Senators News & Notes

Nichols goes through Pierre Dorion’s latest chat and I have a few comments:

Quality depth is always a good thing and judging by the Guy Boucher’s lineup decisions and the staff electing to dress seven defenceman instead of one of Chris Neil or Curtis Lazar, it seems like the coaching staff has finally recognized how much of a drag those two are to their linemates.

It’s funny to see an echo of Kurt Kleinendorst here, with Boucher consigning fourth-line management favourites to the pressbox.

I’m not the biggest Mark Borowiecki fan, but (I’ll hold a door for him) and he’s actually had a decent year playing alongside Chris Wideman. It probably speaks to the strength of Wideman’s season more than anything, but credit where credit is due: they haven’t been awful. Obviously I’d still love to see the organization punt their second pairing and find an upgrade on Boro, but I’ll probably have to settle for the Senators finding player who can improve their fourth line and keep Fredrik Claesson on the bench.

Wideman is a lot like Dzingel in the sense of most fans expectations before they saw a large sample size of his play at the NHL-level.  Once again, a smaller, skilled player rewards the team more than the prototypical “good in the corners” guy.  I think the interesting question is: does the organisation understand what they have?  History would say no, but one can always hope.

Binghamton’s been so excruciatingly horrendous as a team, it’s got to be hard to distinguish how bad Driedger and O’Connor have been. Both pseudo-prospects are impending RFAs, so there’s no guarantee that the organization will offer one or both players qualifying offers, so maybe this is just Pierre Dorion putting both players on notice and giving them a proverbial boot in the ass to get their games going.

It’s more accurate to say Binghamton had a horrendous start to the season–so horrendous there’s no climbing out of the hole they dug (5-14-2).  Since then they’ve gone 15-11-1, which isn’t a world-beating pace (.574), but is at least adequate (particularly given the talent there).  I’m fond of Driedger, and he’s young enough (22) that I don’t think we know if he has NHL-chops yet or not.  O’Connor, I think, seems to be at his plateau.

Dorion: I think he’s [Lazar] someone that is putting a bit too much pressure on himself, but I still have a lot of faith in what Curtis can do. Maybe Curtis won’t be a first line (laughs) player like we thought he might have been when we drafted him

I put this quote here because I think it’s funny how many excuses management has for pluggers when there’s no patience for skilled players who struggle.  Thankfully it seems like Boucher doesn’t share the same irrational attachment.

Condon and Pyatt are two players I wouldn’t overexert myself trying to extend

I wouldn’t either.  The NHL is awash in players like them, but as Nichols points out, the Sens tend to extend such players.  Speaking of depth players, what’s happened to Erik Condra in Tampa?

Binghamton_Senators_svg

Since my last update the BSens have gone 6-7-0 (20-25-3 for the season), bringing their hot streak back down to normalcy (.461).  The powerplay has gone cold, operating at an underwhelming 11.3% (6-53; a percentage that would sit at 29th in the league), but the PK has been much healthier at 86.8% (33-38; tops in the league by percentage).  Players are organised by points-per-game (PPP=power play point):

Akeson 13-5-8-13 1.00 (4 PPP)
Varone 13-5-7-12 0.92 (2 PPP)
McCormick
13-5-3-8 0.61 (2 PPP)
Bailey 10-3-3-6 0.60 (2 PPP)
Harpur 13-0-7-7 0.53 (PPP)
Nehring 13-3-3-6 0.46 (PPP)
Rodewald 13-3-3-6 0.46 (2 PPP)
Rumble 13-1-5-6 0.46 (2 PPP)
Flanagan 13-3-2-5 0.38 (PPP)
Paul 13-2-3-5 0.38
Perron 13-1-2-3 0.23 (PPP)
Blunden 9-2-0-2 0.22
Gagne 9-0-2-2 0.22
Hagel 5-0-1-1 0.20 (acquired from Iowa)
Krushelnyski 12-1-1-2 0.16
Kostka 13-0-2-2 0.15
Englund 13-1-0-1 0.07
Carlisle 13-0-1-1 0.07
Sieloff 11-0-0-0
Lepine 8-0-0-0
Robinson 4-0-0-0 (traded)

Driedger 2-5-0 3.24 .909
O’Connor 4-2-0 3.45 .884
Greenham 0-0-0 6.66 .875

The 7-D rotation has gone out of vogue of late (the experiment lasted about a month, from late December to late January, changing with the acquisition of Hagel).  In terms of performances after the hot streak, a number of players have gone cold: Sieloff‘s unexpected production has stopped, but more surprisingly Carlisle has also gone cold (due, in part, to his partners; only Rumble and Harpur continues to add offense from the blueline); RodewaldPaul, and Flanagan have come back to earth, while BlundenPerron, and the other depth forwards continue to add very little.  On the positive side Akeson and Varone convincingly lead the anemic offense.  Driedger remains the best choice between the pipes, albeit his numbers have dropped more considerably than O’Connor‘s.

