Antero Niittymäki– One of the frustrating aspects of European hockey is that young players typically have difficulty getting ice time over veterans unless the vet is injured or plays himself out of the job. By all rights, the TPS Turku starting goaltending job should have belonged to Antero Niittymäki at the start of this season. After winning the league rookie of the year honors and backstopping his team to the Finnish championship last season, there was scarcely more that Niittymäki could have done to prove his worthiness of being the full-time TPS starter. Instead, veteran Fredrik Norrena has once again resumed duties as the #1 goalie for TPS. Niittymäki only played one full game coming into this past week, looking poor in a TPS loss. However, Niittymäki finally got the nod for his second start of the season and put up a 20 save shutout. He has played 140 minutes so far on the season.
Marko Kauppinen– Kauppinen has started 7 of Jokerit’s 8 games so far. He scored a goal in the first week of the season, his only point to date. Kauppinen has been getting steadier ice time but still does not play heavy minutes. He has only been on the ice for one goal against so far.
David Nyström– Nyström has shown himself to be one of the better young players at the Allsvenskan level in Sweden (one step below the Elites). Coming off a strong rookie season for IF Troja/Ljunby, Nyström has come out of the gates quickly this year. He has 3 goals and an assist in 3 games played so far. He had a goal and a helper in his last outing.
Pär Styf– Styf is now playing at the Elitserien level because his club, Timrå, earned a promotion to the top league. He has played mostly on the third pairing and has yet to register a point or a penalty in 4 games played to date.
Pavel Kasparik– The biggest disappointment so far. After going from powerhouse Sparta to a weak Karlovy Vary team, Kasparik figured to play a more prominent role. So far, things have not worked out. Starting on the first line, he has worked his way down to the third. The big center has no goals and two assists in 10 games to date.
Milan Kopecky– The young Slavia forward has only dressed for one game this season, failing to register a point.
I have yet to get updates on the individual early season performances of Alexander Drozdetsky and Konstantin Rudenko. Their team, SKA St. Petersburg is off to a poor start, winning just one of their first four games (they have played nine games to date, but the results of the last five games are not yet available).