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note: when I reference a player’s size below it’s not based on my own view of its importance, but rather the NHL’s outdated ideas about it.

SHL
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) [My understanding was that the rights for Swedish players expired after three years, but as the Sabres have signed him it appears to be four]
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).

Liiga
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 [I’m not sure if the same four-year rule for the SHL applies to the Liiga]

NLA
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

KHL
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)

Advertisements

Sens Sign CHL FA Aaron Luchuk to an ELC

The always perceptive Ary has an excellent post on the signing today and I highly recommend reading through it. I don’t want to rehash what’s in his piece, but rather supplement it.

So for those who missed it, Aaron Luchuk is a 20-year old (21 in April), undersized (5’10) left-handed center who spent most of his career with Windsor (recently traded to Barrie). He sailed through the drafts largely undetected, but there is one scouting report I’ll quote below. Let’s just put his numbers up first:

Aaron Luchuk, CL, DOB 97, 5’10
2015-16 OHL (Windsor) 68-27-26-53 (0.78, 5th ppg)
2016-17 OHL (Windsor) 68-28-32-60 (0.89, 4th ppg)
2017-18 OHL (Windsor/Barrie) 33-31-25-56 (1.69, 1st ppg)

Luchuk joins FA signee Parker Kelly as the second undersized forward the Sens have signed this fall–has Randy Lee finally figured out that it isn’t 1997 anymore and that size isn’t a precursor to success? I really doubt it, but I can hope.

It’s worth noting prospects who put up big numbers only as overagers are less likely to replicate those as pros. Ary addresses those concerns:

a majority of Luchuk’s points are at even-strength and are primary points (a goal or the first assist). There’s been a ton of work at the NHL level to say that secondary assists are a bit noisy, and that primary points are better predictors of future point production, so they’re indicators we look for when projecting prospect performance. According to prospect-stats.com, 49 of Luchuk’s 60 points last year were primary points (P1/gm ranked 52nd in the league); 40 of those 60 points were scored at even-strength — a high percentage. This year, Luchuk is fourth in the league in even-strength points (29 points in 33 games) and he leads the league in primary points per game with 1.36

So all that being said, what do we have from scouts on him? Not much, as I said above, as he was never ranked for the draft. However, Hockey Prospects did write about him in the lead-up to the 2015 draft:

Luchuk who was a real offensive threat and a perennial scorer in Minor Midget has had to adapt to a lesser role in the OHL thus far in his career and has done a very good job of embracing the change. He was primarily utilized in a third or fourth line role for the Spitfires and used his strong skating ability to factor in both the offensive and defensive side of the game.
He has good speed and will challenge defenders one on one. He has good puck handling ability and was also able to create offense with a deceptive shot. He works hard on the backcheck, keeping up with  opposing forwards and was usually a key part of the Spitfires penalty kill. We believe Luchuk might receive a little late round consideration. His offensive upside is somewhat untapped playing behind several veterans, so as he moves up the depth chart he will be able to show more of the offense he displayed in minor midget.

There was nothing written about him either in 2016 or this year, so despite the numbers Ary mentions above NHL teams did not take a flyer on him (due either to his size or perhaps the perception that he benefits from those playing around him).

I agree wholeheartedly with Ary that he’s a worthwhile gamble–I always encourage gambles with skill–I’d rather fail on a player who might help my team than some lumbering tool who clogs up the arteries of a team.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

European Free Agents of Interest

freeagent

I’ve been posting a piece like this for years (lot’s of publications do something similar with undrafted NCAA players, but that’s never really translated elsewhere).  I find it interesting to see who NHL GM’s take a chance on and which of those actually turn out (a note for Sens fans: Ottawa doesn’t partake).  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, go here; while you can see European free agent success stories here.  My focus is on players 25 and younger.

