NHL Draft 2011: Power Ranking the Top 15 Draft-Eligible Europeans

Matt DonohueContributor IApril 27, 2011

NHL Draft 2011: Power Ranking the Top 15 Draft-Eligible Europeans

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    BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 31: Defenseman Adam Larsson #5 of Sweden during the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship game between Canada and Sweden on December 31, 2010 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    With the NHL Playoffs in full swing, and the NFL draft garnering so much attention these days, it's easy to forget about the NHL Draft, which takes place June 24-25 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

    This draft is expected to be one that boasts a strong European contingent, with as many as three possibly going in the top 10. 

    The following list ranks the 15 best draft-eligible Europeans, each of which will have a chance at becoming stars in the NHL.

    Keep in mind, when referring to the Central Scouting Bureau (CSB) rankings, players are ranked based on where they are currently playing hockey, and not their place of birth.

    With that, enjoy the list, and let the debate begin.

15. Samu Perhonen (Goalie)

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    Perhonen is a goalie from Finland, which usually means one thing—he's good.

    Finland has emerged as a goalie factory over the past decade and, with Perhonen standing at 6'3", he is a virtual clone of countryman Tuukka Rask.

    He was the Central Scouting Bureau's top ranked goaltender coming out of Europe for the entire season, but scouts have projected him going at some point in the second round.

    Photo via www.eurohockey.com

14. Oscar Klefbom (Defence)

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    Hailing from Sweden, Klefbom skated with Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League this season as a 17-year-old, notching just two points in 23 games.

    Still, there is plenty of optimism surrounding Klefbom who, standing at 6'2" 201 pounds, possesses the size to be effective in the NHL.

    Whomever drafts him this season can expect him to play another couple seasons in the SEL before coming overseas to North America.

    Photo via www.farjestadsbk.se

13. Max Friberg (Left Wing)

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    BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 03:  Max Friberg #14 of Sweden skates against Russia during the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship Semi Final game between Sweden and Russia on January 3, 2011 in Buffalo, New York. Russia won 4-3 and faces Canada in the gold medal gam
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Friberg has played himself onto this list this past season, with a strong performance in the 2011 WJHC.

    He was a virtual unknown heading into this season, especially since he was still playing in the division below the Swedish Elite League.

    Standing at just 5'10" there are concerns about his size, but scouts will tell you he is not afraid to do the dirty work in the corner, and has the offensive ability to make up for it. 

    People may remember this goal he scored against Canada in Sweden's win over Canada at the WJHC.

12. Dmitri Jaskin (Right Wing)

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    The past few NHL drafts have not seen a lot of Czech players get drafted very high, but Jaskin could change that in 2011.

    Jaskin was born in Russia but moved to the Czech Republic at a young age, where he learned to play hockey. He played this past season in the Czech league with men twice his age, but still put up a respectable ten points in 33 games.

    With his CHL-rights owned by the Calgary Hitmen (WHL), we could see the CSB's fifth-ranked European skater plying his trade in North American sometime soon.

    Photo via www.thehockeynews.com

11. Rickard Rakell (Right Wing)

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    TORONTO, CAN - JANUARY 19:  Rickard Rakell #25 of Team Cherry poses for a Head Shot prior to skating in the 2011 Home Hardware Top Prospects game on January 19, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Rakell currently plays for the Plymouth Whalers (OHL) and notched 43 points in 49 games during the 2010-11 season.

    The 6'1" 185-pound winger looked comfortable playing the North American style game, which should benefit him for the upcoming draft.

    Some mock drafts out there have him being picked late in the first round, while others see him as a sure-fire second rounder.

10. Alexander Khokhlachev (Left Wing/Center)

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    Khokhlachev ascended up the CSB rankings finishing the season ranked 29th for North American skaters, following a 45th rank at mid-season.

    This rise can be attributed to his 76-point season with the Windsor Spitfires (OHL) this year. He has continued this output in the playoffs with 19 points in 17 games, leading the Spitfires to the Western Conference finals.

    Khokhlachev is projected to be a late first, early second round pick in June.

9. Tomas Jurco (Right Wing)

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    BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 31: Forward Tomas Jurco #13 of Slovakia carries the puck during the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship game between Slovakia and Finland on December 31, 2010 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Many of you will already be familiar with Jurco because of this. Or this. Or maybe this.

    You get the point—this guy has great hands. More importantly though, is that this guy can also play. Playing in the QMJHL for the past two seasons, Jurco has put up 107 points to go along with a plus-80 rating.

    Nominated for the QMJHL ROY award in 2009-10, Jurco also participated for Slovakia in the 2011 WJHC.

