European Defense

NHL Draft 2017 European Defenseman Take 1.

Timothy Liljegren

DOB:     1999-04-30
Height: 6′
Shoots: Right
League: SHL

  • The Swedish defenseman entered the year as a potential top three pick and he’s fallen a bit due to injury.
  • TSN: Scouts say his offensive game is far more developed than his defensive game. He is an elite skater, both in terms of speed and agility, and adept at running a power play. He is seen as both a puck mover and an offensive point producer. No one is suggesting he’s the next Erik Karlsson, not by any means, but scouts say he has some of the same qualities and, therefore, has the potential to be projected as a possible top pairing defenceman in time.
  • Future Considerations:  An active, offensive-minded rearguard who likes the puck on his stick…skates with strong fluidity and agility, getting from one point to the next effortlessly as his feet always seem to be in motion…can take the puck end-to-end a la Erik Karlsson…his offensive IQ is off the charts as is his creativity…makes strong breakout passes to move along the attack to his forwards before jumping into the play himself…has a strong wrist shot that is quick off his blade, strong and accurate, and he gets some solid velocity on his slap shot…continually reading the play and moving as he tries to be in strong position to contribute as an option when not in possession of the puck himself…can be a high-risk, high-reward guy as he does take chances that can lead to turnovers here or there…a game-breaker…projected as a top-pairing offensive NHL defenseman.

Miro Heiskanen

DOB: 1999-07-18
Height: 6’0″
NATION: Finland
Shoots: L
League:  Finland Liiga

  • Small smooth-skating puck moving defenseman, likely to be drafted in the middle of the first round.
  • Last Word on Sports: He has very good skating ability. Heiskanen has good speed and acceleration in both directions. He also has the agility and edgework to make quick pivots and transition from defence to offence, or vice-versa. He is also a good passer, and can start the rush or make plays on the point on the powerplay.  Heiskanen could stand to be a bit more physical; as well as work on his slap shot.
  • Finnish Junior Hockey: He is an exceptional skater with excellent puck skills and smarts. His ability to process the game with the puck is at a very high level. Also, a positive thing to notice is that he has got bigger since last season, now being listed at 6’0. Gaining additional muscle will help him to be more effective in board battles and in front of the net. I consider him a Top 10 pick and the best Finnish prospect for this year’s draft. The fact that he is excelling in a men’s league – at the age of 17 – is remarkable.

Erik Brannstrom

DOB: 1999-09-02
Height: 5’10
Nation: Sweden
Shoots: L
League:  SHL/SuperElit

  • Brannstrom is a player that could slip into the first round if not higher.  Ryan Kennedy compared him to Kimmo Timonen.  He was averaging more than a PPG on his junior team before getting called up to the SHL.  He’s likely to be drafted in the second half of round one.
  • The Draft Analyst:  A high-IQ rearguard displays ridiculous puck skills while running his team’s offense. Erik Brannstrom may lack the height you would want in a top-end puck mover, but every other area is drool worthy. He owns a cannon of a shot, carries the puck with anger and confidence, and can hold his own in one-on-one situations. Brannstrom does everything quick and hard — passes, shots, checks — and his international resume is stellar.

Urho Vaakanainen (D)

DOB: 1999-01-01
Height: 6’1
Nation: Finland
Shoots: Left
League:  Finland Liiga

  • Vaakanainen is a smart all-around defenseman, who is responsible in his own end.  Likely doesn’t have the high end upside of Brannstrom, Heiskanen or Liljegren but seems like a safer pick.  He’s likely a late first round pick.
  • Last Word On Sports: Vaakanainen has excellent hockey IQ. He reads the play very well in both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice. He chooses to make the smart plays both with and without the puck. Defensively he has great gap control and positioning. He also can skate the puck out of danger in his own zone, and start the transition game with a good first pass. Offensively he has a hard accurate shot, and the vision to be a play maker from the blue line. He will likely never be a huge offensive contributor, but can score a bit. Overall his game is well rounded.
  • Yahoo Sports:  Scouts Take:  “Our guys find Urho as a quick-thinking two-way defenseman who shows a lot of poise in his game when he’s working on advancing the puck, and no panic when it comes to defending off the rush. He’s smooth in most facets of the game, and while he isn’t flashy, does possess plenty of upside.”

