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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Central Scouting's mid-season rankings: European goalies

This is the last post for now on Central Scouting's mid-season rankings, and in it, we'll look at a few of the European goalie options available.

At the top of the list, not surprisingly, is Finland's Samu Perhonen, who is another prototype big, athletic butterfly goalie. He was the third goalie in Finland's WJC time, so he didn't get any playing time, but benefited from being around the team and practicing with them. He reminds me of Tuukka Rask in terms of his fundamentals and style and that's just from watching him in practice. He keeps his torso upright when he drops into a compact butterfly, and flares his pads out at 90-degree angles to completely take the lower ice away. He recovers well and seems to get a nice, smooth push when moving side-to-side. One thing I noticed is that he doesn't favor one side over the other. So, in summary, Perhonen is a sound, technical player with some upside.

Perhonen also plays for JYP Jyvaskyla of the SM-Liiga, which the Boston Bruins have a working agreement/partnership with. If the B's scouts are around that team, this could be a guy that they might actually spend a top-three round pick on if their guys like him enough. Keep an eye on Perhonen's progress, because we know that two years ago, Mikko Koskinen was on their target list as well, but the Islanders grabbed him with the first pick of the 2nd round.

Here's what one NHL scout based in Europe (Finland) I ran into in Buffalo had to say about Central's top Euro n net: "Samu Perhonen is very good goalie; quick reflexes and plays steady without losing his focus. I don't see any flaws with him, and he just needs to play and get more experience."

After Sweden's Stefan Steen (sorry, folks- I got nuttin' on this guy, but rest assured- not for long), Czech netminder Jaroslav Pavelka is next. Pretty flexible player with good quickness and able to cover a lot of net with his reflexes and elasticity. A solid, all-around goalie who uses the butterfly to good effect and is able to make big saves. Red Line Report has a nice write up on Pavelka in their October issue, and their Czech scout is one of the best in the business.

At 4 and 7 are two goalies who were in the WJC.

Swiss goalie Benjamin Conz had another strong tourney for the second year in a row. He kept his team in every game and only looked shaky against the Finns in the preliminary round. He's short and heavy, which could account for why NHL teams have passed on him. But, the guy can stop the puck, and he's likely sent a strong message that he's worth a mid- or late-round flyer at least. If he can get a little lighter, he's got a chance. His technique needs work, but he's a battler and gamer who just knows how to make the big stop.

At the other end of the spectrum is Norway's Lars Volden, who was so unbelievably bad against Canada, you can hardly even put it into words. Yes, it was only one game, and it happened against a powerhouse in Canada after the starter pulled himself, but Volden immediately allowed several bad goals and was shaky even when Canada called off the dogs. It was brutal to watch. But, he's big at 6-3 and has some quickness- I just didn't see it. He was passed up last year, and can't imagine anyone will pick him after the WJC fiasco.

Finally, Finnish goalie Richard Ullberg was the guy expected to be the top goalie for this class out of Europe before the start of the season, and he's got some potential as a similar option to Perhonen. Perhonen's play has elevated him to the top spot and rightfully so, but some might argue that Ullberg's better. He's 6-3, 182 and plays for HIFK Helsinki. got the size and athleticism as well.

That's a wrap. Watch for WJC scouting reports, more scout interviews on some of the Central rankings (esp. the more curious ones) and more in the coming days.

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