NHL Entry Draft: Six Europeans Who Could Shake Up The Draft

Mitch HeimpelContributor IFebruary 2, 2011

NHL Entry Draft: Six Europeans Who Could Shake Up The Draft

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    Europeans are wild cards in the NHL Draft. Some teams, like the Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs have done some very notable work in pulling NHL talent out of Europe. While the Caps have done the majority of their work in the first round, Detroit's Hakan Andersson and Toronto's Thommie Bergmann have done most of their work in later rounds.

    The Swedes have dominated the European contingent in recent draft classes. Top end Swedes like Magnus Paajarvi, Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson and Mattias Tedenby have already made their impact in the NHL. Swedes Adam Larsson and Gabriel Landeskog are the top ranked skaters for this year's draft.

    The lack of a transfer agreement between the NHL and the Russian Hockey Federation has stifled the flow of Russians into the NHL in recent years but its also had an unintended side effect. Top Russian prospects have started migrating to North America for Major Junior in an attempt to increase their draft stock and forego transfer issues. Russian trained prospects Vladimir Tarasenko and Evgeny Kuznetsov both found themselves selected in the first round selections last year.

    The Finns have put forward top prospects in recent years with Toni Rajala, Teemu Pulkkinen and Mikael Granlund but only Granlund managed to go gate-to-gate as a first round. Though, Pulkkinen and Rajala both followed up their drafts with strong performances the next season.

    Meanwhile, the Czechs and Slovaks are still having trouble consistently developing top end talent and even when they do, they're having trouble convincing them to stay at home to develop. They tend to either leave before their draft year as Tomas Jurco, Petr Straka and Jakub Culek have. Or they leave immediately after as Richard Panik and Martin Marincin did.

    Who will come after Larsson out of Europe at this year's Draft? Here are the five European Prospects who could shake up the 2011 NHL Entry Draft...

Honourable Mentions

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    Max Friberg: (pictured) Friberg probably wouldn't be on this list but for the fact that he had an excellent showing at the World Juniors. He's not the biggest prospect but his puck pursuit and seemingly non-stop motor made an impression. He's having a very good season for Skovde IK in the little known Swedish Division 1 League. With scouts on his scent now, Friberg's chances of being selected at the draft are very high.

    Jonas Brodin: Lesser light Swedish defensemen are some times tougher to judge. Brodin reminds me a little of the way Johan Motin (EDM) was viewed in the early part of his draft year in 2008. Brodin hasn't put up big numbers this season at all, so scouts are making evaluations based on tools. Not having ideal size or showing particular chippiness, the Farjestad product is a true wild card.

    Nikita Dvurechensky: Canadian fans are likely still seeing the speedy Russian in their dreams. Dvurechensky's go-ahead goal was crucial to the Russian comeback in the Gold Medal Game. With quick feet, quick hands and good size, Dvurechensky might just have shown scouts enough at the World Juniors to get by the fact that there are still transfer issues between Russia and the NHL.

    Oscar Klefbom: A hulking defender from Farjestad, it wouldn't be surprising to see a few scouts who like Klefbom a little more than teammate Jonas Brodin. Klefbom has been gifted with size and leadership skills that have allowed him to Captain Team Sweden in international competitions. He's a bit of a project but with some upside.

Mika Zibanejad

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    Photo Courtesy of Dan Sallows

    ISS Rank: Outside the Top 30

    Central Scouting Rank: Third

    Bob McKenzie's Midterm Ranking: 19

    Club Team: Djurgarden - Swedish Elite League

    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 191

    NHL Comparable: Ryan Kesler

    Rundown: Zibanejad is one of those great Djurgarden Swedes. He's a very strong two-way player who plays a physical game. He was arguably Sweden's best player at the 2010 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Some Swedish observers have compared his hockey sense to Peter Forsberg, which is taking it a bit far but he's definitely got the skillset that's going to cause him to go higher than expected in the Draft.

    Zibanejad has expressed a willingness to consider crossing the pond and play Major Junior if that kind of opportunity were to arise. That's going to be something GMs are going to love hearing during his Combine interviews.