Robin Salo

DOB: 1998-10-13
Nationality: Finland
Height: 6′
Shoots: L
League:  Finland Liiga

  • He’s a late birthday, but playing in a pro league in Europe and logging an estimated 20 minutes.  His lack of high end offensive ability might drop him into the second round.
  • Sportsnet: A calm, solid defender. Currently sitting out a three-game suspension for a knee-on-knee hit.
  • Finn Prospects:  Salo is not the flashiest player on ice but his defensive skills are impressive for a player of his age. He already looks solid in men’s league, positions himself well and even shows some grit and willingness to play physical game. However Salo could add some power to his skating as he seems bit slow at times. While his offensive skills are somewhat limited, he is capable of decent passing play …

Filip Westerlund
DOB: 1999-04-17 / H: 5’11 / S: R / League: SHL

  • Small calm d-man with good offensive instincts has been compared to Sami Vatanen.  Should be picked in the second round.
  • Elite Prospects: Westerlund is a defenseman who stands out with his vision and puck control. Plays a calm, cerebral game and can hit forwards with long passes from the backend. Defensively, there is room for improvement given his hockey IQ. Also, his skating could use some work, especially his first few steps. Isn’t that agile yet, either.

Tobias Geisser

  • DOB: 1999-02-13 / H: 6’4 / S: L / Nation: Swiss / League: Swiss-Elit & Swiss-Junior / PPG .29
  • Geisser is a big defenseman likely going to be a stay-at-home defender.   Projected as a 3rd round pick.
  • The Draft Analyst: Tobias Geisser has slowly developed into a reliable defender with top-four upside, and he uses his long reach and active stick to make up for a lack of upper-body strength.

Jakub Galvas (D)

  • DOB: 1999-06-15 / H: 5’11 / S: L /  Nation: Czech / League: Czech / PPG: .17
  • Galvas is an offensive defender who is playing in the Czech league against players old enough to be his dad.  Actually, he plays against his father Lukas Galvas this season.  He’s played well in international tournaments this season.  Right now he’s projected as a mid-late round pick.

David Kvasnicka (D)

  • DOB: 1999-04-14 / H: 5’10 / S: L / League: Czech / PPG:.13
  • Kvasnicka is a small, smart, smooth skating offensive defender.  Was averaging over a PPG in the U20 Czech league.  He has good vision and puck moving ability.  Projected to be selected in mid-late round.

Radim Salda (D)

  • DOB: 1999-02-18 / H: 6′ / S: L / League: Czech-U20 / PPG .43
  • Smooth skating power play defenseman with an excellent shot.  Projected to be a mid-late round pick.

Martin Bodak (D)

  • DOB: 1998-11-28 / H: 6’1 / S: R / League: Jr. A Liiga / PPG: .35
  • Bodak is a right hand defenseman from Slovakia playing in Finnish junior league.  He’s a late birthday.  Bodak has good vision and mobility but has limited offensive upside and is likely to peak as more of defensive defender.

Venyamin Baranov (D)

  • DOB: 1999-01-08 / H: 6’1 / S: l / League: MHL / PPG .30
  • Baranov is strong in his own end, has decent size and has good playmaking ability.  Was drafted first in the KHL draft.  He’s likely a late round selection.

Other:

  1. Otto Latvala – Big (6’5) defenseman with a late birthday (May, 14th, 1999) although he doesn’t project to be an offensive defender he put up numbers in the Finnish junior league.  Needs to improve skating.
  2. Gustav Lindström- 6’2 RHS D, late birthday – Oct. 20, 1998, his uncle is former Sharks dman Magnus Ragnarsson, good offensive instincts.
  3. Simon Johansson – Late birthday (June), good size (6’2) right hand shot defenseman with decent point totals (.54 PPG) in the SuperElit league.
  4. Anton Bjorkman – Small (5’11) defenseman that is playing in the SHL but doesn’t bring much offense.
  5. Jonatan Asplund – Big (6’3), LHS dman with decent offensive numbers (.39 PPG) in the SuperElit game.
  6. Dmitri Rodionychev – Stay at home defenseman playing in the KHL as an 18 year-old.  Doesn’t bring much offense.
  7. Gustav Jäderberg – Second draft year (born May, 98) he’s got decent size and putting up alright number (.50 PPG) in the SuperElit league.
  8. August Berg – Small right hand shot defenseman with good offense.
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