8. Nicklas Jensen (Right Wing)

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    TORONTO, CAN - JANUARY 19:  Nicklas Jensen #17 of Team Cherry skates against Team Orr in the 2011 Home Hardware Top Prospects game on January 19, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. Team Orr defeated Team Cherry 7-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen
    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Playing in his first season in North America with the Oshawa General (OHL), Jensen did not look out of place, scoring 29 goals and 58 points in 61 games.

    The 6'3" 185-pound winger still needs to fill out his lanky frame to make it to the next level, but he is widely regarded as the best prospect to ever come out of Denmark.

    He is projected to go late in the first round or early second come June.

7. Vladislav Namestnikov (Center)

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    TORONTO, CAN - JANUARY 19:  Vladislav Namestnikov #18 of Team Orr poses for a Head Shot prior to skating in the 2011 Home Hardware Top Prospects game on January 19, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Playing for the Hunters in London (OHL) has been a blessing for many young prospects, often preparing them well for the NHL. Namestnikov impressed in his first year with the Knights, scoring 68 points in as many games.

    Namestnikov finished the season ranked as the 11th best skater coming from North America, but will need to bulk up his 6'0" frame to succeed at the next level.

    This video shows some his highlights from the 2010-11 season with London.

6. Jonas Brodin (Defence)

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    Brodin plays for Farjestad (SEL) along with Oscar Klefbom, whom we saw earlier on this list, scoring four points in 42 games.

    Brodin finished the season as CSB's third ranked European skater, with some scouts projecting him to go as high as a top 15 pick in the upcoming draft.

    Brodin is a very strong skater who stands at 6'1" 170 pounds, and is expected to spend at least one more season overseas in the Swedish Elite League.

    Photo via www.eliteprospects.com

5. Joel Armia (Right Wing)

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    BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 26:  Joel Armia #20 of Finland carries the puck during the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship Group A game between USA and Finland on December 26, 2010 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Nicknamed "The Finnish Ace," 17-year-old Armia put up 29 points in 48 games with Assat in Finland's top league.

    Scouts see Armia as a potential power forward in the NHL with his 6'3" frame. The CSB ranked him as the fourth best prospect coming out of Europe for the upcoming draft.

    In terms of where he will be drafted, some scouts have him going as high as the Top 10, while others have him getting picked late in the first round.

4. Mika Zibanejad (Center)

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    Zibanejad climbed up to No. 2 on CSB's ranking of European skaters following a strong season that saw him called up to Djurgarden (SEL) in December.

    In 26 games with Djurgarden, he scored five goals and nine points. The 6'2" center also showed great promise at the 2010 U-17 tourney, with nine points in six games.

    Zibanejad is projected to go in the top 15, with some scouts feeling he could squeak into the top 10.

    Photo via www.nhl.com

3. Sven Baertschi (Left Wing)

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    The native of Switzerland, Baertschi finished the season as CSB's seventh-ranked skater coming out of North America following a strong season for Portland (WHL).

    Baertschi scored 34 goals and 85 points in 66 games, and was awarded the WHL's Western Conference Rookie of the Year. He also represented his country at the 2011 WJHC, helping Switzerland to a surprising fifth place finish.

    Baertschi will follow in the footsteps of countryman Nino Niederreiter and Portland teammate by getting drafted in the first round in June, with many scouts projecting him to go anywhere from pick 10-15.

2. Adam Larsson (Defence)

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    LAKE PLACID, NY - AUGUST 05:  Adam Larsson #5 of Team Sweden skates against Team Finland at the USA Hockey National Evaluation Camp on August 5, 2010 in Lake Placid, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Larsson has long been mentioned in the group of five or six prospects who could go first overall in the upcoming draft. He began playing for Skelleftea HC (SEL) at the age of 16, and has remained there for the past three seasons.

    Larsson possesses NHL size, standing in at 6'2" and 205 lbs., and could crack a NHL roster as early as next season.

    His father, Robert, was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 1988 but never played a game in the NHL.

    I'm pretty sure we can expect that Adam will fare much better in the North American game than his father.

1. Gabriel Landeskog (Right Wing)

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    TORONTO - AUGUST 17: Gabriel Landeskog poses for a portrait during the 2010 NHL Research, development and orientation camp at the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence August 17, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)
    Graig Abel/Getty Images

    Landeskog had 66 points in 53 games this season with the Kitchener Rangers (OHL) which was shortened due to an ankle injury. This injury also limited him to just one game with Sweden at the 2011 WJHC.

    Following the 2008-09 season in which he appeared in three games in the SEL, he left home for Canada by himself to pursue a career in the OHL.

    With a combination of skill and strength, Landeskog plays a similar game to that of his idol, Peter Forsberg. 

    This video highlights some of the features of his game that will surely make him a top 5 pick in June.