SHL
Scoring in the league is quite low
Johan Sundstrom, C, 24, 6’3 Frolunda 43-12-26-38
The first player listed that was actually drafted (2-50/11), spending three years spinning his tires in the Islanders system; that AHL experience may scare GM’s away, but equally they may think he wasn’t handled properly; he lead his team in both scoring and PPG (points-per-game)
Sebastian Aho D, 21, 5’10 Skelleftea 46-10-20-30
He could still be drafted, but has been passed over quite a few times already (he was ranked fairly highly in 2015, but largely forgotten last year); the reluctance is related to his size, but perhaps this year’s performance will be enough to overcome those fears (he’s second in the league in points and PPG among defensemen)
Par Lindholm, C, 25, 5’10 Skelleftea 35-14-15-29
Having a career year, albeit on a very talented team
Allsvenskan (tier-2)
Victor Ejdsell C/LW, 21, 6’5 Karlskoga 49-24-32-56
Given his size and gaudy numbers there’s a good chance someone will sign him

Liiga
Scoring ratios are higher than in the SHL
Henrik Haapala LW/RW, 23, 5’9 Tappara 48-14-43-57
Leads the league in both scoring and points-per-game, perhaps enough production to overcome NHL objections to his size; his stats aren’t being boosted by exceptionally talented linemates, so at least by Liiga standards, the Finn has had an epic season
Iikka Kangasniemi LW/RW, 22, 5’8 Pelicans 42-10-28-38
Given that he’s on a talented team these numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt; his size also makes it unlikely he’ll get a look, but it remains a possibility
Antti Suomela C, 22, 6’0 JYP 50-20-20-40
Leads his team in scoring and PPG, albeit he may be the beneficiary of a pair of veteran linemates
Mikko Lehtonen D, 23, 6’0 KooKoo 43-6-19-25
Currently loaned to HV71 (SHL) where he has lower numbers, he’s the top-performing blueliner in this age group in the Liiga, although GM’s might want to see him in another league for a full-season before taking a chance on him
Alexandar Georgiyev G, 21, 6’1 TPS 1.63 .924
Could be drafted as an overager; having a career year leading all goaltenders in his age group in both GAA and save percentage
Dominik Hrachovina G, 22, 5’10 Tappara 2.05 .922
Having a similar season to his last (a better GAA, but same save percentage); he’s probably too short for NHL teams to sign him

NLA
Scoring is about on par with the Liiga
Lino Martschini RW, 24, 5’6 Zug 50-23-26-49
I’ve brought the diminutive player up before, but his size scares GM’s away
Vincent Praplan LW/RW, 22, 5’11 Kloten 50-15-27-42
Played in the OHL (13-14) making him more familiar to scouts; he’s third on his team in scoring with enough separation from the next tier of players that his numbers don’t seem inflated
Yannick Rathgeb D, 21, 6’1 Gotteron 45-11-23-34
Played two seasons in the OHL (13-15), which is either a pro or con depending on how you look at it; he’s far and away the most productive blueliner on his team
Luca Boltshauser G, 23, 6’0 Kloten 2.60 .925
On the small side for NHL goaltenders, but has the best save percentage of other backstops in his age group
Niklas Schlegel G, 22, 5’10 ZSC 2.07 .920
Better overall numbers than his partner, although he’s played fewer games; on the small side which tends to prevent goaltenders from coming over

KHL
The huge gap in quality of teams creates wildly variant stats
Vladimir Tkachyov LW, 21, 5’10 Vladivostok 49-14-25-39
Spent two seasons in the QMJLH (13-15) and was considered by a few for the draft in 2015; he’s second on his team in scoring with a large gap between he and the next tier of production; his size may cause some hesitation for some GMs
Miro Aaltonen C/W, 23, 5’10 Vityaz 59-19-25-44
Drafted (6-177/13), but I believe Anaheim’s rights to him expire at the end of the season making him a free agent; I’m assuming his continued time in Europe is a sign of either his disinterest in signing with the Ducks or vice versa; his KHL numbers could be boosted from linemates 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 miles ahead of his blueline teammates in production

Other leagues (Czech, DEL, 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
Tomas Hyka RW. 23, 5’11 Czech Mlada Boleslav 47-17-21-38
Spent two years in the QMJHL (11-13) and was drafted by Los Angeles (6-171/12), but never signed; he substantially leads his team in scoring and if not signed by an NHL team is likely headed to the KHL
Leo Pfoderl RW/LW. 23, 6’0 DEL Nurnberg 52-22-26-48
Third on his team in scoring and likely helped by talented teammates; more likely to jump to a better paying European league (NLA or KHL)

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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)