I’m not sure how much the arrival of Andrew Hammond in Binghamton actually helps–his AHL numbers have been underwhelming (by season: .910, .898, .864, .907).  It will also be interesting who he pushes out of the rotation (assuming Kleinendorst doesn’t go with all three)–it should be O’Connor.

wichita-thunder-logo

It’s been awhile since my last Wichita update (other than some roster moves).  The Thunder have been on a downward spiral, going 2-10-1 (15-26-4 for the season), putting them ahead of only two other teams in the entire ECHL and well below where Evansville was last year (any playoff aspirations are long gone).  It’s bad enough that I think it’s worth going through the roster (organised by points-per-game; rookies are in italics, players with Binghamton contracts are noted in green, players no longer on the roster are in red):

Jack Rodewald 6-5-3-8 1.33 (in Binghamton)
Alex Krushelnyski 6-2-5-7 1.16 (in Binghamton)
Zach O’Brien 16-6-11-17 1.06 (acquired from a German division-2 team)
Chris Rumble (D) 3-2-1-3 1.00 (in Binghamton)
Alexis Loiseau 30-16-13-29 0.96 (left for a German division-2 team)
Ryan Rupert 19-6-10-16 0.84
Vincent Arseneau 24-12-7-19 0.79
Jamie Doornbosch (D) 27-8-12-20 0.74
Matt DeBlouw 39-11-17-28 0.71
Louick Marcotte 38-9-14-23 0.60
Gabriel Gagne 15-5-4-9 0.60 (in Binghamton)
Nathan Moon 19-4-5-9 0.47 (traded to Toledo)
David Friedmann 44-10-10-20 (17-3-4-7) 0.45 (acquired from Fort Wayne)
Nick Trecapelli (D) 24-3-8-11 0.45 (traded to Atlanta)
Logan Nelson 18-2-6-8 0.44 (traded to Rapid City)
Macoy Erkamps (D) 38-2-14-16 0.42
Mitch Holmberg 17-3-4-7 0.41 (traded to Colorado)
Ian Lowe 37-5-10-15 0.40
Gerrad Grant 40-5-9-14 0.35
Jake Bolton (D) 31-1-10-11 (6-0-1-1) 0.35 (acquired from Atlanta)
Blake Tatchell 35-5-7-12 0.34
Landon Oslanski (D) 43-2-12-14 0.32
Ryan Tesink 41-2-11-13 0.31
Daultan Leveille 10-0-3-3 0.30 (traded to Brampton)
James Melindy (D) 44-2-10-12 0.27
Brandon Carlson (D) 18-2-3-5 0.27 (acquired from Indy)
Vincent Dunn 30-2-6-8 0.26
Alexis Vanier (D) 40-3-6-9 0.22
Martin Nemcik (D) 17-1-2-3 0.17 (traded to Utah)

Scott Greenham 8-7-2 3.30 .911
Drew Owsley 5-13-1 3.52 .898
Kent Patterson 6-6-2 4.24 .879 (acquired from Wheeling, then released)
Chris Driedger 0-2-0 4.51 .877 (in Binghamton)
Peter Di Salvo 0-2-0 6.08 .838 (loaned via the SPHL)

None of the goaltenders have done particularly well for the Thunder, but rookie Owsley has struggled the most and, with Greenham recalled to Binghamton for significant chunks of the season (the latter remains in the upper half of ECHL goalies in terms of save percentage–the last time Wichita was .500 was in December, sliding when Greenham was recalled), there’s been no real alternative.  The defensecorps has been a major problem, with Melindy and Doornbosch having particular defensive struggles.  The team also struggles to score (third last in the league) and the Sens have done little to alleviate the situation–players sent down (with the exception of Rupert) haven’t produced, suggestions made to management have failed (Moon, Leveille), and the most successful players are in Binghamton (Rodewald most particularly).  This is an instance where the AHL-franchise is benefiting from its ECHL-affiliate without providing much in return.

