THEY COME FROM THE LAND OF ICE AND SNOW

The night the Edmonton Oilers won their first Stanley, three European players won the right to have their names engraved on Hockey’s Holy Grail. Jarri Kurri (Finland), Willy Lindstrom (Sweden) and Jaroslav Pouzar (Czechoslovakia) were all part of Edmonton’s first elite team. How many Europeans will be on the run for glory this time?

The Oilers since 2008 shop in three main areas: the Canadian junior leagues, Sweden/Finland and then they select some kids from the tier 2 Canadian leagues and the NCAA. Here, let’s have a look:

  1. CHL: 16 (fully half the list, led by  Hall, RNH, Eberle)
  2. Sweden/Finland: 8 (4 each, highest picks being Swedes Paajarvi and Klefbom)
  3. BCJHL/USHS/NCAA: 5 (most famous Tyler Pitlick and Dillon Simpson)
  4. Slovakia/Belarus: 3 (Marincin, Pelss, Gernat)

The Kingdom of Sweden and the Republic of Finland have gifted the city of Edmonton with myriad talents over the years. Finland’s youth included Kurri, Esa Tikkanen, Matti Hagman. Janne Niinimaa, Risto Siltanen and Jussi Markkanen are only a few Finnish hockey players who thrilled Edmonton audiences over the years. Sweden? Well, Fredrik Olausson spent a little time here, but the names we best remember from Sweden are Kent Nilsson and his boy Robert, Lindstrom and Tommy Salo.

Currently, Edmonton is mining both countries but using higher selections on the Swedes:

  • Oscar Klefbom, 19th overall in 2011
  • Magnus Paajarvi 10th overall in 2009
  • Anton Lander 40th overall in 2009
  • Johan Motin 103rd overall in 2008

This compares to the Finns, whose highest selection since 2008 is Samu Perhonen (62nd overall a year ago).

APPLYING IT TO THE COMBINE LIST

The highest European pick in Oilers history is Magnus Paajarvi. The club has a chance to take a European #1 overall this summer, and there is a Swede in the mix.

In order to establish that the Combine list is an excellent scouting source for Oiler fans in terms of possible picks by their favorite team, let’s do a quick review of the last two seasons. An average team drafting #1 overall (and therefore 31, 61, 91) would reasonably expect four of the top 100 players (which is what the Combine basically represents) from each draft year.

The Oiler top 100 list and the NHL combine list have had a lot in common in the last two drafts:

  • 2010 (7): Tyler Bunz, Brandon Davidson, Taylor Hall, Curtis Hamilton, Martin Marincin, Ryan Martindale, Tyler Pitlick.
  • 2011 (6): Travis Ewanyk, Oscar Klefbom, David Musil, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Samu Perhonen, Tobias Rieder

Okay, with that established let’s look at the Swedes and Finns eligible for this year’s draft.

OKAY, WHO MIGHT THE OILERS BE INTERESTED IN? (SWE & FIN)

Filip Forsberg is the most famous of the Swedes this season, his name constantly tagged as being one of the first names likely called at the draft. But, what kind of player is he?

  • Filip Forsberg, Leksands (SWE-2). Big forward (6.01, 180 according to nhl.com) is a speedy left winger with good offensive ability. His shot is described as being very good and there have been reports of two way play. Interesting player in that he’s not competing in the SEL (SWE-2 is a tier below) so his offensive potential is more difficult to project. It’s frustrating, because if his scouting report is to be believed this young man grades out above average in most if not all categories. Plus he played a lot and impressed in international competition. Corey Pronman did a very nice job of describing him here.
  • Oscar Dansk, Brynas (SWE JR). Played some of his junior at Shattuck St. Mary’s and impressed in international competition. Likely to go too early for the Oilers to have a real shot at him, but Dansk has good size and performed well at several levels this season. Consistently solid reviews, haven’t really read anything bad about him.
  • Ville Pokka, Karpat (SML). Described as having a nice range of skills, reports stop short of suggesting he has a complete skill set. Intriguing offense at the lower levels, had a strong playoff. He is well regarded by some and barely mentioned by others, but would seem to be a good bet to go in the top 75.
  • Hampus Lindholm, Rogle (Swe-1). This is an interesting player, one I think we should follow closely as the draft nears. A good skating defenseman, he also has size and there’s quite a bit on him defensively. Redline loves him–well likes him quite a bit–and there’s some offensive potential too.
  • Esa Lindell, Jokerit (Fin Jr). I have no idea about the level of competition in Fin Jr as it relates to the CHL, but this kid went 48, 21-30-51 in the Finnish junior league and that’s an outstanding number for a defenseman in any league. 

This is by no means a complete list, in fact many of the Finns and Swedes will go between Edmonton’s first and second picks. However, the Oilers do spend draft selections in Finland and Sweden and there are some talented kids. I’d suggest that Lindholm kid would be especially appealing to the Oilers based on skill set.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

We always get information on the European kids late–Klefbom and Brodin were late breakers a year ago and the same is happening this season with a young man named Teuvo Teravainen. It’s important to follow the Redlines and Bob Mckenzie from here on out. We know the top 30 north americans pretty well, but the Euros are just coming into view.

also in the series: