An NHL team known for its contingent of Finnish players starting with Jere Lehtinen, the Dallas Stars have returned to the European well for a number of prospects. The Stars also had four Swedes, one Czech, one Norwegian, and one Hungarian in the AHL with the Iowa Stars in 2005-06, so it’s no surprise that the Stars had 14 prospects playing in Europe this past season.
It’s also no surprise that Dallas had six players playing in Finland in 2005-06, including a center who won the Sm-Liiga Rookie of the Year Award and a Connecticut-born defenseman skating for Assat in an experiment to improve his skating skills. Three more prospects skated in Sweden, including a 24-year-old center who is poised to make the jump to North America and a 21-year-old defenseman who needs to.
Dallas had no Russian prospects in North America in 2005-06, but a physical defenseman could cross the Atlantic after establishing himself as a regular on the Russian national team. Two other young Russian Stars prospect forwards made encouraging progress in the Russian High League and could challenge for spots in the Super League in 2006-07. Dallas’ lone Swiss prospect has played nearly every minute in his team’s net the past two seasons and is already certain to play in some location along Interstate 35 next season. The Stars’ lone Czech prospect playing in his homeland had a mediocre season in the Czech Republic’s second-best league.
a, sans-serif”>Unfortunately, the road seems to have come to a premature end for one of Dallas’ 14 prospects. Finnish defenseman Niko Vainio retired after one game with Assat of the Sm-Liiga due to chronic back problems. The same herniated disc in his back limited Vainio to just 11 games with the Peterborough Petes in 2004-05. Vainio put up one goal and five assists in his short time with Peterborough, but his back problems ended his career at only 20 years of age.
Except for Vainio, the progress of Dallas Stars European prospects is detailed below.
Johan Fransson, D (21)
2nd Rd, 34th overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft
Johan Fransson started skating in the Swedish Elite League full time starting with the 2003-04 season as an 18-year-old, leading the Dallas Stars to draft the Lulea defenseman in the second round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The smooth-skating Fransson was expected to become an offensive defenseman given his skating and stick skills, but he has never put up numbers at any level and his development in Sweden seems to have stalled.
Fransson moved up to Lulea’s second defense pairing a month into the 2005-06 season and scored three goals and five assists in 50 games. The 21-year-old started the Swedish Elite League playoffs in fine fashion, scoring the game-winning, overtime goal and adding a power-play assist, but those would be Fransson’s last points of the playoffs, as Linkopings eliminated Lulea in six games. To add insult to injury, Fransson finished the playoffs with a Lulea team-worst -7 rating.
Dallas would like to further Fransson’s development by bringing him to North America.
“He’s a player that we’ll enter contract talks with,” Dallas Stars General Manager Doug Armstrong said in an interview with Hockey’s Future. “He’s an offensive player that we think should get over and get accustomed to North American hockey.”
Fransson’s contract with Lulea is up, and now may be the time to bring Fransson over. Stars Swedish defense prospect Nicklas Grossman is projected to skate with the Iowa Stars again in 2006-07 and would make an excellent partner for Fransson and help his transition to North America both on and off the ice. The 6’1, 183-pound Fransson will need to bulk up his frame to survive the rigors of North American pro hockey, but his skating ability alone should ensure some level of success in the AHL in 2006-07, should he come to North America next season. Given that Mario Scalzo is currently the only prospect offensive defenseman projected to play in Iowa next season, Fransson would likely receive every opportunity to excel in offensive situations in the AHL in 2006-07.
Elias Granath, D (20)
6th Rd, 196th overall, 2003 NHL Entry Draft
After skating the 2003-04 season with Leksands in the Swedish Elite League, both Leksands and Granath were relegated to the Allsvenskan League for 2004-05. Granath had a chance to make more of an impact in Sweden’s second tier of pro hockey, scoring three goals and three assists in 33 games. The 19-year-old also had a fairly successful 2005 World Championships as well, scoring one goal and two assists in six games. However, back in the SEL in 2005-06, Granath was again used sparsely and tallied no points in 46 games. The 2003-04 season was not much different, as Granath went pointless in 38 games.
The 20-year-old defenseman has yet to establish himself as anything more than a role player in the Swedish Elite League. To Granath’s credit, Leksands had a lot of depth at defense, featuring former NHL defensemen Ladislav Benysek, Yan Golubovsky, Jan Nemecek, and Pavel Trnka. Leksands finished with the worst record in the SEL and was relegated in the Qualifying Series, a 10-game mini-season between the bottom two teams in the SEL standings and the top four teams from the Allsvenskan League. Leksands did not play Granath during the Qualifying Series, marking Granath’s place as one of their extra defensemen.
Given who all is expected, or can be expected, to play with the Iowa Stars next season, the odds are overwhelming that Granath plays in Sweden again in 2006-07, quite possibly with Leksands again the Allsvenskan League. The odds also appear overwhelming that Granath never plays for the Stars organization.
Jarkko A. Immonen, C (22)
Drafted: 4th Rd, 110th overall, 2002 NHL Entry Draft
Not to be confused with the New York Rangers prospect of the same name, Jarkko A. Immonen was once considered one of the top young Finnish talents, but he has since failed to make a major impact in the Sm-Liiga.
Named the best U17 player in 2001 and a Finnish Exemplar Player in 2002, Immonen put up promising numbers in the 2002 U18 World Championships and the 2004 World Junior Championships. Immonen utterly dominated Finnish juniors with the Espoo Blues in 2002-03 and 2003-04 season, as well as the 12 games he played in 2004-05, but he failed to make an impact in the 2004-05 season and scored only two goals and two assists in 44 games for Espoo in the Sm-Liiga.
Immonen played for SaiPa in 2005-06, and his production improved to seven goals and six assists in 53 games. A creative playmaker with excellent stickhandling and vision in Finnish juniors, Immonen lacks the speed and acceleration necessary to excel in the Sm-Liiga. The 22-year-old must improve his explosiveness in order to become an offensive impact player at the Sm-Liiga level, and thus earn consideration from the Dallas Stars.
It is highly unlikey that this Jarkko Immonen, unlike the one in the Rangers organization, will ever play in the NHL.
Vadim Khomitsky, D (23)
4th Rd, 123rd Overall, 2000 NHL Entry Draft
Drafted by the Dallas Stars nearly six years ago, Russian defenseman Vadim Khomitsky may be ready to make the jump to North America in 2006-07.
Khomitsky scored five goals and five assists for CSKA Moscow in 51 games, but perhaps the true mark of Khomitsky’s progress is the fact the Team Russia called upon the 23-year-old for all four of the Euro Tour tournaments: the Ceska Poistovna, the Karjala Cup, the ROSNO Cup and the Sweden Hockey Games. The Voskresensk native represented Russia at the 2005 ROSNO Cup in Moscow, but the 2005-06 season marked the first time Khomitsky represented Russia in all four tournaments of the Euro Tour. After four full seasons with CSKA in the Russian Super League, Khomitsky may be coming to North America in 2006-07.
“He’s a player that we have our eye on that we’d like to try and sign this summer, if possible,” Armstrong said. “We think, if he could come over, he’d be very close to competing, I think, at the NHL level.”
If Khomitsky did not crack Dallas, Armstrong said Khomitsky “would give us real good depth in our group.”
Were Khomitsky signed by Dallas, the 6’2, 207-pound defenseman would give the Stars organization an aggressive, physical defenseman. Khomitsky is an above-average skater who has good acceleration, although average top speed, and is willing to jump into the offensive play. Khomitsky’s point shot will need improvement if he is ever to man the point on Dallas’ second power-play unit. Defensively, Khomitsky is fairly effective in his own zone due to his lateral mobility and physicality, but his defensive awareness will need to continue to improve to excel at the NHL level.
Given the Stars’ depth at defense, regardless of whether Willie Mitchell re-signs, Khomitsky would still face an uphill battle to crack the Dallas line-up. However, he would give Iowa a solid defenseman who would challenge to be the first call-up if injuries struck Dallas and he adjusted well to the North American game, which his physical style should ensure. Long-term, Khomitsky could become a physical, two-way fourth or fifth defenseman for the Stars.
Eero Kilpelainen, G (20)
Drafted: 5th Rd, 144th overall, 2003 NHL Entry Draft
Known for drafting Finns and now known for its Finnish contingent on its NHL team, the Dallas Stars took Eero Kilpelainen in the fifth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft despite the fact he had only one season of Finnish junior A experience with KalPa. However, Kilpelainen had a decent 2003-04 season in Finnish juniors and was taken 59th overall by the Peterborough Petes in the 2004 CHL Import Draft. Kilpelainen put up decent numbers, but he was outplayed by Jeff MacDougald and lost the No. 1 spot down the stretch.
