Most European leagues are either playing their last games of the regular season or have already finished. Here’s a look at how Anaheim’s prospects in Europe are playing.
Ladislav Smid – Defenseman – HC Bili Tygri Liberec
This 19-year-old blueliner is the Ducks top prospect in Europe and has been a standout both with his Czech Republic club team and the country’s Under-20 junior team. He was called on to be a leader at the World Juniors, when the
Czechs had a lineup that featured only four returning players. Rising to the challenge, Smid saw time in all situations and although he only tallied two
assists, his play helped the team win the bronze medal. Back in the Czech senior Extraleague, Smid has continued to get regular playing time, despite the addition of locked out NHL players such as Detroit’s Jiri Fischer and Atlanta’s Jaroslav Modry and Tomas Kloucek. Paired with Czech league veteran Vlademar Jirus, Smid’s focus has been on improving his defensive game and so in 35 games, he has scored just a goal and two assists along with a -2 plus/minus rating. Smid was also named to the Czech Republic’s national team for the recent Sweden Hockey Games. Sweden won the tournament and the Czechs placed second, with the results of the tournament counting in the European Hockey Tour. Ondrej Weissmann, the coach of the Czech Republic’s national team praised Smid for his solid play after the tournament and called him an important part of the future of Czech hockey.
Outlook: After he was drafted ninth overall in 2004, it was widely reported that Smid would play another season in the Czech Republic before joining Anaheim’s organization in North America. Look for him to challenge for an NHL roster spot in 2005-06.
Vladimir Korsunov – Defenseman – Spartak Moscow
Korsunov continues to play strong in the Russian leagues and fly under the radar in North America. He’s having a good year on one of the RSL’s worst teams, leading the blueliners in scoring with nine points, including three goals. Korsunov lost his regular partner in former Los Angeles King, Tomaz Zizka, partway through the year, but that does not seem to have much effect on his play. He has been seeing plenty of ice time and plays a versatile two-way game, while also using his size effectively. His 40 penalty minutes are third on his team.
Outlook: In the spring of last year, Korsunov signed a two-year extension with
Spartak Moscow, the only team he has ever played for. It seems more and more unlikely that this 2001
fourth rounder will ever play in North America. Anaheim has a large stable of defensive prospects already playing in Cincinnati. While Korsunov could one day challenge for an NHL spot, it doesn’t appear that he is in Anaheim’s plans in the near future. Korsunov turns 22 in March, so the door remains open if the Ducks do decide to take a closer look.
Maxim Rybin – Left Wing – Spartak Moscow
Interesting enough, both of Anaheim’s Russian prospects now play on the same team. Rybin’s career has come full circle, after playing for Spartek Moscow earlier in his career. The former RSL Rookie of the Year hasn’t developed much since his days in the OHL when he put up 70 points with the Sarnia Sting. An early season trade this year saw him leave Cherepovets Severstal to become one of the top scorers for a weak
Spartak Moscow team. Between the two teams he has two goals and 11 points in 31 games. Talented but tiny, Rybin appears to have hit a ceiling, development wise.
Outlook: Anaheim had a look at this Russian speedster during the 2000 training camp and he was returned to the OHL. Despite leading his team in goals and coming in second in points, he returned to Russia the following year. It appears that Rybin is no longer in Anaheim’s plans.
Tony Mårtensson – Center – Linkoping
Martensson is one of the top players on Linkoping and in the SEL in general.
He’s played very well and put up solid numbers, playing behind a line of locked
out NHL players (Florida’s Kristian Huselius, Vancouver’s Brendan Morrison and
Philadelphia’s Mike Knuble). When Huselius was injured, Martensson did a good
job filling in on the top line and now that Huselius no longer plays for
Linkoping, Martensson could again benefit from increased ice time and talented
linemates. Martensson is tied for fourth on his team in scoring, behind the top
line of NHL players. He has garnered 13 goals and 32 points in 46 games. He has
also answered the call for his country’s National Team throughout the year. He
played for Team Sweden in the Karjala Cup (part of the European Hockey Tour) and
was held scoreless in three games. Originally named to the Swedish National Team
for play in the Rosno Cup (another tournament that is part of the European
Hockey Tour) in December, Martensson suffered an injury that forced him to drop
out. The availability of players who would normally be in the NHL left him off
the roster for the most recent European Hockey Tour tournament, the Sweden
Hockey Games. It’s expected that the number of available locked out NHL players
will also diminish his chances at playing for Sweden at the World Championships.
