We're here with the final installment on our Central Scouting final rankings series for Europe, closing out the overseas players with observations and notes on goalies and sleepers.
1. Samu Perhonen, G Jyvaskyla Jr. (FIN- Jr.)- The top netminder in class deserves his spot at the top. He's got the lively size, athleticism and solid butterfly technique to be an NHL stopper in time. He reminds us of Tuukka Rask in terms of his body type and playing style and competes with the same kind of swagger and confidence when on top of his game. Like John Gibson, Perhonen will likely see a drop in where he is drafted compared to where he might have gone even last year simply because of the emerging trend for NHL clubs to focus on skill positions early and grab project goalies later because of the disparity in developmental timelines and the quality netminders who have been picked in the mid-to-late rounds as opposed to early on.
2. Magnus Hellberg, G Almtuna (SWE-2)- Huge late-bloomer will likely be the top-three or four goalies off the board in June because he's older and more advanced in his development. Teams may be hoping to grab the Swede and put him immediately into the AHL with potential for him to see NHL action sooner rather than later. Takes up so much of the net, but is also extremely agile and recovers well. Plays with some laudable focus and concentration and that is borne out in his numbers, which are terrific. The April 1991 birthdate is 6-5, 200 pounds and posted an insane .935 save percentage and 2.04 GAA in 31 games for the Allsvenskan club Almtuna. Don't be surprised to see him go off the board first or even second after Gibson. This is the kind of player that could easily be rated the top goaltender on multiple teams' boards. Central didn't even have him on their mid-term rankings. That's how quickly Hellberg's star has risen this season.
3. Jaroslav Pavelka, G Hradec Kralove Jr. (CZE- Jr.)- The best Czech goalie not named David Honzik stayed home this season and has the size, athleticism and tools to be a solid NHL goalie one day. What he lacks in pure technique and training, he makes up for in competitiveness and a solid work ethic. Not an instinctive player, so his positioning needs to be near-flawless sometimes. That could work against him as he continues to move up the ladder of progression, but if he fails, it won't be for a lack of trying. Kid wants to be a player and will put in the work to get there.
4. Benjamin Conz, G Langnau (SUI)- Passed over twice previously, this should be the year that Conz gets the draft call because he's proven himself to be a big-time gamer in not one but two of the previous WJCs in '10 and '11. He's short and isn't the most physically fit goalie to hit the scene (anyone remember Norm Maracle?), but if your ultimate criteria is stopping the puck and displaying grace under fire, there aren't many goalies better with those attributes than Conz is. He doesn't have great technique, but damn, son- he gets the job done! We thought he might get picked last summer, but that didn't happen. After another excellent WJC we expect someone to take a chance on him, albeit with a late pick.
5. Lars Volden, G Espoo Jr. (FIN- Jr.)- Last time we saw this guy, he was going in for the starter who pulled himself against Canada in the WJC and getting lit up himself. The 6-3 Norweigian is a July 1992-born goalie who was passed over in 2010 and we suspect will get passed up again even though he played OK for the Blues' Jr. team. He may have some decent raw tools, but we can't get behind mentally soft goalies who come apart in big games. Yes, Norway vs. Canada was a lot like David vs. Goliath, but the goalies could have at least given Denmark a fighting chance. Neither guy did and it was a total gong show in the process. Can't imagine that any scout who watched that Canada game and how lousy Volden played would have much confidence in him to be an NHL player one day.
29. Adam Pettersson, RW Skellefteå (SWE)- Another '92 who was passed up in 2010, this player has average size (6-0, 194), but is shifty and creative. Strong on his skates and a lower center of gravity with powerful leg drive and tough to knock off stride. Exploits seams in defenses with his quickness, intelligence and ability to find the open man. More of a passer than a scorer, he nonetheless finds the back of the net in big moments. Scored 8 goals in 24 games with Skellefteå's J20 team, and even saw time in the SEL to the tune of 22 games, going 1-1-2. Not the star that scouts saw potential in several years back, but an interesting enough prospect worth a later flyer as a sleeper.