Kilpelainen returned to Finland for the 2005-06 season and played for Hermes Kokkola of the Mestis League, also known as the Finnish 1. Division. Playing in the second best league in Finland, Kilpelainen stood on his head for Hermes and compiled a .912 save percentage, tops in the Mestis among all goaltenders who played at least one-third of his team’s minutes. Despite his 3.11 goals-against average, Hermes finished with the second-worst record in the Mestis League. In the relegation round, Kilpelainen played all but 17 minutes of Hermes’ eight games, but his efforts were not enough, and Hermes was relegated to the Finnish 2. Division for 2006-07.
Kilpelainen most certainly will not follow the team to the 2. Division. Loaned by Assat Pori, an Sm-Liiga team with which Dallas has a development agreement with, to Hermes for the 2005-06 season, Kilpelainen did serve as the Assat backup for four games in December. Given his Herculean effort in the Mestis League, and given Dallas’ relationship with Assat, the Stars can only hope that Kilpelainen graduates to the Sm-Liiga in 2006-07.
Sergei Kukushkin, RW (20)
Capitan Stupino (RHL)
7th Rd, 218th Overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft
After a disjointed 2004-05 season, Sergei Kukushkin rebounded in 2005-06 and had his best season yet.
Kukushkin was drafted after playing for Team Belarus at the 2003 U18 World Championships and the 2004 DI Group B World Junior Championships, but he was not an impact player on a team that included such prospects as Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei Kostitsyn, Konstantin Zakharov, and Sergei Kolosov. The Belarussian attempted to make the move to North America as a 19-year-old in 2004-05. The 6’3, 200-pound forward started the season with the Indiana Ice of the USHL, but Kukushkin was traded to New England Huskies of the Eastern Junior Hockey League Dec. 28 after scoring only one goal and two assists in 19 games. The big Belarussian did manage to rack up 50 penalty minutes with “Indy.” After skating for Belarus at the 2005 World Junior Championships, Kukushkin moved to Massachusetts and found more of a home in the EJHL. Kukushkin was able to make his first offensive impact in a while by scoring 10 goals and 14 assists in 25 games. The Huskies missed the EJHL playoffs and Kukushkin returned to Minsk, where he had played for Junost in the Belarussian and Eastern European Hockey League in 2003-04.
Kukushkin did not stay in Belarus, however, he instead made the move to Russia and played for Capitan Stupino of the Russian High League. Stupino finished 12 in the High League’s West Division and missed the playoffs, but Kukushkin carried his confidence from New England to Russia and led Stupino in scoring with 21 goals and 11 assists in 45 games. Capitan was an extremely young team in 2005-06 with numerous players with minus ratings, but Kukushkin finished the season a +17, tied for the team lead. Picking up a lot of penalties for being big, Kukushkin’s 67 penalty minutes were second most on Stupino.
The 20-year-old had a solid 2005 in the EJHL and carried it over to a strong performance in the Russian High League in 2005-06. Kukushkin may still be a longshot NHL prospect, but he has at least again established himself as an NHL prospect. Because Russian has not signed the NHL-IIHF Player Transfer Agreement, the time may be right to sign Kukushkin, as the fee Dallas would pay to Stupino would likely be less than it would pay to a Russian Super League team, should Kukushkin make the jump in 2006-07 and Dallas were to sign him in 2007.
Perttu Lindgren, C (18)
3rd Rd, 75th Overall, 2005 NHL Entry Draft
After establishing dominion in Finnish juniors, scoring 12 goals and 29 assists in 38 regular season games and seven goals and 10 assists in 17 playoff games to lead Ilves to the 2005 Finnish junior A championships, Perttu Lindgren made the jump to the Sm-Liiga in 2005-06. The 18-year-old skated on Ilves’ third line for the first half of the season before skating for Finland at the 2006 World Junior Championships. Lindgren scored two goals and four assists in Vancouver, but it would be misleading to say that Lindgren had a great tournament. Five of Lindgren’s six points came in a 9-1 victory of Team Norway, which was subsequently relegated back to Division I for the 2007 WJC’s.
