#AfterAuston: Under-the-radar prospects from Europe worth looking at

One of the toughest areas for fans to be informed in coming into the drafts is the late round picks. There’s so much less hype, and so much less coverage, that it becomes hard to tell who you want your team to be looking at. Even tougher still is to be informed about those coming from European leagues, as those teams get even less hype and coverage.

Leading up to the 2016 NHL draft, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at some players who are likely to get drafted in the later rounds out of Europe, to give you an idea of who you might want the Leafs to target.

Some administrative stuff, before we get into it:

  • Please note that this is not an exhaustive list; there are plenty of other European prospects not named here that could get a deserved selection in the 2016 draft. I chose the ones that I thought would end up near the bottom and stood out to me in one way or another.
  • I thought it was best since I don’t have enough information to do full draft profiles, to split it up by country. 
  • The ranks displayed are the ranks from NHL CSS’ EU top 30

RUSSIA

With the Russian drugging scandal going on currently, you can be that a good chunk of Russian prospects will see falling stocks in this coming draft. So that could be an opportunity for the Leafs to capitalize on. Or it could be a significant risk they try to avoid. It’ll be interesting to see.

From Russia, we have a few interesting players I’d like to point out

  • Yegor Korshkov – 19 yrs, 6’3″, 179 lbs., RW, 41 GP, 6G, 6A (KHL), rank 7
  • Artur Kayumov – 18 yrs, 5’10”, 154 lbs., LW, 39 GP, 12G, 19A (MHL), rank 14
  • Igor Shvyryov – 17 yrs, 6’0″, 192 lbs., C, 44 GP, 12G, 26A (MHL), rank 21

Being that the KHL has the highest NHLe translation factor (based on Rob Vollman’s work), it’s a very intriguing league when you see a young player having success. Korshkov definitely fits that bill. Being huge will also go a long way in getting noticed by scouts and fans alike. You can find more info about Korshkov’s NHLe in this post by our own Shawn Reis.

Kayumov was a player that really caught my eye at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament, standing out as one of Russia’s best players at that tournament. He’s a shorter, smaller player, but his offensive instincts are very intriguing.

Lastly is a prospect who hasn’t really generated any discussion at all, and was even left out in this piece by Hockey’s Future looking specifically at 2016 draft eligibles coming out of Russia. Igor Shvyryov is a standout to me simply because big centers who can produce are always worth looking at. He’s only ranked 21st by NHL Central Scouting for Europe, but I definitely still find him interesting enough to keep an eye on.

SWEDEN

Sweden always impresses me as a country able to produce such quality talent. The number of hockey players per capita rivals that of Canada and that’s pretty sweet.

A couple players worth looking into from Sweden are:

  • Oskar Steen – 17 yrs, 5’9″, 187 lbs., C, 44 GP, 12G, 26A (MHL), rank 18
  • Lucas Carlsson – 18 yrs, 6’0″, 190 lbs., LD, 35 GP, 4G, 9A (SHL), rank 15
  • Sebastian Aho – 20 yrs, 5’10”, 176 lbs., LD, 39 GP, 3G, 13A (SHL), unranked

Steen and Aho are probably the biggest names here. Shouting out Shawn again, he wrote about some Swedes in this post about the 51% rule, which covers some stuff relating to these players.

Steen is probably the cream of the crop here. Making a name for himself somewhat during the World Junior Championship, he’s had a really solid season in both the SHL and the J20 SuperElit. He scored a beautiful wrist shot goal against Canada that I’m sure many will remember.

Aho is a weird case, having been passed over in the last 2 drafts. He has so few holes in his game except size, I really feel like he could have a significant impact in the NHL, and am hoping he gets selected at some point in this draft. It would be long overdue.

Even more interesting, to me, than Aho is Lucas Carlsson. As an 18-year-old in the SHL, he nearly matched Aho’s production. He has much more substantial size and possesses many of the same quality attributes Aho does. I don’t think he is as effective defensively as Aho, but that could come with age as Aho has a full 2 years on Carlsson.

FINLAND

Finland has really been an up-and-comer on the international stage. With two players slated to go in the top 3 of this draft, their future looks incredibly bright as a country. 

Three players from Finland’s U20 junior league, Jr. A SM-liiga, I wanted to point out:

  • Kasper Björkqvist – 18 yrs, 6’1″, 198 lbs., LW, 45 GP, 28G, 38A (Jr. A SM-liiga), rank 22
  • Janne Kuokkanen – 18 yrs, 6’1″, 179 lbs., LW, 47 GP, 22G, 31A (Jr. A SM-liiga), rank 20
  • Henrik Börgstrom – 18 yrs, 6’3″, 176 lbs., LW, 40 GP, 29G, 26A (Jr. A SM-liiga), rank 9

These Finns certainly won’t get the exposure that Laine and Puljujärvi have gotten, and deservedly so. However, I think there’s a lot to look at here. Finland continues to pump out big players who can score, which is exciting for the future of both Finland hockey and the NHL. 

If it were me, Björkqvist would be the top ranked name here. Ranked #9 by NHL CSS for EU prospects, he is an offensive talent who has the size and skills to make a run at an NHL job. One of the most interesting things to me about Björqvist is that he’s committed to Providence College of the NCAA for next season. His development path will certainly be different than some of his Finland hockey peers, but it’s not an uncharted path for Finns. Björqvist is one of the most skilled players in this Finnish junior league, and without the caveat of being small, I can’t see why he wouldn’t earn more hype heading into this draft. 

The actual top ranked name here is Henrik Börgstrom. He possesses the height but not nearly the body mass (yet) of an NHL player. He scored at a pretty good rate, and it seems that he didn’t really deserve being passed over in the 2015 NHL draft he was eligible for. He’s a very skilled player, and not in the “despite his size” sense. He’s honestly a talented forward. Börgtstrom is also heading to America for the promise of a better development path. He has committed to the University of Denver for next season. 

Lastly, we have Janne Kuokkanen, the middle child in this report of the Jr. A SM-liiga. Kuokkanen had a 1-game stint in the Liiga where he scored 2 goals! But he couldn’t hold a job. He’s a 200 ft. kind of player, who reminds me a lot of current Leafs prospect Kasperi Kapanen. I think Kuokkanen will definitely get some consideration in the later rounds of this draft. The Hockey Writers have him going in the 2nd or 3rd round in this draft profile of him, which I think is a bit overzealous but who knows. Anything can happen at draft time.

CONCLUSION

I hope you found some names to keep an eye on here. There’s a lot of interesting prospects out there and I’m very excited for draft time. If one of these players happens to end up on the Leafs, I hope you can use this overview to determine if you’re happy or sad about that.

  • Tybot

    not enough emphasis on the difference between u18s and over-agers. the OAs – korshkov, aho, carlsson, borgstrom, bjorkqvist- will not go before the 4th round. korshkov is a good north-south skater, but not a player the Leafs [babcock] could use. he and rykov [another over-ager] were the stars of the WJC. d-man rykov could be the best pick in the 5th round, and he will play in the NHL one day. aho was not passed over just because he is under-sized, but because he is the ultimate stereotype of a soft swede. borgstrom and bjorkqvist were passed over because they played in a lower league, in order to remain eligible for the NCAA, borgstrom is inconsistent [see ‘babcock’ above], bjorkqvist was noted at the WJC for his willingness to play a grinder role, and is the best pick in the 4th round. among u18’s kuokannen has 1st round skills, but plays the opposite of a north american [contact sport] style game. another player that Leafs should take in the 4th round, is 6’4 d-man Rubins [alvenskan]. like benson, he is a 1st round talent, whose year was lost to injury. wahlgren, c/w, high hockey iq, was the star of tv pucken, has grown a foot, lead the superelite/u20 in scoring, promoted to SHL for last game, scored twice, then 5 goals at u18. so probably he gets drafted by the 4th round; if he’s still there in the 5th, take him before rykov.

    • Just FYI, Bjorqvist and Carlsson are not overagers, just early birthdays in the draft year similar to Matthews.

      I don’t put a huge amount of emphasis on age. If a player is an obviously better player than other options at a particular draft selection, I don’t care what their age is. If it’s close I’ll go to the younger guy.

      This isn’t a ranking though, just a list of some names to look at players that I think are really good at their current level. There’s plenty of other prospects that could be in this list, I just could only write about so many

  • Yeah bit of a lack emphasis on overagers and am not sure they really fit the under the radar narrative…

    But in spite of that, Svyrev or Shvyryov (depends how you transcribe) is a really interesting prospect ! 17yo kid (roughly 10 months younger than matthews) with a good frame and putting good numbers in the MHL. On top of that, the kid scored 99 points (33g/66a) in 32 games as a 16yo the previous year in the U17 russian league.
    I would definitely be happy, should the leafs use a 2nd or their own 3rd round pick on him.

    Kayumov fits more in the skilled winger category we already have plenty of, but if they consider him BPA available, I’m also fine with it.

    There are other very intriguing young russian prospects under the radar in the MHL, such as forwards Maltsev, Krikunenko and Kosorenkov or defensemen Karpukhin, Zaitsev or Yakovenko, and I’m sure there’s a homer to be had

    I don’t check enough scandinavian hockey to voice an opinion on these names

  • CMpuck

    With what 28 picks and counting in the next 3 drafts and an already deep prospect pool would like to see the Leafs round out their prospect pool with some more traditional prospects, invest on the blueline, some players that have power forward potential and pick up a tender where you can.

    I’m not complaining with Hunter in any way but like to see a prospect pool strong at each position and we have the means to build it.

  • The Finn Niemelainen 31st or 56th, and Latvian Rubins, 4th round, would give the Leafs more size and defensive-minded on Defence, Bjorkqvist is not a power-forward, but along with being a scoring leader in Finnish J20, he succeeded as a grinder at the WJC, Korshkov and Grundstrom might qualify as power forwards. goalies Sweden Gustafson will go early, but Finn Vehvilainen and Russian Berdin are still available in the 3rd. Leafs are thinnest at center, Dahlen fills the 3rd line center spot, with 31st or 56th pick.