Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Top 15 Overlooked Imports

As previously mentioned, here's my list of the top imports not selected in the 2010 CHL Import Draft; however, there are 15 instead of 10 (with a few honourable mentions). Because so many teams "passed" their picks, it makes sense to point out who teams could have had. Enjoy!

#15. Victor Berglind (D, Brynäs J20 - SuperElit)
Berglind's size and stats ensure that he is seen as an offensive defenceman: 6 goals and 21 points in 30 SuperElit games and 7 assists in 6 games at the U18 tournament. Berglind must have some grit with his game too having logged 85 PIMs in the SuperElit league.

Victor is a legitimate NHL prospect for the 2011 NHL draft, and I'm sure the reason he was passed over in the CHL Import Draft was due to his intentions to play in the Swedish Elitserien, which is quite common for top-end prospects out of that country. Doing so certainly won't hurt his stock, so it's a logical decision to stay with Brynas.

#14. Bohumil Jank (D, HC Ceske Budejovice U20 - Czech U20)
Jank is a good-sized (6'2", 187 lbs.) defender out of the Czech U20 league who is sound defensively with some decent offensive upside. In 20 games with Ceske Budejovice's U20 team, Bohumil had 10 points in 20 games and 88 PIMs. He played well enough to earn a call-up to the Czech Extraliga where he played in 9 games. Jank also finished third in team scoring at the U18 tournament this year with 5 points in 6 games, and was the Czech team's best defenceman.

A '92-born who was passed over in the 2010 NHL draft, Jank is still a prospect to keep an eye on and will probably make the Czech Republic's U20 World Junior team.

#13. Miikka Salomäki (F, Kärpät U20 - Jr. A SM-Liiga)
Salomäki is a dynamic offensive forward out of Kärpät's system in the Finnish Jr. A SM-Liiga. In 37 games for the U20 team, Salomäki had 18 goals and 25 assists to go with 93 PIM. Internationally, Miikka represented Finland twice, getting one point at the U18s and 3 points at the U17s. Salomäki is definitely has a lot of potential for the 2011 NHL draft as one of Finland's top forwards, and will likely try to break into the men's SM-Liiga next season.

#12. Gregory Hoffmann (F, Ambrì-Piotta U20 - Swiss Elite Jr. A)
With the recent success of Swiss players in the CHL, Hoffmann being omitted from the Import Draft really surprised me as he was, in my opinion, the best Swiss forward available. In 43 games with Ambri-Piotta's U20 team in the Swiss Elite Jr. A league, Hoffmann had 25 goals and 30 assists for 55 points. He scored 5 goals for Switzerland at this year's U18s and was named one of their top 3 players. Look for Hoffmann to be Switzerland's top selection in the 2011 NHL draft, and don't be surprised to see him playing in the CHL for the 2011-12 season after proving his stock in the Swiss men's league this year.

#11. Lars Volden (G, Stavanger Oilers - Norway)
Volden is definitely a prospect worth keeping an eye on as goalies tend to take longer to develop. He has solid size at 6'3" and 190 lbs., but is a relative unknown considering he split the '09-'10 season in Norway's first and second mens' leagues. Lars had awesome numbers with Norway at the D1 WJCs, posting a 1.47 goals against average and .958 save percentage for the powerhouse team. His numbers were far less impressive during the D1 U18s, but he was named the tournament's best goalie so he couldn't have been too bad.

Volden has decided to sign with the Finnish U20 league where he will play for Blues and hopes to be picked in the 2011 NHL draft. Definitely not a bad idea considering how raw of a talent he is, but I am still shocked that nobody in the CHL would want to roll the dice with Volden.

#10. Victor Rask (C, Leksand J20 - SuperElit)
Rask is a home-grown talent for Sweden's Leksand team, born in the city and has played for them through his entire career to date. As a 17 year old, Victor led his SuperElit team in points by 9 after collecting 22 goals and 19 assists in 39 games. He also dominated the U18 and U17 tournaments for Sweden, posting 5 and 8 points respectively.

Rask is an awesome talent, currently pegged as a mid-first round selection for the 2011 NHL draft. It really is no surprise to see him stay in Sweden next year to play for Leksand in the Allsvenskan league, but other top-end talents have made the jump to the CHL before, so I'm surprised nobody tried to do the same with Rask.