After Lindgren returned to Finland to resume his Sm-Liiga season, he again skated on the third line, until he scored two goals and an assist in a 3-2 overtime win over TPS Jan. 19. Lindgren was named the First Star of the Game, and Ilves had a rookie centering their first line thereafter. Skating with Florida Panthers prospect Toni Koivisto and Jussi Pesonen in his final 18 games, Lindgren scored eight goals and 14 assists, a scoring pace that would have bested the Sm-Liiga’s top scorer, Tony Salmelainen, had Lindgren maintained it for the entire season. Although he did not light up the league in the first half, Lindgren still finished second in Ilves scoring with 13 goals and 24 assists in 51 games.
The Sm-Liiga playoffs were not as kind to Lindgren and Ilves. HPK shut down Ilves and Lindgren, who went without a point in a four-game sweep to the eventual Sm-Liiga champions. Ilves’ chances, and Lindgren’s scoring, took a bit his when Koivisto was knocked out of the line-up after Game 1 against HPK.
Despite the difficulty scoring in the playoffs, Lindgren was still awarded the Jarmo Wasaman Trophy as the Sm-Liiga Rookie of the Year. His strong 2005-06 season also
“We’re having contract talks with him over the year,” Armstrong said. “If we don’t get him signed this summer, we’ll try and get him signed, obviously, before next year’s entry draft.”
“He a player that’s played very well and we have high hopes for him,” Armstrong added.
There is a possibility that Lindgren could come to North America as a 19-year-old and play in the AHL, as Los Angeles Kings prospect Lauri Tukonen did for the Manchester Monarchs. With Dallas set to become the sole supplier of talent to the Iowa Stars in 2006-07, the I-Stars will be in need of talent at center, and Lindgren would supply it.
Lindgren has the potential to become a playmaking second-line center for Dallas, but he’ll have to improve his speed and acceleration in order to succeed in the NHL. The 6’0, 187-pound pivot will also need to add more muscle, but his size is not a major concern. If Lindgren does play in the Sm-Liiga in 2006-07, he still has to prove he can score over the course of an entire season, especially now that he’s no longer flying under the radar of the opponent’s defense, and contribute offensively in the Sm-Liiga playoffs. Regardless of where Lindgren plays in 2006-07, he is a lock to play for Finland at the 2007 World Junior Championships in Sweden.
Joel Lundqvist, C (24)
Vastra Frolunda (SEL)
Drafted: 3rd Rd, 68th overall, 2000 NHL Entry Draft
Swedish center Joel Lundqvist appears to be in the Dallas Stars plan once again after a successful 2005-06 season with Vastra Frolunda.
Lundqvist had been a contributing player on Frolunda since he was a 19-year-old in the 2001-02 season, but his role was reduced in 2004-05 due to the return of players during the NHL lockout. However, Lundqvist was a vital cog again this season, scoring 10 goals and 22 assists in 49 games. The physical 6’1, 194-pound pivot also finished second on Frolunda in penalty minutes with 87. A two-way player, Lundqvist’s +12 rating tied him for second on Frolunda in plus/minus behind defenseman Ronnie Sundin, a regular on the Swedish national team.
Frolunda also went deep into the playoffs, losing to Farjestads in the finals. Frolunda picked up Jason Krog late in the season, which moved Lundqvist back to the third line, but the 24-year-old still scored three goals and four assists in 17 games. After a successful 2005-06 season, Dallas in interested in signing Lundqvist, but the clock is ticking.
“He’s a player that we have to sign by June 1 or we lose his rights,” Armstrong said of Lundqvist.
“He’s a competitive two-way player,” Armstrong said. “I think there’s always a transition period to understanding the National Hockey League game, or the American game, or the North American game, but we think he has a chance.”
Lundqvist will have to improve his skating in order to succeed in the NHL, but he has the potential to become a fourth-line center for the Dallas Stars. If Lundqvist comes over to North America in 2006-07, the odds are he will start the season with the Iowa Stars. He would likely start the season as Iowa’s second or third line center, but his experience and two-way play would likely make him one of the first call-ups to Dallas if injuries were to strike. It’s been nearly six years since Lundqvist was drafted, but the Stars third-round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft may begin to pay dividends.
