An Eye on Europe

[I’ve updated this article (September 30th) to see where the players listed have wound up this season.  Updates are in italics.]

The Ottawa Senators under Bryan Murray have rarely dipped into European leagues except to draft players out of Sweden, but they have brought in veterans to play in Binghamton (such as Justin Mapletoft from the DEL in 2007-08) and I think it’s possible they could sign an undrafted player out of Europe (much as they do via the NCAA and junior).  I looked at this last year as well.

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 given Ottawa’s reluctance to deal with players from that league I’ve ignored it this time around.  As I go through the leagues I’ll list the most interesting prospects (if any).  I’ve indicated where prospects were ranked by Central Scouting where applicable and those coloured in green were on last year’s list.

Here’s a glance at the SEL (in terms of prospects I also looked at the Allsvenskan, the Swedish second-tier pro league, but no one stuck out):
Broc Little, LW/RW, AIK, 55-16-30-46, small (5’9) 24-year old undrafted college grad (Yale); he was listed by Red Line Report as one of the better NCAA FA’s back when he graduated – signed an AHL deal with Springfield
Oscar Fantenberg, D, HV71, 28-3-11-14, 21-year old signed through 13/14, but may have an opt-out clause – remains with HV71
Johan Alm, D, Skelleftea, 55-3-5-8, big (6’3) 21-year old; ranked #28 CSE in 2010; signed through 14/15, but may have an opt-out clause – remains with Skelleftea

Here’s the SM-Liiga (I also looked at the Mestis, the Finnish second-tier pro league, but no one stuck out):
Sakari Salminen, RW/LW, KalPa, 54-26-29-55, 24-year old; played for Finland in the WJC – signed in the KHL
Jere Sallinen, LW/RW, HPK, 57-15-27-42, 22-year old went unsigned by Minnesota (6-163/09); played for Finland in the WJC – remains with HPK
Kristian Nakyva, D, JYP, 59-6-22-28, 22-year old; ranked #29 CSE in 2009; played for Finland in the WJC – remains with JYP
Olavi Vauhkonen, RW, SaiPa, 46-10-12-22, 24-year old big (6’4) physical winger; #159 CSE 2008 – remains with SaiPa

The Swiss league (NLA) and the NLB (the second-tier league):
Joel Vermin, C/W, Bern, 47-13-22-35, 21-year old; #31 CSE in 2010; played for Switzerland at the WJC – signed an ELC with Tampa, but was loaned back to Bern
Killian Mottet, F, Ajoie (NLB), 50-28-32-60, undersized 22-year old – graduates to Gotteron in the NLA
Sami El Assaoui, D, La Chaux-de-Fonds (NLB), 34-3-22-25, undersized 21-year old; signed through 13/14, but may have an opt out clause – graduates to Ambri-Potta in the NLA
[Simon Moser was on last year’s list and signed an ELC with Nashville after making the team on a PTO]

The German league (DEL):
Bernhard Ebner, D, Dusseldorf, 52-5-21-26, 22-year old – remains with Dusseldorf

The Czech league (Extraliga):
Jan Kovar, C/LW, HC Plzen, 52-17-34-51, 22-year old was tenth in league scoring; played for the Czech’s in the WJC – signed in the KHL

The Austrian league (Erste Bank Liga):
Richard Jarusek, RW, Orli Znojmo, 54-25-26-51, 21-year old – remains with Orli Znojmo

The Slovakian league (Extraliga):
Michael Vandas, RW, HK SKP Poprad, 49-21-31-52, 22-year old; played for the Slovaks in the WJC – signed in the Czech Elite League

I didn’t see anyone worth listing from the Danish (AL-Bank Ligaen) and Norwegian (Get Ligaen) leagues.  [So two players, if I give myself Moser, signed ELC’s while another (Little) has joined the AHL.  This is a little better than I did last year.]

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: March 18th; Ottawa 4, Winnipeg 1

-Ottawa ran over the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 yesterday afternoon; Robin Lehner made 25 saves for the win, while Jakob Silfverberg (2), Guillaume Latendresse, and Kyle Turris provided the scoring.  It was a good effort all around for the Sens (who had 42 shots on goal) and a well-deserved win.  Here’s the boxscoreAdana offers his own description of the game and the most interesting thing he pointed out was that Ottawa has the Eastern Conference’s best home record (10-1-3).  I think that’s a tip of the hat to Paul MacLean, as home ice is the place where a coach is most to affect the game.

Robin Lehner talked about being run into by Dustin Byfuglien:

I don’t know (what happened). I saw the replay a little bit later and he was trying to cut in (to the net). It’s hard to say (if he was out). It was a little blurry for me. It was more when (athletic therapist) Gerry Townend came to talk to me (he wasn’t sure what happened) and then I felt good. (Byfuglien) hit my head, I was leaning forward and my neck took a beating. That just took me out for a second or two. It’s nothing concussion-wise. That’s fine.

-If the evidence hasn’t been clear enough I thought last night was yet another nail in the coffin for Ben Bishop, whom Lehner has outplayed at the NHL (and AHL) level.  If the Hammond signing (see below) is accurate it could be an indication that the Sens are preparing the groundwork to lose one of their current goaltenders.  Paul MacLean talked about Lehner‘s performance yesterday:

We’ve seen a lot good things from Robin, but maybe Lehner is Irish. He was outstanding. Outstanding. He made some really good saves (in the third) and he held the fort in the second when they came out hard.

Mark Parisi offers his ups and downs for the week that was, with only Colin Greening getting a negative marker (I’m ignoring Mark Stone‘s selection as it’s not his fault Bryan Murray made a dumb trade), which I’m not sure I agree with.  Mark doesn’t like the fact that Greening isn’t producing, but he’s never going to be consistent in his production.  Matt Kassian deserves a negative–two games, no fights, and no discernibly positive impact.

Ian Mendes goes through the ins and outs of who might be coach of the year, pointing out an interesting fact:

In fact, on that list of eight teams that have completed the similar turnaround to what the Canadiens are trying to do this season [last place to a playoff position], only Pat Burns with the 1998 Boston Bruins ended up winning the Jack Adams. So for some reason, the voters — who are broadcasters from around the National Hockey League — are not impressed with the going from worst-to-a-playoff spot storyline.

He also throws Sportsnet Nick Kypreos under the bus who told viewers that the Sens weren’t a playoff team.  As one would expect Ian concludes that Paul MacLean should be coach of the year (should things continue as they are) and I think it’s hard to argue with that conclusion.

Reports have free agent collegian Andrew Hammond signing with the Sens.  The 6’3, 25-year old Bowling Green State grad had a record of 10-15-3 2.47 .917 this season.  Given his age his ELC would be for just one season (assuming this is not an ATO like Nick Craven).

Scott Burnside offers his power rankings and has Ottawa 9th.

-As expected Kyle Bushee was released from his PTO by Binghamton.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)