#9. Samuel Guerra (D, Davos U20 - Swiss Elite Jr. A)
Guerra is an offensive defenceman out of the HC Davos program in Switzerland, and he seems to have a knack for scoring goals. Samuel scored 22 points in 32 U20 games this past season, half of which were goals. He also played for the Swiss U18 team, scoring two goals in 6 games there. For an offensive defenceman, Guerra has decent size for an defenceman at 6'0" and 181 lbs.

I'm not sure why he wasn't selected by a team looking for points from the back-end in any of the CHL leagues, especially the Q where goal-scoring defenceman are an awesome commodity.

#8. Arturs Kuzmenkovs (D, Metalurgs Liepaja-2 - Latvia)
Kuzmenkovs is a personal favourite: he is a late '93 hailing from the Latvian league's Metalurgs Liepaja. The Latvian team isn't exactly a hotbed for NHL-level, or even CHL-level, talent; however, Kuzmenkovs is an exception to the rule. Arturs started the season with Liepaja's U18 team, which he absolutely destroyed with 6 goals and 18 assists in 6 games (note: he actually finished the season as the team's top-scoring defenceman). These numbers earned Kuzmenkovs a call-up to the U20 team where he finished 9th in team scoring with 19 points in 24 games.

Now, normally I wouldn't even care about these numbers as there is generally no comparative basis with the Latvian leagues; thankfully though, Kuzmenkovs played for the Latvian team at the U18 tournament where he led the team in points with 6 in 5 games. These numbers were good enough for third in defencemen scoring behind Adam Clendening from the US and the aforementioned Berglind, both of which had a much better supporting cast.

Kuzmenkovs is not NHL draft-eligible until 2012, so I'm curious to see how his stock goes from here: getting the call by a CHL team would have been awesome, and OHL teams tend to draft Latvian defencemen so it could have been a great fit. Maybe next year!

#7. Corey Mapes (D, Jungadler Mannheim - DNL)
Mapes happened to play for powerhouse teams wherever he went this year, which may have actually hurt him more than hit help him as far as a NHL career goes. Mapes was passed over in the 2010 NHL draft after finishing with 15 goals and 38 points in 36 games for Mannheim's U18 team - the same team as import selections Keil, Hoefflin, and Koren. His numbers were good enough for first in team defencemen scoring and second in league defencemen scoring by only 1 point. Mapes then scored 4 goals and 9 points for the German D1 U18 team; however, those numbers were only good for second in team defensive scoring behind Konrad Abeltshauer.

A change of scenery to the CHL definitely would have done some good for Mapes, who, again, could provide some awesome offensive skills to any team's defensive core. Otherwise, I don't see Mapes proving his skills to anybody in terms of a North American hockey career.

#6. Emil Lundberg (LW, Södertälje J20 - SuperElit)
I, if anything, discredit the Swedes when it comes to producing talent, but I have to give it up for Emil Lundberg as he could just be the real deal. Lundberg is a late '93, being born a day too late for the '11 NHL draft, and split this season with Södertälje's U18 and U20 teams. The 6'3", 198 lb. winger absolutely demolished his competition in the U18 league, posting 20 goals and 21 assists in 20 games. This demolition only happened on the scoresheet though, as Lundberg had only 10 PIM in those games. Regardless, these numbers earned Lundberg a call-up to the U20 team, where he posted rather poor numbers (18GP-2G-2A-4P), but he was used in more of a depth role so there is no surprise there.

Look for Lundberg to dominate the SuperElit league this year for Södertälje, and perhaps next year a CHL team will bring him over to learn the North American game. Either way, North Americans should get to see Lundberg representing Sweden at the 2012 WJCs in Alberta, as either a checker or a scorer.

#5. Ondrej Havlicek (C, HC Slovan Usti nad Labem - Czech U20)
CHL teams have two tendencies when it comes to drafting imports: either draft now and build for the future, or draft now and boost the team's talent as a contender. A '91-born, Havlicek would have been a solid selection for the latter, posting 100 points in 54 games over the past two seasons with HC Slovan's team in the Czech U20 league. He would only have been useful for one season though, so it looks as though we won't be seeing Havlicek unless he makes the Czech 2011 WJC team.