In terms of development for the Sens there’s nothing to get excited about; Dunn has completely bottomed out and is well behind last year’s scoring pace (0.26 vs 0.49); Macoy has been adequate, but you’d expect much better numbers at this level (as a point of comparison, Troy Rutkowski, another WHL-free agent signing, had worse numbers his rookie season, but Macoy is nowhere near Craig Schira who was able to play at the AHL-level to start).

freeagent

There’s a new name to add to CHL success stories, as defenseman Nick Holden is approaching 300 games in the NHL.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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)

Senators News & Notes

chris-kelly

About a week ago Nichols floated the idea of the Sens signing 35-year old, broken down Chris Kelly.  I thought the idea was verging on the ridiculous, but pointed out it would be a typical Bryan Murray signing (a player past his prime with a local connection).  Sadly this idea has come to pass as today the Sens signed their former draft pick to a one-year deal.  Kelly played all of 11 games last year after fracturing his left femur, but when healthy with the Bruins the year before put up typical numbers.  NHL players who aren’t goalies only decline in their 30s so to expect a performance akin to that wouldn’t be reasonable (Nichols sounds delightfully naive in learning Kelly hasn’t been great in the faceoff circle in years).  For those of you who want to read a positive spin on the signing both Nichols and Ross A are here for you–neither bothers to include substance behind what makes it a good move (analytics etc; in fairness to Ross his is basically a news blurb), with the former mostly being about the struggles of Curtis Lazar (and yes I agree time in Binghamton would be good for him).  Can I be persuaded this is a good move?  Maybe (with the appropriate numbers).  Could the move work out?  It’s possible, but to me it comes across as cheap fan-service to placate an aging and nostalgic fanbase.

echl

The Sens announced a new ECHL affiliate agreement with the Wichita Thunder.  As Ross A points out they are not conveniently located for Binghamton (or Belleville for that matter).  The term wasn’t listed (their deal with Evansville was for two years), but Witchita was actually worse than the IceMen this past season (second last in the league), so it’s not even necessarily an upgrade.  From what I can tell there’s no fan website or blog devoted to the team (unlike Evansville), so it appears news about the Thunder will only be available from official organs.

Free_Agent_logo_2

I decided to look back at my prognostication of the European free agent pool (posted back in March), so below includes all the NHL-signings (including players from previous lists) along with any other player-movement from the current crop:

Marcus Sorensen – signed by San Jose
Linus Hultstrom – signed by Florida
Lukas Bengtsson – signed by Pittsburgh
Anatoli Golyshev – drafted by the Islanders
Tim Heed – signed by San Jose (2015 list)
Jere Sallinen – signed by Edmonton (2013 list)

John Norman – KHL
Juuso Ikonen – signed by Djurgardens
Otso Rantakari – signed by Tappara
Sami Rajaniemi – signed by Jukurit
Konstantin Komarek – SHL

Understandably the question posed looking at lists like this is: how often do these signings work out?  The answer is sometimes (3-7): Panarin, Donskoi, and Brunner are or were solid signings (the jury is still out on Ronalds KeninsDennis Rasmussen and Borna Rendulic, although it’s likely they will land on the failure side).  What I will say is the odds of a European FA in this age category panning out is better than signings from the NCAA–whether that’s due to just how many college kids are signed (flooding the numbers) or something else I couldn’t say.  The above, incidentally, doesn’t include players like Melker Karlsson (SJ) who I never listed.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

An Eye on Europe

As I’ve done literally forever, here’s a look at potential European free agents who might cross the pond (a note for Sens fans: 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 trickle down effect where a player noted from a a few years before also gets picked up.  For a look at how to judge production in Europe and how it translates to the NHL, go here; while you can see European free agent success stories here.