Tuomas Mikkonen, LW (23)
8th Rd, 243rd overall, 2002 NHL Entry Draft
Drafted by the Dallas Stars after scoring a goals and two assists in 12 games as an 18-year-old in the Sm-Liiga, and averaging nearly a point per game in Finnish juniors, Tuomas Mikkonen has been a fixture in JYP’s Sm-Liiga line-up, but he has yet to make a major impact.
Mikkonen scored four goals and four assists in 36 games in an injury-riddled 2005-06 season. JYP juggled its lines often, allowing Mikkonen to play alongside some of JYP’s top players. However, Mikkonen’s 2005-06 season was primarily another season battling as a checking line forward. At 6’2, 205 pounds, Mikkonen has the size to excel along the boards, but needs more speed and awareness in order to become on the Sm-Liiga’s top checking forwards.
Having turned 23 in March, time is running out for Mikkonen to impress and earn a three-way contract from the Dallas Stars. Given that all NHL teams have a limit of 50 professional contracts, it would seem unlikely that Dallas would sign Mikkonen to a contract in 2006-07 when other prospects, such as John Lammers and Lundqvist, are expected to be joining the Stars organization. Mikkonen’s only hope would be that Dallas is the sole supplier of talent to the Iowa Stars in 2006-07, but Mikkonen would only be a fourth-line player at the AHL level and is an extreme long-shot to ever play in the NHL.
Alexander Naurov, C (20)
Crystall Saratov (RHL)
Drafted: 4th Rd, 134th overall, 2003 NHL Entry Draft
Drafted by the Stars after he scored three goals and two assists in six games for Team Russia at the 2003 U18 World Championships, Alexander Naurov has not yet lived up to the pre-draft hype that surrounded his U18 performance, but Naurov did have his best season yet.
Playing for the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl organization the past few seasons, Naurov was again on the club’s team in the Russian First League in 2004-05. Naurov scored 19 goals and 16 assists in 35 games for Yaroslav-2, adding 61 penalty minutes in the process. Naurov also played 11 games for Yaroslavl’s Super League team in 2004-05, but he failed to stick and left the organization after the season. In 2005-06, Naurov returned to his hometown and played for Crystall Saratov, moving up from the First League to the High League. The Saratov native played for Crystall and finished third in team scoring with 11 goals and 13 assists in 52 games. Saratov finished 10th in the West Division and missed the High League playoffs, thus ending Naurov’s season in early March.
However, Naurov’s first season in the High League provided hope for the future. The 21-year-old is known as hard-working player who has above-average skating skills and the ability to snipe. The 5’11, 183-pound center is also a scrappy player who has racked up penalty minutes in the First League, although his 42 penalty minutes in 2005-06 were more in line with the rest of his team. In order to stick in the Russian Super League, Naurov will have to improve his ice vision. There is also the possibility that Dallas could sign the Russian and assign him to Iowa or Idaho. As is the case with Kukushkin, the time may be now to sign Naurov, as the fee paid to a High League team for a transfer would likely be less than if Naurov played in the Super League and Dallas signed him in 2007.
Of course, there’s also a strong probability that Dallas never signs Naurov or Kukushkin.
Matt Nickerson, D (21)
Assat Pori (Sm-Liiga)
Drafted: 3rd Rd, 99th overall, 2003 NHL Entry Draft
The primary purpose for the Dallas Stars developmental agreement with Assat Pori in 2005-06 was to develop defenseman Matt Nickerson. Drafted out of the Texas Tornado of the North American Hockey League, Nickerson played one season of college hockey with Clarkson and then one season of major juniors with Victoriaville in the QMJHL. The 6’5, 227-pound blueliner had firmly established himself as an aggressive, physical defenseman who is also more than willing to fight, but it became evident at training camp in September that Nickerson needed to work on his skating skills. Because Nickerson would have likely continued to focus on his intimidation game with Idaho of the ECHL, where he would have been assigned had he stayed in North America, the Stars decided to force the skating issue and assign Nickerson to Assat.
The experiment was largely a success.
“I think it was a really good transitional year for him to turn pro,” Armstrong said. “He got to work on a lot of the skill development things and I think it was a very good experiment that panned out well.”