#4. Viktor Svedberg (D, Frölunda J20 - SuperElit)
Similar to Havlicek, Svedberg would have been an awesome pick for a contending team (like Memorial Cup hosts, Mississauga). Svedberg's skating and numbers won't impress too many, posting 4 goals and 14 points in 40 games for Frölunda's U20 team. What Svedberg would bring is a massive body not afraid to be mean. The '91 born stay-at-home defender is 6'9" and 223 lbs., making him a foot taller than a lot of CHLers. He has never played for Sweden internationally and as a 19 year old has yet to see higher than U20 competition, so I don't understand why he wouldn't try to cross the pond to pursue a pro hockey career.

#3. Benjamin Conz (G, Langnau - NLA)
By far the best goalie available in this year's import draft, Conz was passed over. I think this may have been due to being under contract in Switzerland's men's league, but I'm sure something could have been worked out considering the importance of goaltending in the CHL.

Conz is by no means a big goalie, sizing up to be 5'11" and 192 lbs., but the kid has "the stuff". As a late-'91 born, Conz was a top 3 player for his team at the '08/'09 U18 tournament. More impressively though, Conz was named Best Goalie at this year's U20 World Junior Championships against big names from other countries:
  • Jacob Markstrom - a second round pick in 2009 and a star in the Swedish Elitserien
  • Jake Allen - a second round pick in 2008
  • Jack Campbell, the #11 overall selection in the 2010 NHL draft
  • etc.
Conz was without a doubt Switzerland's best player, and after the tournament was loaned to Langnau in the NLA where he played as the team's back-up. In 20 games for Langnau, Conz had a .908% save percentage and 3.20 goals against average. These numbers were good enough for 6th and 9th in the league in each category, respectively - as an 18 year old.

I'm surprised he was passed over in both drafts, but I'm sure we'll hear all about Conz again this winter at the 2011 WJCs in Buffalo.

#2. Jani Hakanpää (D, Kiekko-Vantaa U18 - Jr. B SM-sarja)
Hakanpaa was a big unknown headed into this year's U18 tournament. The hulking '92-born Finnish defenceman sizes up at 6'5", 218 lbs. - that alone should have been intriguing enough for CHL teams to gamble on (especially teams from the W, where Finnish defencemen have been in recent years). For Kiekko-Vantaa's U18 team in the Jr. B SM-sarja, Hakanpaa had some solid offensive numbers with 14 points in 23 games and also managed to accumulate 49 PIMs in the process.

The St. Louis Blues have been known to draft well out of Europe thanks to Jarmo Kekalainen, who I'm sure called all of the shots on the Blues' selection of Hakanpaa. I personally think Hakanpaa could use an upgrade in competition, like the W, in order to prove his worth as a legitimate NHL prospect. My guess is he will be a member of the Finnish World Junior Championship team this winter, so we can re-visit his status as a prospect at that time.

#1. Sondre Olden (RW, MODO J20 - SuperElit)
I honestly don't know how Olden got passed over in this type of draft. All Olden did this past season increase his stock value, going from an unknown to being a third round pick in the 2010 NHL draft. The big winger (6'4", 176 lbs.) was selected by Toronto, a club which I'm sure would have loved to see Olden make the move to the OHL.

After scoring 21 goals with 18 assists in 24 J18 games for MODO, Sondre was promoted to the club's SuperElit team where he score 27 points in 32 games. In my opinion though, Olden's shining moments were suiting up for his country in international competition. Olden was mildly impressive as a '92 born with Norway's U20 team at the Division 1 World Junior Championship where he scored 3 goals and an assist in 5 games; however, with the U18 team Olden set a new tournament record with 7 goals and 15 assists for 22 points in 5 games. Olden was not chosen as tournament MVP due to having such a strong squad around him, but he led the tournament in points by 7.

Olden has all of the tools to be a great player at the CHL level, but I have a feeling MODO convinced him to stay and play within their ranks and that the Leafs were perfectly fine with this idea.

Missing the cut:
  • Adam Larsson (D, Skellefteå - SEL): right now the #1 ranked defenceman for the 2011 NHL Draft, but not worth the pick since he's already playing against men in the Elitserien.
  • Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel (G, Almtuna - Allsvenskan): drafted in the 5th round by Atlanta, I'm sure they're fine keeping their goalie in Sweden to develop.
  • Johan Gustafsson (G, Västerås - Allsvenskan): much like Atlanta, I'm sure Minnesota would like their 6th rounder to stay in Sweden and hone his game in their men's leagues.
  • John Klingberg (D, Frölunda J20 - SuperElit): Dallas likes their Swedish defenders and normally lets them make their North American debut in the AHL, not the CHL.

No comments:

Post a Comment