SHL
John Norman 47-17-25-42
Had a career year with Skelleftea, the undrafted 25-year old is second in team scoring behind former San Jose draft pick Patrik Zackrisson, the numbers far above his usual production (previous high was 17 points in 2011-12); while an aberration in scoring should give GMs caution, it rarely does
Markus Ljungh 48-13-23-36
The 5’9 undrafted 25-year old had a career year with Djurgardens (just his second in the SHL), finishing third in scoring just ahead of Sorensen (below), but well behind team leader Patrick Thoresen
Marcus Sorensen 47-15-19-34
The player Ottawa drafted in 2010; the 23-year old has posted good, consistent numbers with Djurgardens the past four seasons (23, 30, 32, 34), and while his production won’t blow anyone out of the water, as an energy player it’s possible an NHL team takes a shot at him
Pathrik Vesterholm 52-7-26-33
The 24-year old former Vancouver draft pick (2011) had a career season with Brynas (his second in the SHL), finishing fourth in team scoring
Linus Hultstrom 52-12-19-31
The undrafted 23-year old, righthanded blueliner is coming off his second consecutive season as a top point-producer (this year for Djurgardens), just ahead of undrafted 26-year old Marcus Hogstrom; criticised for his defensive lapses, I think his offensive potential should be enough to entice someone to take a chance on him
Lukas Bengtsson 30-7-7-14
The undrafted 21-year old, righthanded defenseman has put together a strong, injury-plagued season with Frolunda, although the small sample size works against him
Joel Lassinantti 1.95 .921
I identified the undrafted 23-year old last year, but at 5’9 teams stayed away–perhaps yet another strong season with Lulea (fourth in the league in save percentage) will finally earn him a shot

Liiga
Juuso Ikonen 54-9-28-39
The 5’9 21-year old had a career year with Karpat, finishing behind Carolina draft pick Sebastian Aho; at his age it’s remarkable that this is his fourth full season playing in the Liiga; his size works against him
Jarno Karki 54-17-19-36
At 6’4 the 21-year old is a wet dream for some GMs; he had a career season with Assat, leading them in scoring; amusingly, former Red Line Report wet-dream Troy Vance (he’s 6’5!) is finishing out the poorly thought out ELC Dallas gave him three years ago here
Otso Rantakari 37-5-15-20
The 22-year old, righthanded blueliner struggled when moved mid-season to MODO from the Blues (17-0-4-4), but may have shown enough in Finland for teams to take a chance on him
Sami Rajaniemi 2.36 .915/1.52 .939
Has put up incredible numbers since getting loaned to Karpat by the Pelicans; the undrafted 23-year could be of interest
Dominik Hrachovina 2.34 .922
Consistently puts up better numbers at the highest level (Tappara) than in junior, but the sample size for the 21-year old Czech goaltender (17 games) might be too small for GMs

NLA
Lino Martschini 50-26-28-54
The 5’6, 23-year old undrafted forward may have finally done enough with Zug to get offers from NHL teams (Mats Zuccarello was too small for the NHL as well); he finished second in scoring behind former NHLer Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Niklas Schlegel 2.16 .925
At only 5’10, the 21-year old is unlikely to get an offer, but he did have a career season with ZSC; incidentally, this is where David Rundblad has wound up (on loan from Chicago)

KHL
Jan Kovar 58-20-32-52
It seems like I bring up the Czech forward every year, but it’s unlikely any NHL team can offer the 25-year old enough money to cross the pond by now; he’s put up excellent numbers in the KHL for the past five years
Anatoli Golyshev 56-25-19-44
The undrafted 21-year old forward put up career numbers with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg (leading them in scoring); signed until the end of time, it’s possible an NHL team could pry him loose
Danill Apalkov 59-16-27-43
The 24-year old forward had a career year with Lokomotiv, leading them in scoring; he’s signed through next season, so that (and the other problems with the KHL) make him crossing the pond unlikely

Other European Leagues
[All these players are more likely to sign AHL or ECHL deals if they are signed at all]
Petr Holik 52-11-30-41
One of only two players from the bottomed out Czech League I’ve included, the 24-year old forward had a career season with Zlin, leading the team in scoring by a comfortable margin; at 5’8 his chances of being signed are very slim (he’s much more likely to jump to the KHL)
Libor Kasik 1.90 .929
A career season for the 23-year old Zlin goaltender; by far the best numbers among younger Czech netminders; his size (5’11) will hurt him
Konstantin Komarek 42-17-23-40
Plays in a weak league (Austria), but the 23-year old had a career year with Salzburg, finishing fifth in overall scoring; the odds of him being signed are minute (he’s more likely to jump to a better European league)
Lukas Herzog 1.74 .928
The sample-size for the 23-year old is very small with Villacher (5 games at the top level), but his numbers are very good–like Komarek he’s far more likely to be signed to one of the higher European leagues
Mathias Niederberger 2.27 .930
The only player from the moribund DEL I’ve included, the 23-year old spent time in the CHL and briefly in the minor leagues previously before returning to Germany, but goaltenders are a strange breed and after a career year with Dusseldorfer he may earn himself another shot

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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 focussed 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 still a prospect).  The numbers next to the player’s name are their stats prior to being signed by an NHL team.

