European Free Agents of Interest

I’ve been posting an article like this for years (lot’s of publications do something similar for undrafted NCAA players, but there isn’t the same focus on European leagues).  You can see last year’s list here; for a look at how to judge production in Europe and how it translates to the NHL, it’s explored here; you can see European free agent success stories here.  My focus is on players 25 and under (generally speaking older players are more known quantities). Seven players from last year’s list were subsequently signed (or, in one case, drafted), while overall teams signed 21 European free agents. A general note on the leagues: the KHL has the most high end talent available and this has pulled down the talent level of the SHL slightly (which is similar to the NLA); the Liiga is a notch below, but still better than the other European leagues (DEL, EBEL, etc). A final note: when I reference a player’s size below it’s not based on my own view of its importance, but rather the NHL’s outdated ideas about it.

Scoring ratios in the league are similar to the NHL
Michael Lindqvist RW DOB 94 5’11 33-20-14-34 1.03
Was putting up ever improving numbers in the Allsvenskan before this career season with Farjestad; he has two talented teammates who could be boosting his numbers (Dick Axelsson and Johan Ryno), but he’s also fifth in the league for PPG
Victor Olofsson W DOB 95 5’11 43-24-13-37 0.86
A former Buffalo draft pick (7-181/14), he’s having a career season with Frolunda where he’s the second-leading scorer (well behind Ryan Lasch)
Lawrence Pilut DL DOB 95 5’11 45-7-29-36 0.80
Undersized blueliner is having a career year with HV71–he not only leads the defense in scoring, but the entire roster (he also leads the league for defensemen); he was rated by a couple of scouting groups for the 2014 draft, but his size scared GMs away
Joel Persson DR DOB 94 5’11 44-5-25-30 0.68
It’s very rare for a player to jump from Division I to the SHL and put up good numbers (Max Friberg is an example, but he kept himself in Divison I to win with his home town, which is a very different circumstance), but that’s exactly what Persson has done with Vaxjo (third in the league); he’s far and away the most productive blueliner on the team–he’s benefiting from playing with Elias Pettersson, but that doesn’t take away from making such an impressive step-up
Axel Ottoson C/LW DOB 96 5’10 47-14-22-36 0.76
After struggling in the SHL with MODO he’s found his footing with Bjorkloven in the Allsvenskan; he’s tied in PPG with NCAA grad Austin Farley for the team lead and is still young enough where further development could happen (at his size though it’s not likely he’ll be signed)
Henrik Haukeland GL DOB 94 6’2 .930 1.69
Norwegian struggled last year in the SHL with Leksands, but he’s put up fantastic numbers with Timra in the Allsvenskan (leading the league in save percentage and GAA)
Robin Johansson GL DOB 95 6’2 .921 2.41
Spent a season getting crushed in the NAHL a few years ago, but he’s pushed his way out of Division I to have a strong season with Troja-Ljungby in the Allsvenskan
Robin Jensen GL DOB 96 6’2 .920 2.14
Graduated out of Division I to take the starting role with Pantern in the Allsvenskan

Par Lindholm, identified last year, is now 26, so out of the purview of this review (he is, however, among the league leaders in scoring).

Scoring in the league is just slightly below the NHL
Antti Suomela CL DOB 94 6’0 53-18-35-53 1.00
Was on my list last year and his numbers have only improved as he leads JYP in both points and PPG (he’s third in the league in the latter category); I’m not entirely sure what’s kept teams from taking a chance on him, but in the absence of scouting material to examine I can’t speculate
Ville Leskinen W DOB 94 6’1 44-22-21-43 0.97
Enjoying a career year with Karpat where he’s second on the team in PPG (behind French-national Charles Bertrand); it is a talented roster so that might be boosting his numbers (he’s fourth in the league in PPG)
Ville Meskanen W DOB 95 6’1 43-23-18-41 0.95
Having a career year with Ilves, leading the team in PPG (sixth in the league, making me less suspicious that his improvement is via teammates Sami Sandell and Teemu Rautiainen)
Saku Maenalanen W DOB 94 6’3 54-17-26-43 0.79
Drafted by Nashville long ago (5-125/13), he’s having a career year with a talented Karpat team (making me a little suspicious of his numbers); his size will help engage interest, although it’s no guarantee as his numbers aren’t overwhelming
Kevin Lankinen GL DOB 95 6’2 .952 1.19
Before collapsing in shock at his numbers with HIFK it’s worth remembering it’s a small sample size as a backup (he’s playing behind Atte Engren and 40-year old Niklas Backstrom)
Veini Vehvilainen GL DOB 97 6’0 .928 1.82
Turned 21 in February so might be eligible for the draft (NHL rules say up to 21, but Sebastian Aho was drafted in similar circumstances, so…), but his size makes it unlikely; he’s outplayed veteran Jussi Rynnas for the starting role on Karpat; most expected him to be taken in the 2015 draft (including me), with just CS including him in the 2016 rankings
Dominik Hrachovina GL DOB 94 5’10 .926 1.99
At his size I think a save percentage of .999 wouldn’t be enough for the Czech national, but I included him last year with similar numbers with Tappara so I’ll throw him in this time as well
Kaapo Kahkonen GL DOB 96 6’2 .924 2.18
Former Minnesota pick (4-109/14) has played a ridiculous 52 games for Lukko and put up similar numbers to last season

