Monday, July 22, 2013

Picking the European contenders

To follow up from my post over the weekend picking USA and Canada, I continue by picking Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Admittedly I'm not familiar with the talent in the SHL, SM Liiga, and KHL, so I'll leave some roster spots open. In Vancouver, Sweden brought one G, one D, and two F that were not playing in the NHL (and one of them was Peter Forsberg), and Finland brought one G, one D, and three F, so I'll leave one roster spot open at each position for the the two top Scandinavian teams. Russia, on the other hand, brought nine KHL players—three D and six F—but four were in the NHL the previous season (Dmitri Kalinin, Sergei Fedorov, Viktor Kozlov, Alexander Radulov). I'll just leave at least three forward and two defense spots open, maybe more.

Sweden

12F: Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Nicklas Backstrom, Loui Eriksson, Carl Hagelin, Patrik Berglund, Patric Hornqvist, Gabriel Landeskog, Alexander Steen

Most of these players are locks. Steen, Zetterberg, Backstrom, Landeskog, and Eriksson are all strong two-way players, and there's plenty of scoring. The ridiculously fast Hagelin consistently posts a great Corsi Rel, and his size will be less of an issue on international ice, where (I'm guessing) cycling isn't as important.

7D: Erik Karlsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Victor Hedman, Tobias Enstrom, Alexander Edler, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Niklas Kronwall

Karlsson, Ekman-Larsson, Hedman, and Kronwall should be locks. Hjalmarsson should be after the reaction to his strong playoff performance was "he's been doing this all season." Edler brings too much puck-moving ability to ignore. The last spot came down to Enstrom vs Tallinder, and I went with the guy I feel is a better puck mover—the team already has three (maybe four) defensemen who are rocks in their own end.

2G: Henrik Lundqvist, Robin Lehner

Lundqvist is an easy choice. Normally I see people picking Gustavsson, Fasth, Markstrom, or Lindback as a second goalie. I'd rather pick a high-upside small-sample goalie than a big-sample below-average one, and Lehner actually has a stellar .925 in 22 starts in his NHL career, besting Fasth (.921) and Markstrom (.905).

Finland

12F: Mikko Koivu, Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne, Jussi Jokinen, Olli Jokinen, Valtteri Filppula, Mikael Granlund, Niklas Hagman, Lauri Korpikoski, Aleksander Barkov, Toni Rajala, Joel Armia

There simply weren't that many good Finnish players in the league this year, so I had to reach into the prospect pile to grab Barkov, Rajala (who tore up the AHL this season, but is a little small), and Armia (who should be joining the AHL this season after being productinve in Finland). Teuvo Teravainen I'm guessing will be one of the European-league Finns to make the team.

6D: Kimmo Timonen, Sami Salo, Toni Lydman, Sami Vatanen, Joni Pitkanen, Rasmus Ristolainen

I had trouble finding enough D, too. Vatanen was really good in the AHL, and Ristolainen from what I've read was trusted with a lot of ice time against men in Finland, so I assume Buffalo will want him over at first opportunity.

2G: Antti Niemi, Tuukka Rask

If Finland takes another NHL goalie—and it should—Pekka Rinne and Kari Lehtonen are options.

Russia

7F: Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin, Nail Yakupov, Artem Anisimov, Vladimir Tarasenko

From the KHL, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov are locks, and after his strong season playing with Malkin, Sergei Mozyakin I think is a good bet, too. So is Evgeny Kuznetsov. If it were up to me, I'd also have Nikolai Kulemin, too, as a strong two-way player, but I had to leave spots open.

6D: Andrei Markov, Sergei Gonchar, Slava Voynov, Fedor Tyutin, Dmitri Kulikov, Nikita Nikitin

I wanted Alexei Emelin, too, but I left spots open for the KHL to audition its own players. (I anticipate Nikitin will lose a spot, too, either in favor of a KHLer or Anton Volchenkov.) Nikitin isn't a popular choice, but he and Tyutin make a really good pairing for Columbus, and Russia needs every little edge (like familiarity) it can get defensively.

3G: Ilya Bryzgalov, Anton Khudobin, Sergei Bobrovsky

I didn't like leaving off Varlamov, but his performance has suffered in Colorado. Bryz still has upside it's hard to ignore (see his performance in Phoenix), and Bob obviously just won the Vezina Trophy.

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