2006 (3)
Niklas Backstrom (G, Liiga) 32-9-10, 1.68, .940 – 409 games; remains with Minnesota
Patrick Thoresen (SEL) 50-17-19-36 – played 106 NHL games
Patrick Fischer (NLA) 44-21-32-53 – played 27 NHL games

2007 (4)
Jonas Hiller (G, NLA) 28-16, 2.60 – 378 games; with Calgary
Cory Murphy (D, Liiga) 45-13-37-50 – played 91 NHL games
Erik Ersberg (G, SEL) 41GP, 2.39, .908 – played 69 NHL games
Jaroslav Hlinka (Cze) 46-19-38-57 – played 63 NHL games

2008 (7)
Antti Niemi (G, Liiga) 26-14-6, 2.35, .926 – 328 games; won a Cup with Chicago; with San Jose
Ville Leino (Liiga) 55-28-49-77 – played 296 NHL games
Tim Stapleton (Liiga) 55-29-33-62 – 118 NHL games
Anssi Salmela (D, Liiga) 56-16-16-32 – played 112 NHL games
Fabian Brunnstrom (SEL) 54-9-28-37 – played 104 NHL games
Ryan Vesce (Liiga) 56-26-18-44 – 19 NHL games
Per Ledin (SEL) – played 3 NHL games

2009 (5)
Jonas Gustavsson (G, SEL) 42GP, 1.96, .932 – 106 NHL games; unsigned
Mika Pyorala (Liiga) 55-21-22-43 – played 36 NHL games
Henrik Karlsson (G, SEL) 34GP, 2.45, .914 – played 26 NHL games
Alexander Salak (G, Liiga) 20-20-9, 2.40, .923 – played 2 NHL games
Johan Backlund (G, SEL) 49GP, 2.56, .907 – played 1 NHL game

2010 (3)
Mats Zuccarello (SEL) 55-23-41-64 (1.16) – played 222 NHL games; remains with the Rangers
Jussi Rynnas (G, Liiga) 14-13-1, 2.71, .911 – played 4 NHL games
Marcel Muller (DEL) 53-24-32-56 – played 3 NHL games

2011 (3)
Raphael Diaz (D, NLA) 45-12-27-39 (0.86) – 201 NHL games; with the New York Rangers
Victor Bartley (D, Allsvenskan) 52-11-23-34 – 111 NHL games; remains with Nashville
Iiro Tarkki (G, Liiga) 20-20-14, 2.09, .924 – played 1 NHL game

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

2013 (2)
Michael Raffl (Allsvenskan) 49-24-22-46 – 135 NHL games; remains with Philadelphia
Reto Berra (G, NLA) 3.01 .906 – 50 NHL games; remains with Colorado

2014 (4)
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (SHL) 52-20-15-35 – played 82 NHL games; remains with Philadelphia
Dennis Everberg (Allsvenskan) 47-17-17-34 – played 67 NHL games; remains with Colorado
Melker Karlsson (SHL) 48-9-16-25 – 53 NHL games; remains with San Jose
Ronalds Kenins (NLA) 39-8-17-25 – played 30 NHL games; remains with Vancouver

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

Conclusions: the vast majority of the players signed (27 of 34) come from either the Swedish or Finnish leagues; 13 are or were NHL regulars (including those from last season).  The greatest successes are the goaltenders, which isn’t hugely surprising given that remains the biggest blind spot for scouts at the draft.  It’s interesting to note how dwarfed the number of players here is by those who arrive via the NCAA route, despite how large the available pool is in Europe.  Part of the reason for the smaller stream of players is the expense of properly scouting those players and the difficulty of deciphering how big ice hockey play will translate to smaller rinks.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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)

Judging Player Production in Europe

In my last post I made fun of efforts at translating production from other leagues to the NHL–it’s not that I don’t laud the effort, but I have yet to see a formula that can be applied to basic stats that makes sense.  To illustrate the point, I decided to highlight top North American performers in European leagues using this season to provide some insight (I’ve given their stats from this past season and then their best NA results and career totals; their current age is also in brackets).

