NHL scouts knew Aleksandr Barkov was something special a year ago, when he delivered a solid season at age 16 in Finland’s top pro league (the SM-Liiga). Barkov’s 7 goals and 9 assists in 2011-12 was 4th best among skaters aged 21 and under. This season? He’s in the top 10 in league scoring and pushing up the draft rankings.
- C Aleksandr Barkov, Tappera Tampere (SML): Among the top 10 in SM-Liiga scoring so far this season, Barkov is moving himself into the conversation for #1 overall at the 2013 entry draft. Craig Button: "You are looking at a big player who is equally adept playing a physical game or a skill game. He’s also equally adept in his ability to score and set up plays. But what really impresses me about Aleksander Barkov is his ability to do things quickly and take advantage of things that are given to him. There’s no reason for me not to believe that his name could potentially be the first one called out in June." He is a natural center but can play either wing.
- D Rasmus Ristolainen, TPS Turku (SML): Big and strong at age 18 (6.03, 210), Ristolainen is one of the best defensemen available in the 2013 entry draft. The Scouting Report: "While the hulking Finn is far from a finished product, the two-way potential and physicality are certainly enticing. Ristolainen is a polished skater and an emerging offensive game which makes his potential intriguing. While further progression and development is still required, he plays an NHL style of game and brings a lot of the tools that teams will be looking for out of a Top 4 defenseman."
- L Artturi Lehkonen, Kalpa (SML): Sniper with great hands, he’s in the SML and has 9 goals so far this season. Calling card based on scouting reports I’ve read is a quick release. He’s undersized and could improve his draft number by growing a couple of inches before the draft. Creative player, something the Oilers are most often looking for in their high picks.
- C Elias Lindholm, Brynas (SEL): Another top flight prospect, he’s a 2-way C with plenty of skill and maturity at a young age. Goran Stubb, Central Scouting Director for Europe: "He’s a complete package, He could very well be the next Peter Forsberg. He’s an excellent skater and great competitor who gives it 110 percent on every shift. He can skate, score and pass and is physically strong even though he is a finesse-type of player." Lindholm’s father was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 1987.
- C Jacob de la Rose, Leksand (Sweden): A very interesting player. Power forward size and some skill make him a player to watch for scouts this Christmas. Goran Stubb, Central Scouting Director for Europe: "He’s speedy and plays a strong two-way game. He can pass and shoot at top speed and is always on the puck. He’s a strong finesse-type player. His older brother [defenseman Erik de la Rose] also plays for Leksand." I think he looks like the most confident player on the ice.
- D Mirco Mueller, Everett (WHL) : Big defender (6.04, 185) with what scouts call a "projectable frame" and a nice range of skills. International Scouting Services: "makes a great first pass and has good vision and showed some solid poise and confidence. He can quarterback the powerplay from the blueline when given the chance”.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The kids will soon land in Ufa, and play in a major tournament in front of NHL scouts and GMs. The 2013 draft looks (at this point) like a very deep one, with Finland and Sweden producing a bumper crop and Switzerland adding to the fun. Combined with strong Canadian and American draft years, this could be an outstanding entry draft.
Up next: the Russians, Czechs and Germans.