Scoring in the league is similar to the NHL
Pius Suter C/LW DOB 96 5’9 33-11-27-38 1.15
Ottawa had him in their camp this season, but cut him loose (no surprise given his size); with CHL pedigree he could get another shot (perhaps with a team like Tampa that isn’t scared by his stature)–he was expected to be drafted in 2015 and still listed by some in 2016
Dominik Kubalik LW DOB 95 6’2 23-9-17-26 1.13
Former LA pick (7-191/13) was signed by Ambri-Piotta after ripping up the Czech league and he’s done well in the NLA with the best PPG on the team; exposure on the Olympic squad won’t have hurt him (although his lackluster OHL career does)
Yannick Rathgeb DR DOB 95 6’1 38-8-20-28 0.73
Posted similar numbers last year with Fribourg-Gotteron and wasn’t signed (he was on my list), but he’s young and a right-hand shot so the chances are reasonable
Ivars Punnenovs GL DOB 94 6’1 .921 2.38
Latvian is on the borderline of acceptable size for the NHL; this is his third year with the Tigers and his best thus far

Scoring volume is similar to the NHL
Sergei Shumakov RW DOB 92 45-17-21-38 0.84
Continuing his gradual improvement over his KHL career (this season is his first with CSKA); he has a couple of talented teammates (Kirill Kaprizov and Maxim Shalunov), but his history indicates the production level is on his own merit
Vladimir Tkachyov (Tkachev) LW DOB 95 5’10 46-17-21-38 0.82
Former QMJHL prospect made my list last year posting up similar numbers, but either his size or salary demands kept him in Russia; after being far and away the most productive player on Vladivostok he was traded to a stacked Ufa team late in the season; he was expected to be drafted in both 2014 and 2015
Alexei Byvaltsev CL DOB 94 5’11 54-18-23-41 0.76
His size may or may not be an impediment, but he leads his Amur teammates by a significant margin; this is his most productive season since he was a teenager in the Kazahk league, so it could be an anomaly
Ilya Mikheyev RW DOB 94 6’2 52-19-18-37 0.71
Significantly leads his Omsk team in points (although Andre Petersson is close in PPG); he’d had no international exposure until this year and that might have stirred up some interest
Andrei Yermakov DR DOB 94 6’2 34-7-9-16 0.47
Ivan Vereshchagin DL DOB 95 6’3 48-5-17-22 0.45
Both players are enjoying their best numbers ever (by a considerable margin) with Sibir Novosibirsk, which makes me a little suspicious of them, even if it’s not obvious what’s driving their production (talented forwards is all I can point too)
Alexei Krasikov GL DOB 95 6’3 .939 1.95
Played about equal time with Alexander Salak for Novosibirsk and has far better numbers
Vasili Demchenko GL DOB 94 6’1 .930 2.52
Has spent his career with Traktor Chelyabinsk and gradually improved; he’s backing up Czech national goaltender (and Olympian) Pavel Francouz who has better numbers; CS listed him for the 2012 draft
Andrei Kareyev GL DOB 94 5’11 .930 2.22
Backing up Ben Scrivens for Ufa, but his size will likely scare GMs away

Other Leagues (DEL, Czech, etc)
It’s very infrequent for players to be signed directly from these leagues–typically a strong performance leads to playing for a better European league and then earning an NHL-contract–but there are exceptions (eg Libor Sulak was signed out of the EBEL by Detroit last season)
Dominik Kahun C/LW DOB 95 5’11 DEL 41-12-28-40 0.97
The DEL isn’t a great league, but he has good numbers and some GMs will be impressed by his Olympic performance; CS listed him for the 2015 draft
Brooks Macek C/RW DOB 92 5’11 DEL 49-26-18-44 0.90
Former WHLer and Detroit pick (6-171/10) might benefit from his Olympic exposure
Matej Paulovic LW DOB 95 6’3 Slovakia 46-26-19-45 0.98
Drafted by Dallas (5-149/13) the big winger had decent numbers in the USHL, but was never signed. Dominating the Slovak league isn’t that meaningful, but he’s far and away the best young pro there

Six of the players above were actually drafted (Olofsson, Maenalanen, Kahkonen, Kubalik, Macek, and Paulovic), with another six considered (Pilut, Vehvilainen, Suter, Tkachyov, Demchenko, and Kahun). This familiarity can boost the chances of being signed (eg Marcus Sorenson or Tomas Hyka etc, on the considered side, Victor Ejdsell, etc). Of the 32 or so players listed here I think we can expect a similar number from last year to be taken.

A final note: a big thank you to those who have made donations to me–putting these articles together is a lot of work and while it’s a passion I have donations make it possible for me to invest even more time and effort into it.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)



  1. I’ve heard from fans in Switzerland that Suter is a main piece of his team. Due to this apparently his contract with then(ends 2019 i think) allows him to attend development camps but not sign nhl contracts.

    • Ahhh–I wasn’t aware he didn’t have an opt-out clause–if that’s true then he’s not available until that contract expires after next season

      • Yea I’m not sure if he has an opt-out clause after their season is over. Hopefully there is because he looked really good in development camp.

      • Yeah he’s a talented guy–not sure if his production translates at the next level, but it can’t hurt to find out. A lot of European pros have opt-outs built into their contracts, but it depends on their leverage when they sign.

  2. […] • A look at potential European free agents for the Ottawa Senators (Eyes on the Sens) […]

  3. […] • A look at potential European free agents for the Ottawa Senators (Eyes on the Sens) […]

  4. Victor Olofsson isn’t a free agent. He’s been expressing his desire to sign with the Sabres and hasn’t missed a development camp.

    • Unless I missed something they needed to sign him this summer–it’s 3 years for Swedes after the draft

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s