European Free Agents of Interest

This is the fourth year I’ve looked at interesting free agent prospects in Europe, focussing specifically on those who are 24 and under.  For successful free agents from Europe I talk about it here; for the issues of comparing stats in Europe to production in the NHL go here.  The players are organised by league and “PPG” here means points-per-game:

Toni Rajala RW/LW DOB 91 4-101/09 Edm 5’10 SHL 31-14-13-27
The former Oiler prospect has already established himself as a point-per-game player in the AHL; after a brief stint in the KHL he produced at about the same clip in the SHL; he’s undersized and has been dumped by one organisation already, but given how dysfunctional Edmonton is I’m not sure it’s a true black mark; I suspect he’d be given an opportunity elsewhere, but Rajala may not want to come back to North America to play in the minors

Tim Heed D DOB 91 5-132/10 Ana 6’0 SHL 50-10-27-37
Another former draft pick, he enjoyed a breakout season right after Anaheim’s rights to him expired, finishing second in scoring by a blueliner behind former free agent wunderkind Cory Murphy (but ahead of him in PPG); he’s also tops among the 24 and under crowd (including forwards), so there’s a lot of reasons for teams to approach him

Kristian Nakyva D DOB 90 6’0 SHL 55-10-19-29
Brought over from the Liiga after three strong seasons, he posted similar numbers in the SHL (a better league) and finished fifth in scoring by a defenseman; I’m not sure his numbers are remarkable enough to be signed, particularly given that he doesn’t have typical NHL size, but it remains a possibility; he’s someone I identified back in 2013

Joel Lassinantti G DOB 93 5’9 SHL 1.88 .928
The diminutive goaltender might still be draft eligible (I get a bit fuzzy about the European rules as they vary from league to league), assuming he’s not eligible he’s 2nd in GAA and save percentage, so the only thing holding him back is his size

Jan 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 a question of any NHL team being willing to pay the 24-year old enough to come across the pond

Artemi Panarin LW DOB 91 5’11 54-26-36-62
The 23-year old lead SKA St. Petersburg in scoring, playing with Ilya Kovalchuk and Vadim Shipachyov (the latter appeared on this list a few years ago, but no one has pried him out of the KHL); how much Panarin‘s numbers are inflated by his teammates is an open question, but it didn’t stop Roman Cervenka (now a teammate) from getting a shot in the NHL, so we could see the same for Panarin

Emil Garipov G DOB 91 6’2 KHL 1.78 .933
His second season as the backup for Ak Bars Kazan, he played a third of the games and had excellent numbers behind one of the best teams in the league; it’s difficult to say how much of his success is based on the team in front of him, but he’s surely worth a look

Lino Martschini RW DOB 93 5’6 NLA 50-23-24-47
At just 5’6 I’m not sure what it will take to get the opportunity to cross the pond; he’s 1st among the 24 and under and 4th in overall scoring; it took Mats Zuccarello (who is about the same size) leading the SHL in scoring and a successful Olympic experience to get his shot with the Rangers, but even then he left the team for the KHL for part of a season before becoming fully established

Inti Pestoni RW DOB 91 5’8 NLA 30-9-15-24
Passed over in the draft largely due to his size (a common theme), he’s put up good numbers in an injury-shortened season–currently 2nd in PPGs among the under 24 players; I suspect his size will keep him off the radar again this year and that he’ll need a bigger season to overcome that

Joonas Donskoi RW/LW DOB 92 4-99/10 Flo 6’0 Liiga 58-19-30-49
The Panthers never signed the Finn who enjoyed a breakout season with Karpat (fifth in overall scoring); the Finnish league is a good league, but not on the level of the Swedish (Eric Perrin leads the Liiga in scoring); the numbers are still significant enough to get noticed and as a former draft pick teams can much more easily assess the risk of signing him

Charles Bertrand LW/RW DOB 91 6’1 Liiga 60-16-31-47
The Frenchmen is in the midst of a true breakout season with Sport, sitting at 7th in overall scoring and 2nd amongst the 24 and under crowd; not only are these career numbers for him, but he’s also doing it on a talent-deprived team, so he should earn some looks from scouts if nothing else; he’s someone I identified back in 2012

Markus Hannikainen LW DOB 93 6’2 Liiga 60-19-27-46
I think he may still be eligible for the draft (see above), but assuming he’s not eligible, he’s 9th in overall scoring and 3rd in the 24 and under group (behind Donskoi above); his numbers might be getting inflated by teammates Perrin and Jani Tuppurainen, so that’s something for GMs to consider

