Unbelievably, the NHL Draft is next week.
It seems like three days ago I was saying goodbye to my Pittsburgh Penguins. It seems like yesterday I was watching (for some reason), the ridiculous, unnecessary, trying-to-be-something-it's-not NHL Combine. Alas, the season has finally ended and a new champion crowned. And now, for every team in the NHL, its time to start over.
The draft is the start of the offseason, where team scouts prove their mettle or die trying.
You'll hear a lot about the top ranked North American players (those plying their trade in junior or college hockey somewhere on THIS continent), but I'm here to bring you the story of the top-ranked European prospects heading into the Draft next weekend in Los Angeles.
Click on "Begin Slideshow." Get to know the Euros.
Granlund heads into the draft as the top-ranked European skater.
At 5'10, 180 pounds, he isn't physically ready to jump into an NHL lineup and make an impact anytime soon.
He's projected to go anywhere between the sixth and 10th pick overall, and in a few years should develop into a very serviceable NHL center.
With his size and determination, he draws obvious comparisons to countryman Saku Koivu. Like Koivu, he's the prototypical Finnish player: undersized, determined, scrappy, hardworking, with great vision and phenomenal hockey sense.
Granlund was also the SM-Liga's Rookie of the Year this past season.
One potential red flag: He sued his original SM-Liga team after only two games when he and his agent spotted a problem with his contract. The two sides eventually settled out of court and he moved on to HIFK. While it may not seem like a big deal, do not underestimate the fact that every team to interview Granlund will grill him with questions about what happened.
Tarasenko is one of the more intriguing prospects in this draft.
If he had played in the CHL, he would be mentioned in the same breath as Hall and Seguin. However, having spent the past two years in the KHL, he's off many casual North American fan's radars.
Tarasenko is, simply put, a poor man's Alex Ovechkin. He is a great all-around player, with a lethal shot and a knack for playmaking as well. Similar to Ovechkin, he loves the physical aspect of the game.
He is projected to go as high as seventh and as low as 20th. The big question here, with most Russian prospects today, is how soon would he be able to land on this continent?
His father (also his KHL team's coach) has made it no secret that he wants his son to stay in Russia for the near future.
The New York Rangers, holding the 10th overall selection, have already expressed interest in the 5'11", 202 pound winger. However, there are many teams who may not risk their first round pick on a player who already has a lucrative KHL contract.
Again, so I don't have to explain it every time I write about a prospect from Mother Russia, any team drafting a Ruskie prospect is playing Russian Roulette.
Kuznetsov seems to be the prototypical Russian player. Fast, electric, and dynamic in his own end. He possesses an elite skill set and natural scoring ability. His greatest attribute may be his sense of patience with the puck.
At just a shade over 170 pounds, he obviously needs to bulk up, but since he was only born in 1992, he's got a lot of time for that.
While he could emerge as the best Russian in the draft, there are some concerns surrounding Kuznetsov. As he is still very young, he shows his immaturity on the ice far too often. Bouts of diving and being baited into retaliatory penalties need to be curbed.
He'll be a late first round/early second round pick.
The talented Swedish center is one of the fastest-rising prospects entering the draft.
NHL Central Scouting had him ranked a pedestrian 21st among European skaters at their midterm point, but he finished ranked fourth on their list.
Jarnkrok started the season playing with Brynas Jr., but made the jump up to the SEL after an impressive start.
He is billed as an elite playmaker with impressive speed and has drawn comparisons to Marc Savard.
The top-rated Swedish prospect has impressed scouts with his attitude both on and off the ice, but at a measly 156 pounds, he is a long way from the NHL.
He will be a long term investment for whatever team drafts him. He's projected to go around 35-40th in the draft.
The first thing worth noting with Rensfeldt is his size. At 6'3", 192 pounds, he would already make an imposing pro.
While Ludvig is insanely physically strong everywhere on the ice, he is inconsistent with his size. What does that mean? It means he doesn't always play to his size. Scouts have been vocal about wanting him to play like he the 6'3" he actually is.
Having said that, the Swede is impressive at both ends of the ice and has an above-average shot. He likes to pattern his game after Vincent Lecavalier. We'll let you decide whether or not that's a pro or a con.
Ludvig is at best a secondary NHL scorer. Think of Freddy Modin. He may be drafted earlier than his fellow countryman Calle Jarnkrok, just based on size.
At the ripe old age of 14, Kitsyn was taking part in pro training camps in Russia which prematurely made people speculate on his prodigy potential.
While he hasn't exactly lived up to that kind of hype, Maxim is an interesting prospect.
Kitsyn is a big body (6'2", 194 pounds) and a strong power forward with solid hands. Scouts will look at his skating as a weakness.
His stock has dropped a bit since the beginning of the year, thanks in part to a poor showing (along with his entire Russian team) at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Saskatchewan, where Kitsyn tallied just three assists for the whole tournament.
He finished his season in Russia strong, leading his junior team to the finals and leading all playoff scorers with 21 points in 17 games.
Lindberg has drastically improved in every year of his development in Sweden.
Scouts rave about his strong play and the commitment he shows everywhere on the ice. They also won't mind the fact that he has led the SuperElit Junior league in faceoff percentage in each of the last two seasons.
Lindberg is part of a large group of Swedish prospects who should dominate the third, fourth, and fifth rounds of the upcoming draft.