Nickerson may have set a new Sm-Liiga penalty-minute record with 236 minutes in only 36 games, but he also established himself on Assat’s first defense pairing with Pasi Peltonen as the season wore on. Possessing a strong point shot and decent hands, which he used to make quality passes, Nickerson found time on Assat’s power play and managed to score five goals and eight assists. All of Nickerson’s assists came on the power play and two of his goals came with the man advantage.
Nickerson scored only one goal in 14 Sm-Liiga playoff games, but Assat did make it to the finals, losing to HPK in four games in a best-of-five series. Although Nickerson’s offensive production was down in the playoffs, he was largely successful in playing a smarter game. The gigantic defenseman still picked up 50 penalty minutes, although he had no fighting majors, which earn 25 penalty minutes in the Sm-Liiga.
The New Haven, Conn., native will return to North America in 2006-07 and play for the Iowa Stars, having focused on his skills in Finland.
“We know he’s a physical player, we know he’s tough,” Armstrong said. “But, in today’s NHL, you have to be able to move your feet and you have to play a competitive two-way game.
“Being over there he didn’t have to worry about the physical element, but he could work on his skills, and that’s why we sent him there.”
Tobias Stephan, G (22)
2nd Rd, 34th overall, 2002 NHL Entry Draft
It’s official, Tobias Stephan will be in North America in 2006-07.
“We signed him last year and assigned him back there with the understanding that he’d be over in North American this year (2006-07) and for next season, so he’ll definitely be in our plans for North America,” Armstrong told Hockey’s Future in early April.
Then, Dallas recalled Stephan from Kloten of the Swiss Nationalliga A on April 22, after the Flyers had been eliminated for the Nationalliga A playoffs by Lugano. Kloten barely made the playoffs, but they upset the No. 1 seeded SC Bern in the first round of the Nationalliga A playoffs in six games. Stephan played every minute of the playoffs for Kloten and all but 22 minutes in 44 regular season games, as Simon Pfister started one game but was pulled. Over the course of the entire 55 games, Stephan had a .904 save percentage. Stephan’s five shutouts in the regular season were good for second in the Nationalliga A.
Practicing with Dallas for week during the playoffs before the Stars were eliminated by the Colorado Avalanche April 30, Stephan will likely start the 2006-07 season with the Iowa Stars. Iowa goaltender Mike Smith appears poised to challenge for the backup spot in Dallas in 2006-07, which would open a spot for Stephan in Iowa. If Dan Ellis returns to Iowa next season, Stephan will likely platoon with the veteran AHL netminder.
Like Smith, the 6’3, 185-pound Stephan takes up a lot of space in net and has good crease movement. Having played nearly every minute for Kloten the past two seasons, Stephan will have to adjust not only to the North American ice surface, but also preparing himself for games after having not played for a few games, as he is unlikely to start the season as Iowa’s starter if Ellis returns. However, Stephan has as much talent as any prospect goaltender in the Stars system.
Lukas Vomela, D (20)
KLH Hradec (Cze. 1)
8th Rd, 248th overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft
After playing most of the 2004-05 season with Ceske Budejovice’s J20 team, defenseman Lukas Vomela played his first full professional season in 2005-06.
Vomela played two games for Budejovice in the Czech 1. League last season, but when the team advanced to the Extraleague for 2005-06, 20-year-old Vomela was loaned to KLH Hradec of the Czech 1. League. Despite playing for the worst team in the 1. League, Vomela was not one of the team’s top defenseman, scoring only one goal and two assists in 33 games.
As one of the two worst teams in the 1. League, KLH Hradec had to play in the Relegation Round with the top three teams from the Czech 2. League. Vomela played all eight games for KLH Hradec, tallying one assist, but his -5 rating was worst on the team, which was relegated to the 2. League for the 2006-07 season.
Vomela did play one game for one game for Ceske Budejovice in the Extraleague in 2005-06, but it is unlikely that he will play regularly in the Extraleague in 2006-07. Where Vomela will end up for the 2006-07 season, is unknown. What is fairly certain is that it will not be in North America, as Dallas’ project eighth round pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft has yet to pan out. The first step for the 6’1, 192-pound defensive defenseman will be to establish himself as an above-average defenseman in the Czech 1. League, let alone the Czech Extraleague.
Eugene Belashchenko, Pekka Lampinen, and Johan Nilsson contributed to this article. Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.