Outlook: A seventh round selection in 2001
by Anaheim, Martensson is still intent on returning to North America to try to
reach the NHL once again. Martensson will no longer be considered a prospect
after this summer and his contract with Linkoping still has another year
remaining. He still needs to fill out his game in order to be able to make an
impact on the NHL level.
Bjorn Melin – Left Wing – Malmo IF
There was a lot of hope for Melin after he had a strong playoff for HV 71 to conclude the 2003-04. He tallied 12 points in 19 games during the run, after scoring only 18 points the whole season. However, despite having a new team for 2004-05, Melin ended up showing more of the same production
wise. In 42 games with Malmo, he has six goals and 16 points, decent numbers, but not enough to catch the eye of Anaheim. A hard competitor, Melin played for Team Sweden at the Rosno Cup, but he was held pointless in the three games and Sweden finished last.
Outlook: Melin turns 24 in July, and will no
longer be considered a prospect. However, at this time, it appears unlikely he’ll ever be signed by Anaheim. He’s a solid grinder in the SEL and will no doubt continue to have a strong career there, but his NHL future is rather dim.
Ville Mantymaa – Defenseman – Tappara Tampere
The good news on Mantymaa is that he had a strong World Juniors playing for Team Finland. He was one of the older members of the national team and was called upon to lead and make plays from the blueline. Playing in an Under-20 tournament in Europe prior to the World Juniors, Mantymaa was singled out for his smart decisions with the puck and his willingness to use his slap shot on the
power play. Nothing changed when he left for North Dakota, although he was forced to sit out the first two games of tournament play with a finger injury. In four games, Mantymaa scored a goal and added an assist to share the scoring lead of Finnish blueliners. Back in Finland, the story isn’t as bright. So far, he’s been unable to latch onto a roster spot with Tappara Tampere of the SM-Liiga. He’s seen time in roughly half of the team’s games, but inconsistent play has kept him from cementing a regular shift. In 26 games, Mantymaa has scored a lone goal.
Outlook: Mantymaa’s last name loosely translates to “Redwood” in English and at
6’3, he definitely fits the label. Unfortunately, he doesn’t fit the label of the translation of his first name, Ville, which means “Wildness”. He would be much better served if he used his size more and added some grit to his game. Only 19, Mantymaa has shown in tournaments like the World Juniors, that he has an impressive upside. There’s still work to be done, but his development is aided by playing against grown men in the
Janne Pesonen – Right Wing – Karpat
Pesonen broke out last year in his first full season of SM-Liiga play. He was named rookie of the year in the Finnish league and then was drafted as a 22-year-old in the
ninth round. With such a whirlwind first year, Pesonen hasn’t been able to serve up much in terms of an encore.
He has been relying too much on his linemates in order to produce. This tendency was visible last season, and he’s been unable to shake it. It’s catching up with him, as he seems to be unable to create chances on his own. Slight in stature, Pesonen doesn’t shy
from physical play, but he isn’t known for his grit either. Outlook: Pesonen’s playing for a strong Karpat team and isn’t too far off of his production from last season, with seven goals and 21 points in 47 games. He’ll need to show more and continue to develop if he wants to get a second glance from Anaheim. Pesonen is the definition of a late round
pick; he has potential but there are questions on whether he can put it all together.