36. Dean Kukan, D GCK Zurich (SUI 2)- A bit of a forgotten man this season, this defenseman is a jack-of-all-trades type who doesn't stand out in any one area, but brings a solid all-around presence at 6-2, 200 pounds. He's a good, not great skater. He plays solid, not exceptional defense. And he can move the puck up the ice, but mostly plays a conservative style. Like many Swiss, he would need to prove to NHL clubs he's committed to playing in North America before anyone spends a pick on him, but there's enough there we think that he should draw some interest.
53. Lukas Sedlak, C Ceske Budejovice (CZE- Jr.)- Czech pivot scored 14 goals, 27 points in 47 games with Budejovice's U20 team this season. Industrious and plays with passion and intensity, but lacks the elite skills and natural creativity to present the kind of upside that excites NHL clubs. Played well in the Ivan Hlinka for Czech Republic, but his production on a junior squad was pretty average all things considered. He's an effective two-way player and could develop into something as a lower-line guy, but lacks the kind of dynamic presence that will earn him a lot of attention leading up to the draft.
60. Norman Hauner, RW Koln (Germany)- He's an older player with a December 1991 birthdate, but B2011DW loved this guy's game at the WJC. He's not very big, but plays bigger than his 5-11, 176-pouund listed vitals. He skates well, though has a short choppy stride that he could stand to lengthen. He manages to get from A to B, however and plays a real high-energy, opportunistic game. Hauner was one of the more noticeable forwards on a weak German entry in Buffalo. He's an obvious longshot, but you never know- when the team needed a goal or a big play, he was usually involved, along with fellow overager Marcel Noebels.
91. Oula Palve, C Jyvaskyla Jr. (FIN)- Little guy is fast, shifty, creative and tenacious. Another overager who was passed up in the last draft, but if he can add some mass and strength, might be worth a look as a late-round option. Can really fly and brings a high hockey IQ to the mix along with a passion for the game and willingness to get his nose dirty. Score 18 goals and 40 points in 32 games and then tore it up in the J20 playoffs with 2 goals and 9 points in just 4 games. This guy can play, and like Perhonen and Auvinen, the Bruins will have gotten a good, long look at him, so you never know.
104. Martin Gernat, D Kosice (SVK- Jr.)- Possibly one of the more underrated players on Central's list, and he firmly belongs in the sleeper category based on his ranking. RLR scout Radim Jelinek gave Gernat a strong review in an interview we did with him earlier this season. Gernat is 6-4, but lacks the weight and strength to be all that effective physically right now, but sees the ice well and plays a strong positional game. He's got some legitimate upside as a passer and puck mover and he's going to develop a powerful shot when he reaches his physical maturity.
NR- Richard Ullberg, G SaiPa Jr. (FIN- Jr.)- What the hell happened to this guy? Like Perhonen, Ullberg is the stereotypical Finnish butterfly goalie with size and a wide stance who takes up huge portions of the net and brings terrific reflexes and blocking/recovery abilities to the table. He started strong in some international competition, but faded fast and the wheels completely came off as his season on the HIFK J20 season progressed (.887 save percentage, 3.35 GAA in 15 GP). Ullberg was dominant as a 15- and 16-year-old, so scouts are left scratching their heads over his disastrous season. Did he peak too soon and this sieve what Ullberg really is, OR- do you spend a late pick on him in hopes that he gets his head back on straight and gets back on the developmental track. If you believe the latter, you could end up with a steal of a prospect, because he certainly has the physical attributes to be a top prospect. It's one gamble that just might be worth taking, but only if a team thinks he can pull it together with some good coaching and handling. (EDIT- See comment section for an update on Ullberg's status)
Well, that's a wrap on the European list.
We'll let this percolate a bit and then be back with some notes on a few key fallers like Brandon Saad and others with an attempt to explain what is going on with him after having talked to several people about his stalled development.