European Undrafted Success Stories Revisited

I haven’t updated my undrafted success stories out of Europe article in a couple of years and there’s no time like the present. I’ve focused on the post-lockout NHL because of the different parameters in which players are viewed (particularly undersized players).  I’ve set the “European pro” bar at 23 (anything earlier and I consider the player to still be a prospect, drafted or not).  The numbers next to the player’s name are their stats prior to being signed.

2006 (3)
Niklas Backstrom (G, Liiga) 32-9-10, 1.68, .940 – 413 NHL games
Patrick Thoresen (SEL) 50-17-19-36 – 106 NHL games
Patrick Fischer (NLA) 44-21-32-53 – 27 NHL games

2007 (4)
Jonas Hiller (G, NLA) 28-16, 2.60 – 404 NHL games
Cory Murphy (D, Liiga) 45-13-37-50 – 91 NHL games
Erik Ersberg (G, SEL) 41GP, 2.39, .908 – 69 NHL games
Jaroslav Hlinka (Cze) 46-19-38-57 – 63 NHL games

2008 (7)
Antti Niemi (G, Liiga) 26-14-6, 2.35, .926 – 386 NHL games coming into this season; won a Cup with Chicago
Ville Leino (Liiga) 55-28-49-77 – 296 NHL games
Tim Stapleton (Liiga) 55-29-33-62 – 118 NHL games
Anssi Salmela (D, Liiga) 56-16-16-32 – 112 NHL games
Fabian Brunnstrom (SEL) 54-9-28-37 – 104 NHL games
Ryan Vesce (Liiga) 56-26-18-44 – 19 NHL games
Per Ledin (SEL) 52-16-17-33 – 3 NHL games

2009 (5)
Jonas Gustavsson (G, SEL) 42GP, 1.96, .932 – 179 NHL games coming into this season
Mika Pyorala (Liiga) 55-21-22-43 – 36 NHL games
Henrik Karlsson (G, SEL) 34GP, 2.45, .914 – 26 NHL games
Alexander Salak (G, Liiga) 20-20-9, 2.40, .923 – 2 NHL games
Johan Backlund (G, SEL) 2.56, .907 – 1 NHL game

2010 (3)
Mats Zuccarello (SEL) 55-23-41-64 (1.16) – 303 NHL games coming into this season
Jussi Rynnas (G, Liiga) 14-13-1, 2.71, .911 – 4 NHL games
Marcel Muller (DEL) 53-24-32-56 – 3 NHL games

2011 (3)
Raphael Diaz (D, NLA) 45-12-27-39 (0.86) – 201 NHL games
Victor Bartley (D, Allsvenskan) 52-11-23-34 – 121 NHL games
Iiro Tarkki (G, Liiga) 20-20-14, 2.09, .924 – 1 NHL game

2012 (4)
Viktor Fasth (G, SHL) 2.04, .934 – 63 NHL games
Roman Cervenka (KHL) 54-23-16-39 – 39 NHL games
Daniel Bang (SHL) 50-8-10-18 – 8 NHL games
Harri Pesonen (Liiga) 60-21-14-35 – 4 NHL games

2013 (2)
Michael Raffl (Allsvenskan) 49-24-22-46 – 217 NHL games coming into this season
Antti Raanta (G, Liiga) 1.85 .943 – 64 NHL games coming into this season

2014 (6)
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (SHL) 52-20-15-35 – 155 NHL games coming into this season
Melker Karlsson (SHL) 48-9-16-25 – 118 NHL games coming into this season
Dennis Everberg
(Allsvenskan) 47-17-17-34 – 70 NHL games
Dennis Rasmussen (SHL) 52-16-24-40 – 44 NHL games coming into this season
Ronalds Kenins (NLA) 39-8-17-25 – 38 NHL games
Borna Rendulic (Liiga) 57-11-21-32 – 14 NHL games

2015 (8)
Artemi Panarin (KHL) 54-26-36-62 – 80 NHL games coming into this season
Sergei Kalinin (KHL) 58-12-13-25 – 78 NHL games coming into this season
Andreas Martinsen (DEL) 50-18-23-41 – 55 NHL games coming into this season
Yvgeni Medvedev (D, KHL) 43-3-13-16 – 45 NHL games
Sergei Plotnikov (KHL) 56-15-21-36 – 45 NHL games
Joonas Kemppainen (Liiga) 59-11-21-32 – 44 NHL games
Jakub Nakladal (D, Liiga) 50-3-12-15 – 30 NHL games
Vojtech Mozik (D, Czech) 51-10-19-29 – 7 NHL games

2016 (5)
Nikita Zaitsev (D, KHL) 46-8-18-26 – playing for Toronto
Michal Kempny (D, KHL) 59-5-16-21 – playing for Chicago
Roman Lyubimov (KHL) 52-7-7-14 – playing for Philadelphia
Yohann Auvitu (D, Liiga) 48-6-15-21 – playing for New Jersey
Tim Heed (D, SHL) 52-8-15-23 – has played for San Jose

No players have been directly signed from the Slovak Elite League, Erste Bank Liga (Austria), Get Ligaen (Norway), or Al-Bank Ligaen (Denmark).

There are 50 players above (27 forwards, 11 defensemen, and 12 goaltenders); to get a sense of their value there are 6 skaters who have played two seasons worth of games, along with 7 goalies who have played at least 60 games.  Excluding this years players (for obvious reasons) that’s 13 of 45 (28%), which as risks go is pretty solid (it’s slightly above the rate of 2nd round picks, whose success rate stands at 26% in recent times).  Understandably there are far fewer impact players–no defensemen of note, just two forwards (Zuccarello and Panarin), along with three starting goaltenders–but given how few high end players go undrafted it’s still significant.  A notable change from when I first started looking at this is that there hasn’t been a starting goaltender found since Niemi way back in 2008, suggesting that NHL scouts have improved in that area (and clearly the desperate need for blueliners has prevented any uber-talented defender from reaching this list).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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