Joonas Vihko – Left Wing – HIFK Helsinki
Another former SM-Liiga Rookie of the Year, Vihko could be an example of what Janne Pesonen may one day become. Vihko was chosen in the fourth round at the 2002 Draft and is now 23. After scoring around 25 points in each of his first two years of SM-Liiga play, Vihko’s production dropped last season and even lower this year. At least some of this drop can be blamed on the NHL lockout, with regular NHL players such as Florida’s Olli Jokinen, Pittsburgh’s Lasse Pirjeta and Vancouver’s Jarkko Ruutu joining HIFK. Despite his skill, his size limits his usefulness and he’s been unable to grab opportunities as they have presented themselves with the club. In 45 games this year, Vihko has put up four goals and 13 points.
Outlook: Vihko attended a rookie camp in Anaheim prior to the 2002-03 season, but did not play in any games during the rookie tourney. Whether this had any effect on his production is hard to say, but his numbers dropped significantly after he was sent back to Finland. That will probably be the only look Anaheim will give this Finnish speedster. In the end, he just cannot overcome the fact that he is only
Juha Alen – Defenseman – Ilves Tampere
The 2004-05 season has been eventful for Juha Alen to say the least. He started the year injured and on team suspension after breaking his foot in a non-hockey incident. The broken foot kept him out of the lineup until January, because team doctors wanted to take the time to make sure it healed properly. Then in mid-January, after missing all Cincinnati Mighty Ducks games up to that point, Alen signed a deal with Ilves Tampere for the remainder of the year. Alen had previously played in the Ilves system prior to coming to North America in 2001. So far he’s only been given a small role with the Sm-Liiga team and has been held pointless in his four appearances.
Outlook: Alen is still under contract into next season and so he’ll be at training camp in the fall. The injury and team suspension lost him his job in Cincinnati and his recovery took longer then hoped. Development wise, it is probably better that he is in Sm-Liiga instead of the ECHL. He still has the potential to make it to the NHL.
Ducks top prospect Ryan Getzlaf returned to the Calgary Hitmen lineup on February 19th after missing
11 games with a concussion. The 2003 first round selection suffered the injury on January 25th after being hit hard by Canadian World Junior teammate and Calgary Flame prospect Dion Phaneuf. In his first game back, Getzlaf tallied a goal and an assist. He now has 24 goals and 43 points in 41 games, which is good enough for second on the Hitmen in scoring. The Calgary captain returned just in time, it seems, as Hitmen coach Kelly Kisio recently expressed his frustration to the media over his team’s lackluster play.
Corey Perry’s strong play in the OHL has shown no sign of slowing down. The star of the London Knights was named the OHL player of the week for two weeks in a row in late January through to early February. Over a five game period, Perry totaled ten goals and 19 points, including a five goal outing on January 30th. He was also named player of the month for the month of January. In 51 games, Perry has 39 goals and 102 points to his name. He also joined fellow Ducks
prospect Jordan Smith at the OHL All-Star Game on February 2nd. Perry was named first star of the game as he scored a goal and added three assists to lead the Western Conference to a 9-4 victory. Smith was also a member of the Western Conference team. The Greyhounds blueliner was held pointless, but finished the game a respectable +2. In 53 games, Smith has scored five times and has 24 points.
Michael Holmqvist also got to participate in some All-Star fun. The Cincinnati Mighty Ducks
left winger played for the PlanetUSA All-Star team at the 2005 Dodge All-Star Classic. In the Irving Oil Rapid Fire competition, Holmqvist scored on three of five shots versus Manchester goalie, Mathieu Garon (LA). Meanwhile, during the RepeatSeat Breakaway Relay, Holmqvist was stopped by Grand Rapids Griffin, Joey MacDonald (DET). During the All-Star Game, Holmqvist assisted on a Tomas Plekanec (MTL) goal that signaled a PlanetUSA comeback after being down by three goals entering the second period. PlanetUSA fought back to win the game 5 to 4 in a shootout victory. In 56 games with Cincinnati, Holmqvist has 11 goals and 34 points, good enough for second on the team.
Pekka Lampinen, Johan Nilsson, Ivanka Paulova and Eugene Belashchenko
contributed to this article.
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