He lead 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, limiting his exposure.  His contract extends through next season (it may or may not have an opt-out clause).  I suspect interest in Shipachyov will be limited due to the lack of a transfer agreement with 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, 50-18-16-34 -10; DOB 1989, 6’2, 207 lbs
He lead his team in goals and finished third in points.  He’s never represented Switzerland internationally, limiting his exposure.  His contract runs through 2013/14 and may or may not include an “out” clause.  He was ranked #154 by Central Scouting for the 2009 draft.  With his size I’d 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, 44-11-21-32 +12; DOB 1989, 6’3, 216 lbs
He finished fourth in points with Hamburg (first in points-per-game and tied for second in assists).  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 and may or may not include an “out” clause.  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 wouldn’t be surprised if someone invites him to camp to at least assess what he can offer.



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

  2. […] -For a detailed preview of the upcoming SM-Liiga season check out Tony Piscotta‘s very detailed article.  His comments on Sakari Salminen suggest that his NHL potential is limited (“he is a bit light and his game may be more suited for European hockey“), which runs against my hunch that a team might make him an offer. […]

  3. […] Kovar C DOB 90 5’11 KHL 60-24-44-68 Someone I identified back in 2012, he’s put up crazy back-to-back numbers in the KHL and it’s likely […]

  4. […] along with 5 from previous lists (2 from 2017, 1 from 2016, 1 from 2015, and 1 from 2012–Kovar, although the Islanders are getting him on the decline after he spent his best years in the KHL). […]

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