European club team play has resumed after the tournament break. Here’s a look at the latest happenings with Philadelphia Flyers-affiliated prospects playing in Europe.
Roman Malek: Malek returns from the Czech national team crease as the undisputed top goalie in the circuit. Ranked number one in both goals against and save percentage, Malek’s outstanding goaltending has Slavia Prague in 2nd place, behind a powerhouse Pardubice squad. For the season, Malek has allowed a mere 25 goals in 18 starts, for a 1.43 goal against average and .956 save percentage.
Milan Kopecky: The speedy young winger now dresses regularly for Slavia but does not get much ice time. He has 2 points (1 goal) in 12 games.
Pavel Kasparik: Kasparik is centering the 4th line for 5th place Sparta Prague and has not done much to prove he belongs back on the scoring lines where he played for a lengthy stretch last season. After 18 games, he is still looking for his first goal but has three helpers.
Joni Pitkänen : With all the hype surrounding Pitkänen, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that he is a junior-aged defenseman playing in a tough senior league. Young defensemen are, by nature, prone to inconsistency and Pitkänen has been battling through a mini-slump. The break came at a good time for him. He has not played as consistently over the course of the still-young season as teammates Lasse Kukkanen and Mikko Myllykoski, who have anchored Kärpät’s blueline to 3rd place in the Finnish standings. The good news, however, is that Pitkänen’s errors are errors caused by aggressive play– getting caught out of position, the occassional risky pass being intercepted– and not mistakes that are made by being tentative. There’s no cause whatsoever for concern but it would also be wise for people to stop projecting that Pitkänen is on the cusp of making an NHL impact– he’s close to being NHL ready but he’s still a lot of learning and growing to do. For the season, Pitkänen has 8 points (2 goals) in 19 games, to go along with a -3 rating and 24 PIMs.
Marko Kauppinen: I recently had a lengthy discussion with TPS observer Teemu Mattila about Kauppinen and the way European prospects are assessed. The gyst of the conversation was that Kauppinen would be one of those “in between” Euro prospects, if such a designation existed. Euro prospects are still judged on the basis of whether they could help an NHL team but for a variety of reasons,rarely on whether they be of help to an AHL roster even if they fall short of NHL standards. Even with the dilution of the talent pool, I don’t think the Flyers– or any other team– would bring a player like Kauppinen just to play in the AHL if they did not feel like he had a shot to make the NHL at any point. It’s a two-way street, though. As with most Euro players, I don’t think Kauppinen would be particularly interested in being a minor league player over here rather than an elite league player in Europe. So like others of similar stature– forward Ruslan Shafikov also comes to mind– Kauppinen is probably destined to be a footnote in Flyers drafting history, although he is a pretty good player.
Theoretically, however, Kauppinen might be able to come over and adjust to the American Hockey League to become a surprisingly productive player. He’s got the mobility, offensive skill, and feistiness to be a potentially be a productive player for the Phantoms. He’ll never be NHL material, however, either in Philly or elsewhere. He wouldn’t have a role– Kauppinen is not strong enough defensively and not possessed of quite enough offensive skill to play on an NHL-level powerplay. He already has size working against him, too, although he doesn’t back down from anyone. For the season, Kauppinen has 8 points (3 goals)and 44 PIM in 20 games to go along with a +1 rating for 4th place TPS Turku.
Jussi Timonen : Timonen now dresses regularly on the TPS blueline, although his ice time is still dished out sparingly. Even so, he remains an interesting sleeper prospect. He’s started 14 games for TPS and is -3 with 2 PIMs. The rookie is still looking for his first SM-Liiga point.
David Printz: Printz is intriguing because of his size but his upside seems to top out as an average European league player. That said, he’s shown some improvement from last season. The defenseman has started 12 games for 5th place HPK and has one point (a goal) to go along with a -2 rating and 10 PIM.
Alexander Drozdetsky: Drozdetsky needs to get going again offensively. He’s picked up the odd assist or two (including one in the first game after league play resumed) but after a red hot scoring start, he’s now gone without a goal in his last 11 games. For the season, he has 13 points (7 goals, 3 on the powerplay) in 20 games, to go along with 10 penalty minutes for 11th place CSKA.
Konstantin Rudenko: Rudenko has worked through the shoulder problems that cost him virtually the entire 2001-2002 season and played very aggressively. He’s still a longshot prospect but he’s making progress. For the season, he has 5 points (3 goals) in 13 games, to go along with 20 PIMs for first place Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
Konstantin Baronov: The 21 year old Baronov is already a well-traveled player. Recently traded from 2nd place Avangard (for whom he was not getting much playing time) to 10th place Salavat Yulaev, Baronov is now on his third team in less than two seasons. Hopefully, he should see more playing time now. Overall, he’s played in 7 games and has one assist.
David Nyström: Depending on the quality of the roster, Nyström could be a role player in Elitserien or a scoring player at the Allsvenskan level. Despite a subpar season last year, Nyström established himself as a good Allsvenskan player a few years ago. There’s nothing left for him gain at that level. He’s now been playing in Allsvenskan for so long that he’s stagnated as a prospect; I’m not even referring to his status as an NHL prospect, because that’s not on the radar screen at all at this point. I mean his status a potential elitserien impact player. For the season, Nyström is a top player on a weak Halmstad Hammers club (mired in 10th place, already 21 points behind runaway league leaders Rögle). He has 9 goals (12 points) in 14 games. His -2 plus/minus rating is irrelevant because he’s on a poor club.