Among European skaters available for the 2015 NHL Draft, there are numerous players who have impressive track records playing for their respective countries. Taking a look at players 11 thru 24 in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings, a few standout players burst onto the scene this season thanks to their performances at the international level.
But there are a handful of players who guided their teams to domestic championships, as well, and as a result, they too have quickly climbed the draft rankings. These players could be expected to be drafted in the second or third round, but it wouldn’t be surprising to hear the names of a couple of these skaters called in the latter half of the first round.
20. Denis Malgin, Center, ZSC Lions (NLA)
5’9”, 176 pounds, Olten, SUI
Most players who aren’t blessed with size have to manufacture their own scoring chances in creative ways, and few excel at doing that more than Denis Malgin. He split the season between the top tiers in Switzerland, won an Elite Junior A Championship, and performed admirably against top men’s competition.
Malgin is an accomplished international skater, participating for his country in well over 50 career games. The slick Swiss native captained the Under-18 team and starred alongside of Nashville Predators prospect Kevin Fiala with the U20 team.
18. Sebastian Aho, Right Wing, Karpat (Liiga)
5’11”, 172 pounds, Rauma, FIN
Not to be confused with the Swedish draft-eligible defenseman of the same name, the Finnish Sebastian Aho split the year between Karpat’s junior and senior squads. He was a point-per-game player at the junior level, and finished with 11 points in 27 games playing against men in Liiga.
Aho had a knack this season for scoring goals in important situations, none more impressive than his effort in Game 7 of Liiga’s championship series. In overtime, Aho scored the deciding goal to win it all for Karpat, reinvigorating his game after a disappointing WJC run.
17. Alexander Dergachyov, Center, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)
6’4”, 201 pounds, Langepas, RUS
One of the most dominant junior players in Russia, Alexander Dergachyov has many of the skills and tools that NHL teams find desirable. He finished the regular season with 10 goals and 29 assists in 45 games, then added another 11 goals in the MHL playoffs, putting him squarely on top of MHL goal-scoring.
With his size, grit, and determination to move the puck, Dergachyov is trending positively after performing well at numerous international events. With two more years left on his contract, his two-way game and developing offensive ability will have time to improve before coming to North America.
16. Erik Cernak, Defenseman, HC Kosice (Slovakia)
6’3”, 203 pounds, Kosice, SVK
With recent contracts handed out to physical, right-handed defensemen, Erik Cernak will surely be in demand at the draft, perhaps sneaking his way into the first round. The rangy, physical, defensively capable Cernak garnered quite a bit of attention as one of the youngest players in the WJC tournaments over the last two years.
A positive sign for his development, Cernak was trusted with power play ice time with Kosice, who won their second straight Extraliga title with Cernak on board. On the international stage, Cernak helped Slovakia to a bronze medal at the 2015 World Junior Championship, their first since 1999.
15. Julius Nattinen, Center, JYP-Akatemia (Mestis)
6’2”, 192 pounds, Jyvaskala, FIN
The younger brother of former Montreal Canadiens draft pick Joonas Nattinen, the younger Nattinen has been a staple of Finland’s junior teams. Finland picked up a silver medal at the U18 this year, with Nattinen chipping in two goals and two assists in seven games.
He is much more of a playmaker, preferring to defer to a teammate, but once the play gets into the zone, it’s nearly impossible to strip Nattinen of the puck thanks to his impressive lower-body strength. He rarely takes a shift off, is willing to block shots and clear traffic, and projects as a valuable two-way center at the NHL level.
14. Roope Hintz, Left Wing, Ilves (Liiga)
6’2”, 183 pounds, Tampere, FIN
Finnish forward Roope Hintz was a prolific scorer at the junior level in Finland, and recently finished his first full year playing against grown men in Finland’s top tier. Hintz brings a number of offensive tools to the table, and is versatile enough to play all three forward positions.
Hintz really excelled this year when injecting a consistent, physical brand of hockey into his game. Hintz battled consistency, but still managed five goals and 12 assists in 42 Liiga games, respectable numbers for a bottom-six forward.
12. Jonas Siegenthaler, Defenseman, ZSC Lions (NLA)
6’2”, 214 pounds, Zurich, SUI
Despite being limited offensively, there are not very many international defensemen who are as capable in their own zone as is Swiss native Jonas Siegenthaler. The young defenseman has been honing his craft at home in Zurich’s system, and recently competed in his first full year in the NLA, the top tier of Swiss hockey.
Siegenthaler’s defensive acumen was noticed during this year’s U20 WJC, where he finished as a +9 through six games for a team that finished the tournament at 2-3-1. He is a smooth skater who makes an accurate outlet pass, defends well, and projects as a capable defensive defenseman.
11. David Kase, Center, KLH Chomutov (Czech2)
5’9”, 161 pounds, Kadan, CZE
The younger, smaller brother of Anaheim Ducks prospect Ondrej Kase, David made a name for himself this season with his slick skating stride and improving hockey sense. An electric playmaker, Kase’s ability to dart in and out of traffic helped him dominate against his peers at the junior level.
Kase guided Chomutov to a Czech2 championship alongside of his brother, but often looked like the more dangerous player despite his obvious lack of size. Kase was a member of the Czech Republic’s silver medal-winning team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, where he gained notoriety after scoring one of his highlight-reel goals.
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