Joel Armia

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    ISS Rank: 11th

    Central Scouting Rank: Second

    Bob McKenzie's Midterm Rank: 15th

    Club Team: Assat - SM Liga

    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 191

    NHL Comparable: Bobby Ryan

    Rundown: What jumps out at you first about Armia is obviously his size. How many goal scorers with his size have his hands? Armia is still growing into his frame, so he's not as rugged as he could be for a player with his build. But the same thing could be said of Ryan at that age. As he grows and fills out, he'll be more comfortable asserting himself in traffic and creating some space.

    What you can't teach is finishing instincts. Armia has those in spades and seventeen year-olds don't score a lot of goals in Finland's top men's league everyday.

Dmitrij Jaskin

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    ISS Rank: 17th

    Central Scouting Rank: 5th

    Bob McKenzie's Midterm Rank: 43rd

    Club Team: HC Slavia Praha - Czech

    Height: 6'1"

    Weight: 196

    NHL Comparable: Radek Dvorak

    Rundown: Jaskin carries both Czech and Russian citizenship but makes his home in the Czech leagues. The scorer had a chance to jump to Major Junior this season with the Calgary Hitmen but in a rare move for Czech prospects lately, he chose to stay at home for an extra seasons at least.

    Jaskin is going to be trying to overcome a recent trend. The last Czech to go post-to-post as a top prospect was Jakub Voracek back in 2007. A lot of Czechs have waned as the season has gone on. What Jaskin has are great hands and a solid release with a little bit of physical involvement. As the above rankings show, he could be a first round pick or he could almost fall out of the second round entirely.

Jyrki Jokipakka

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    ISS Rank: Outside the Top 30

    Central Scouting Rank: 28th

    Bob McKenzie's Midterm Rank: Outside the Top 65

    Club Team: Ilves - SM Liga

    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 190

    NHL Comparable: Niklas Hjalmarsson

    Rundown: Jokipakka slipped through last year's draft but after his performance for Finland at the World Juniors, it's unlikely that result will be repeated this year. Sami Vatanen was supposed to be the Finnish star on the blue-line at this year's tournament, but it seemed like every time the towering defender from Ilves was on next to him, Jokipakka stole the show.

    His strong defence was what made his name at this tournament but he did chip in offensively and his numbers since being called up to the Ilves big club this year are respectable for a nineteen year-old defender in Finland's top league. With his raw tools, he could prove a worthwhile project.

Victor Rask

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    ISS Rank: 14th

    Central Scouting Rank: 9th

    Bob McKenzie's Midterm Rank: 16th

    Club Team: Leksand - Allsvenskan

    Height: 6'1.5"

    Weight: 194

    NHL Comparable: Loui Eriksson

    Rundown: Rask is a finisher and has been more most of the time he's been scouts' radar. His hands and his shot make him something of an oddity at a position where one is used to finding puck distributors. That's enough to make one wonder if Rask's future in the NHL might not be as a winger rather than a forward. If a team falls in love with Rask they could take him very highly, much the same as it was with his countryman, Zibanejad.

    That having been said, the concern is going to be ceiling. Because if he's not in a scoring role, he's unlikely to be an NHLer.

Benjamin Conz

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    ISS Rank: Outside the Top 30

    Central Scouting Rank: 4th (European Goalies)

    Bob McKenzie's Midterm Rank: Outside the Top 65

    Club Team: Langnau - NLA

    Height: 5'10"

    Weight: 207

    NHL Comparable: Tomas Vokoun

    Rundown: Well, something's going to give this year. Back in 2009, Mark Seidel's NACS Agency had Ben Conz as a Top 60 prospect but the diminuitive Swiss netminder went undrafted. In 2010, everyone figured after a stellar performance against the Russians at the World Juniors, stealing a game from Russia and being named the Tournament's top goalie, that' he'd be drafted.

    And he wasn't.

    This year, again he did his level best to steal every game the Swiss played in. And he came close a couple times against the Americans and Canadians. Conz is an acrobat whose elastic limbs are now a World Junior legend. When Conz is good, he's almost unbeatable. When he's not on his game, he's very average. It's that mercurial nature that has likely kept him undrafted. But one has to think that he won't be denied a third time.