Eetu Laurikainen G DOB 93 6’0 Liiga 2.10 .933
The former Swift Current Bronco sailed through the draft as a WHL backstop, but has had a remarkable season back in Finland where he’s 3rd in GAA and save percentage; a bit undersized, Finnish goaltenders have a well-deserved reputation for technique that might overcome that objection, so I could see him signed

Tomas Filippi C/RW DOB 92 6’1 Czech 52-16-24-40
The former QMJHL player had a career year in the Czech league (his third there); he was the second most productive under-24 player and as someone familiar with scouts; it’s worth remembering the Czech league is pretty weak so his production there isn’t as appealing as it would be in other leagues

Jakub Jerabek D DOB 91 5’11 Czech 48-7-25-32
The undersized defender had a career year; the weakness of the league means he’s more likely to sign in the KHL, but it remains a possibility that a team will take a look at him

Yasin Ehliz RW DOB 92 5’10 DEL 48-11-34-45
The German league is not generally a place where free agents are signed, but it does happen occasionally; Ehliz has his size against him, but he’s made good progress in the DEL; he’s 13th in league scoring and 1st among players under 24

A final note: the Norwegian league is not a good league, but I’ll mention Alexander Reichenberg‘s injury shortened season (13-18-17-35; yes, that’s 2.69 ppg), but it’s too short a sample size to mean much other than (perhaps) an offer in the Allsvenskan or SHL

How have previous versions of this list done?  It’s always interesting to go back and look “where they are now” after a successful and/or breakout season.  I first wrote about this three years ago, before I knew as much as I do now about judging player performances, but even then I hit some targets (those in green become regular NHL players, those in blue remain NHL prospects):
Damien Brunner (NLA) was signed and played parts of three seasons in the NHL before Jersey loaned him back to the NLA
Ronalds Kenins (NLA) signed at the end of last season and is playing in the Vancouver organisation
David Wolf (DEL) signed at the end of last season and is playing in Calgary’s organisation
Simon Moser (NLA) was signed the year after and spent a season in Nashville’s organisation
Richard Gynge (SHL) attracted NHL interest that year, but had already signed in the KHL to mixed results (his best season is this one, but it’s not remarkable enough to attract interest I’d guess)
Sakari Salminen (Liiga) there was also interest, but like Gynge went the KHL route instead; he’s posted up excellent numbers in the Russian league and would certainly attract NHL interest now (he’s 26 so I didn’t include him above)
Vadim Shipachyov (KHL) the twenty-eight year old likely makes too much money to be brought over
Jan Kovar (above) was on the list
Charles Bertrand (above) was on this list
The following year I noted far fewer players, but one mentioned is worth mentioning:
Joel Vermin (NLA) signed an ELC with Tampa, putting up middling AHL numbers this year
Last year (again with a smaller list) here are the notables:
Dennis Rasmusen (SHL) was signed by Chicago where’s he’s been unremarkable
Michael Keranen (Liiga) was signed by Minnesota has been decent on their farm team
Borna Rendulic (Liiga) Croatian player was signed by Colorado and looked solid in an injury-shortened season

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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10 Comments

  1. […] European Free Agents of Interest […]

  2. […] European Free Agents of Interest […]

  3. […] from my list have been signed, as the Oilers picked up Finnish goaltender Eetu Laurikainen and San Jose signed Joonas Donskoi […]

  4. […] on undrafted players who sign NHL contracts, so here’s those thus far who were not from my list from April.  From Europe: Dean Kukan (Columbus), Sergei Kalinin (NJ), Matthias Plachta (Arizona), […]

  5. […] in March I looked at European free agents of interest, knowing full well the Sens do not dip their toe into […]

  6. […] come here for what I offer.  My top posts of 2015 (as chosen by you, the people): -My look at European Free Agents -My Sens News & Notes that focused on Mikael Wikstrand -My initial Binghamton season overview […]

  7. […] scouting in Europe is expensive, so don’t expect any signings from Bryan Murray & Co).  Last year I identified 5 players who were subsequently signed, although there’s always a delayed […]

  8. […] free agent signings: Tim Heed was signed by San Jose (identified on my FA list from a year ago), as was Yohann Auvitu by New […]

  9. […] and his size may cause some hesitation Jakub Jerabek D, 25, 5’11 Vityaz 59-5-29-34 I identified him a couple of years ago when he was in the Czech league; his size is an issue for the NHL, but he is […]

  10. […] season with Vityaz).  Undersized by NHL standards (5’11), he’s been on my radar since 2015.  Swedish defenseman Oscar Fantenberg (on my radar since 2012) was signed by LA after a […]


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