Though 2012 saw most of its elite European talent playing in the CHL, the 2013 NHL Entry Draft will have plenty of prospects staying home for scouts to salivate over.
In Sweden, where the majority of high-end prospects seem to be coming from lately, there are another heap of high-end prospects coming along.
Likely the top prospect in Sweden is left winger Andre Burakovsky. The Austrian-born prospect plays for Malmo U20 in the SuperElit where he has been an impact performer earning him a stint in the The big forward shows some good hands and offensive awareness as well as being a strong skater.
Centre Jacob de la Rose playing for Leksand’s U20 and Allsvenskan teams where he plays his strong two-way game. The six-foot-two forward has the size and offensive skill that NHL teams love to have. He has not had the most productive season to date but his skills and overall package are already enticing NHL teams.
Elias Lindholm could be a high 2013 draft pick as well with his combination of offensive skills and sound defensive play. He has played some games for Brynas in the Elitserien this year but has really dominated with the U20 squad in the SuperElit.
Others to keep an eye on include another big forward with some skill is Djurgarden U18 winger Tobias Liljendahl who at six-foot-two has the physical game and offensive upside that will have NHL teams keeping an eye on his development. Skilled MoDo winger Gustav Possler who has been impressive pilling up points at all levels, from U18 to SEL, he has played this season.
Skelleftea U20 centre Lucas Wallmark does not have great size but does have some nice vision and offensive ability to keep an eye on. His all-round game has scouts excited.
Linkoping U18 forward Viktor Crus Rydberg first jumped into the spotlight at the TV-Pucken in 2009-10 for his offensive ability and has continued to be seen as a prospect with upside. While he has not put up gaudy point totals his last couple seasons, scouts still see some potential to watch.
On defense the top prospect looks to be MoDo’s two-way rearguard Robert Hagg. The young blue liner has nice size and exhibits poised intelligent play in all three zones. Hagg will likely stir some interest from CHL teams as a potential import pick.
Sweden isn’t the only country blessed with a strong crop. Russia has a trio of prospects that have already caught the eyes of scouts.
Chelyabinsk’s big and skilled goal scoring forward Valeri Nichushkin was impressive in Windsor at the U17’s and should also gain some interest for the import draft based on that showing. While he has not enjoyed as much success in the MHL over in Russia his blend of size, mobility and offensive skill make him a total package player with great upside.
Small but highly skilled CSKA forward Sergei Tolchinsky has elite offensive skills and the drive to match. His lack of size and strength will likely hold him back from being a top draft pick in 2013 but it’s hard not to love these little guys with speed, skill and the tenacity to match. He has been lighting up the MHL this season as a 16-year-old.
Nikita Zadorov, Tolchinsky’s teammate with CSKA, is a big two-way defender and one to watch. His blend of fluid mobility and offensive sense make him a dangerous threat to create offense for his team each time on the ice. He also possesses great size and is improving his defensive game this season. His projectable upside is what will keep him in the sights for scouts next year even if he stays in Russia.
Finland looks to have the best draft crop coming along in decades with the ‘94/’95 age group.
Leading the way is big two-way Tappara centre Aleksander Barkov. Why the Russian name? His Russian-born father, who is also named Alexander, played most of his professional career with Tappara in the SM-Liiga where he settled and started his family.
Barkov Jr. has excellent size, poise and a strong two-way game that really has scouts salivating over his professional potential. Barkov has excelled at every level he has played in despite often times being the youngest participant. He will likely be a top of the first round talent in the 2013 NHL draft.
TPS Defender Rasmus Ristolainen has really impressed as well during his play this season.
The six-foot-three poised and smart blueliner has been a favorite for 2013 due to his sound all-round play. He makes the right play all of the time that is hard to say about most NHL defenseman, let alone a 17-year-old He has great vision, moves the puck well and gets involved physically. He has the potential to really jump up the rankings as the draft approaches.
Other Finnish talent that are making noise for 2013 includes pint sized forward Jusso Ikonen who, despite being only five-foot-seven, has impressed against men in the SM-Liiga this year. Offensively skilled winger Artturi Lehkonen has been lighting up the junior ranks with TPS’s U18 and U20 teams. Good-sized goaltender Ville Husso is also catching scouts attention doing likewise with HIFK’s U18 and U20 squads.
The rest of the top 2013 European contingent includes talent from countries like Slovakia, Czech Republic and even Norway.
Slovakian centre Marko Dano of Dukla Trencin has played well this year both against men and his peers and has shown scouts just a glimpse of what he can do. His smarts and offensive creativity are elite.
Czech forward Patrik Zdrahal of HC Vitkovice is a solid offensive player who has some good upside as is HC Sparta Praha defender Jan Kostalek, a strong two-way defender who is safe in his own zone and able to consistently make strong breakout passes, both are worth keeping an eye on.
A Norwegian playing in Sweden has been getting some hype the last couple years and rightfully so. After destroying the U17 and U19 ranks in Norway, Markus Soberg moved to the Frolunda hockey club and has shown the skating ability and shot to keep goalie honest.
While the CHL Import Draft will certainly bring a few of these names to North America early, there is enough depth out of Europe to make the 2013 NHL Entry Draft an intriguing one.