European outlook for the 2005 draft

By Liam Peverley

In the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, 88 international players were selected, 30.2 percent of the total, which was down from 31.8 percent in 2003 and 37.9 percent in 2002. The 2004 draft was also the only one of the past three years that saw an international player taken first overall, in this case Alexander Ovechkin.

The imminent expiration of the NHL-IIHF transfer agreement may have made teams a bit gun shy on Europeans last summer, but the NHL and the IIHF have recently agreed, at least in principle, a new deal which will allow for the transfer of players from outside the North American junior and college leagues to the NHL, and includes Russian players. Given that the Russian Hockey Federation wanted to make its own agreement with the NHL the agreement was very good news. NHL GM’s will be confident that they will be able to bring their selections over to play without paying exorbitant transfer fees.

Obviously with a seven-round instead of a nine-round draft there will be fewer total international players taken, but the percentage will be a telling statistic. The 2005 European draft class is not considered very strong, and the new CBA rules regarding deadlines to sign European players may depress the percentage further. Time will tell.

Here’s a look at how each country did last draft, and the top prospects likely to be drafted this year. Countries are ranked by the position of their highest drafted player from the 2004 draft. Although several countries have been listed as having no notable prospects, it’s likely that at least one of these countries will have a player picked. Despite whatever else the lockout changed, the draft is still unpredictable.

Russia

2004 recap:
Highest Pick: Alexander Ovechkin, 1st overall
1st round picks: 3
Total selected: 17
2005 outlook:
Highest ranked prospects: Ilya Zubov, C; Anton Belov, D; Gennadi Churiloy, C; Vjateslav Buravchikov, D; Denis Istomin, RW

Czech Republic

2004 recap:
Highest Pick: Rostislav Olesz, 7th overall
1st round picks: 4
Total selected: 19
2005 outlook:
Highest ranked prospects: Martin Hanzal, C; Ondrej Pavelec, G; Tomas Kudelka, D; Jakub Vojta, D; Petr Kalus, C

Slovakia

2004 recap:
Highest Pick: Boris Valabik, 10th overall (OHL)
1st round picks: 2
Total selected: 10
2005 outlook:
Highest ranked prospects: Juraj Mikus, RW; Vladimir Mihalik, D; Richard Lelkes, RW; Ondrej Otcenas, C; Marek Bartanus, LW.

Finland

2004 recap:
Highest Pick: Lauri Tukonen, 11th overall
1st round picks: 3
Total selected: 14
2005 outlook:
Highest ranked prospects: Tuukka Rask, G; Teemu Laakso, D; Risto Korhonen, D; Perttu Lindgren, C; Mikko Lehtonen, RW

Poland

2004 recap:
Highest Pick: Wojtek Wolski, 21st overall (OHL)
1st round picks: 1
Total selected: 1
2005 outlook:
Highest ranked prospects: No notable prospects this year.

Sweden

2004 recap:
Highest Pick: Johannes Salmonsson, 31st overall
1st round picks: 0
Total selected: 18
2005 outlook:
Highest ranked prospects: Niklas Bergfors, RW; Mattias Ritola, C; Niklas Hjalmarsson, D; Alexander Hellstrom, D; Christopher From-Bjork, D

Belarus

2004 recap:
Highest Pick: Roman Voloshenko, 42nd overall (Russia-2)
1st round picks: 0
Total selected: 4
2005 outlook:
Highest ranked prospects: Siarhei Kastsitsyn, LW; Alexei Sopin, RW; Alexei Savin, RW

Slovenia

2004 recap:
Highest Pick: None
1st round picks: 0
Total selected: 0
2005 outlook:
Highest ranked prospects: Anze Kopitar, C

Latvia

2004 recap:
Highest Pick: Martin Karsums, 64th overall (QMJHL)
1st round picks: 0
Total selected: 1
2005 outlook:
Highest ranked prospects: No notable prospects this year.

Kazakhstan

2004 recap:
Highest Pick: Viktor Alexandrov, 83rd overall (RSL)
1st round picks: 0
Total selected: 3
2005 outlook:
Highest ranked prospects: No notable prospects this year.

Denmark

2004 recap:
Highest Pick: Peter Regin, 87th overall
1st round picks: 0
Total selected: 2
2005 outlook:
Highest ranked prospects: Frederik Hentze, D; Simon Nielsen, G;

Germany

2004 recap:
Highest Pick: Thomas Greiss, 94th overall
1st round picks: 0
Total selected: 1
2005 outlook:
Highest ranked prospects: Philip Gogulla, RW; Christoph Gawlik, C/W; Moritz Muller, C

Switzerland

2004 recap:
Highest Pick: Julien Sprunger, 117th overall
1st round picks: 0
Total selected: 4
2005 outlook:
Highest ranked prospects: Janick Steinmann, C; Viktor Stancescu, LW; Reto Berra, G; Alessandro Chiesa, D; Adrien Lauper, W

Japan

2004 recap:
Highest Pick: Yutaka Fukufuji, 238th overall
1st round picks: 0
Total selected: 1
2005 outlook:
Highest ranked prospects: None.

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