KHL
Brandon Bochenski (32) 54-28-30-58 (NHL 41-13-11-24 06-07; NHL 156-28-10-68)
Nigel Dawes (29) 54-26-23-49 (NHL 66-14-18-32 09-10; NHL 212-39-45-84)
Kyle Wilson (29) 49-17-27-44 (NHL 32-4-7-11 10-11; AHL 427-149-170-319)
Dustin Boyd (27) 49-18-20-38 (NHL 71-11-11-22 08-09; NHL 220-32-31-63)

None of the players here truly established themselves as NHL regulars (although Dawes and Boyd did get to 200 games); that marginal existence (or in Wilson’s case, strong AHL career) has carried over to being excellent KHL players.  Does Bochenski’s domination of the KHL mean other players who dominate the league are Bochenski’s?  He out produced Ilya Kovalchuk, who was nearly a point-per-game in his last NHL season (12-13), but clearly isn’t anywhere near as talented as the Russian, so how much do their numbers matter?

NLA
Brett McLean (35) 50-18-26-44 (NHL 82-9-31-40 05-06; NHL 385-56-106-162)
Robbie Earl (28) 46-20-18-38 (NHL 32-6-0-6 09-10; AHL 313-66-103-169)
Alexandre Giroux (32) 46-20-18-38 (AHL 69-50-53-103 09-10; AHL 771-368-336-704)
Ahren Spylo (30) 47-16-22-38 (AHL 50-25-11-36 04-05; AHL 137-43-25-68)

These players have a less distinctive background in North America, being primarily AHL stars.  Joe Thornton was slightly better than a point-per-game player in the NLA (04-05), but this doesn’t mean Brett McLean is just a notch below him.  Not to beat my point to death, but clearly raw numbers from the league aren’t particularly useful in translating their production at the highest level

SHL
Chad Kolarik (28) 53-30-18-48 (AHL 76-31-37-68 12-13; AHL 277-98-111-209)
Ryan Gunderson (28) 54-8-33-41 (AHL 74-5-20-25 09-10; ECHL 156-9-98-107)
Rhett Rakshani (26) 55-13-25-38 (AHL 66-24-38-62 10-11; AHL 120-44-69-113)
Ryan Lasch (27) 54-20-16-36 (AHL 30-6-4-10 12-13; NCAA 161-79-104-183)

These players are quite similar to those above and I won’t bother making the point I’ve already made twice above.

Liiga
Ben Maxwell (26) 49-16-26-42 (AHL 73-22-36-58 08-09; AHL 296-68-140-208)
Corey Elkins (29) 54-15-25-40 (AHL 76-18-26-44 10-11; AHL 173-43-48-91)
Dan Sexton (27) 39-16-21-37 (NHL 41-9-10-19 09-10; AHL 144-36-64-100)
Aaron Gagnon (28) 48-17-19-36 (AHL 78-27-31-58; AHL 328-74-98-172)

The caliber here is quite Similar to the SHL.

DEL
Adam Courchaine (30) 51-29-45-74 (ECHL 42-21-28-49 05-06; ECHL 45-21-30-51)
Kevin Clark (26) 60-32-40-72 (AHL 72-12-19-31 11-12; AHL 160-26-60-56)
Blaine Down (31) 48-26-25-51 (AHL 54-8-13-21 02-03; AHL 134-18-28-46)
Derek Hahn (36) 52-12-34-46 (CHL 64-35-79-114 05-06; CHL 238-124-201-325)

This is a significant fall-off compared to the leagues above, as middling AHL and top ECHL players can make a big impact in the league.

The point of this isn’t to suggest we should give up the effort of understanding how a player’s performance in Europe translates at the next level, but as it stands all we can say with certainty is that big numbers in the top leagues (KHL, NLA, SHL, and Liiga) do translate at the AHL level (as they do in reverse).  Whatever limitations various players from either side of the Atlantic have, it seems like success in those leagues (or the AHL) easily moves back and forth, but that production does not have an obvious ratio at the next level.  I’m not sure what the solution to the conundrum is, but the problem shouldn’t come as a big surprise: massive point totals from junior players rarely translate to the NHL, but sometimes they do–the only certainty is that an absence of production at a lower level guarantees it will continue at the next.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)