Rangers European prospects 2009-10 review

By Leslie Treff

The Rangers had eight prospects skating in European leagues during the 2009-10 season, including six forwards and two defensemen. Not a team to shy away from selecting European skaters in the NHL Entry Draft, recent top prospects Alexei Cherepanov, Artem Anisimov and Evgeny Grachev were all drafted by New York from Russia with early round selections. Two of the eight below spent the season playing in Russia‘s KHL.

David Kveton, RW, Age 22
Drafted: Fourth Round, 104th overall, 2006 NHL Entry Draft

Kveton skated with HC Trinec Ocelari in Czech Extraliga during the 2009-10 season. After an excellent 2008-09 campaign, Kveton had a slow start but really came on in November. In 52 regular season games, Kveton posted 18 goals and 17 assists, with a +17. Thus far in the playoffs, he has two points in five games. 

Although the Rangers continue to watch Kveton closely, the more time passes, the less likely it is that he will decide to play in North America. This is particularly true since the Rangers have a policy that they will not promise an NHL spot to a European player without him earning it in camp. Kveton has both played in North America as a junior (in the QMJHL) and been to Rangers training camp previously. Whether he will return is unclear, but looking more and more unlikely. 

Tomas Zaborsky, LW, Age 22

Drafted: Fifth Round, 137th overall, 2006 NHL Entry Draft

Zaborsky spent the last three seasons playing hockey in North America, and was hoping that this season, he would play for the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack. When he was assigned to the ECHL for the second consecutive season, Zaborsky signed a one-year contract with Assat Pori of the SM-liiga for the 2009-10 season. The Rangers were not pleased with Zaborsky’s decision, however, his development seemed stalled in North America, so the opportunity for a fresh start could only help. 

Zaborsky played well in Assat, and toward the end of the season, he was often the team’s best player on the ice. Despite his 26 points in 43 games with Assat, Zaborsky’s return to the Rangers is unlikely. It is more likely that he will either remain in Europe or be traded.

Lukas Zeliska, C, Age 22

Drafted: Sixth Round, 204th overall, 2006 NHL Entry Draft

Zeliska was the last of four European players drafted by New York in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft (Artem Anisimov was selected in the second round). Following the draft, Zeliska spent the 2006-07 season as a member of the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL. However, he returned to Europe after that season and has played there ever since. Zeliska started the 2009-10 season in the Czech 1.Liga, with HC Havirov, but in January 2010 he returned to his native Slovakia, and finished the season with MHC Martin of the Slovnaft Extraliga. In total, he posted 10 points in 48 games this season. It is unlikely that Zeliska will return to North America any time soon.

David Skokan, C, Age 21

Drafted: Seventh Round, 193rd overall, 2007 NHL Entry Draft

Skokan was the first of two seventh-round selections for the Rangers in 2007. A high-risk pick, Skokan was in his second season as a member of the QMJHL Rimouski Oceanic. He remained a member of that junior team for one more season, and when it became apparent that an NHL entry-level contract was not in the offing for the 2008-09 season, Skokan returned to Europe. After spending the 2008-09 season with HK SKP Propad in Slovakia, Skokan signed with HC Slovan Bratislava of the Slovnaft Extraliga for this past season. In 40 games, he recorded 20 points (14 goals, 6 assists). It is not expected that Skokan will play in North America with the Rangers organization.

Roman Psurny, LW, Age 24
Drafted: Fifth Round, 135th overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft

When Psurny was drafted it was understood that he would come to North America the following season to continue his junior career. In fact, he and his twin brother Michal spent two seasons in the WHL. Both returned to the Czech Republic and are not expected to return to North America. Roman spent the 2009-10 season as a member of HC Slovan Ústectí Lvi of the Czech 1.liga. In 37 games, he posted 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists). There is no expectation that Psurny will return to North America to play hockey within the Rangers organization.

Zdenek Bahensky, LW, Age 24
Drafted: Third Round, 73rd overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft

More was expected of Bahensky than was of Psurny when he was taken in the third round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The Rangers were high on him when Bahensky began play with the WHL Saskatoon Blades in the fall of 2004. His adjustment to North America was better than Psurny’s was and there was every indication that Bahensky intended to stay. A second season in Saskatoon was successful for Bahensky, but he was not ready for the NHL. Offered an AHL contract, Bahensky accepted and spent most of the 2006-07 campaign in Charlotte. By the end of the season, it was clear that his road to the NHL would be, at least, long and very possibly impossible to reach. His speed, positioning, and skill level were not of NHL caliber.  Bahensky returned to Europe the next fall and has played in the Czech Republic for the past three seasons. In 2009-10, Bahensky skated for BK Mladá Boleslav of the O2 extraliga. In 48 games, he posted 12 points (7 goals, 5 assists). It is not likely that Bahensky will return to North America to play within the Rangers organization.

Pavel Valentenko, D, Age 22

Acquired: 6/30/09 Trade with Montreal (Fifth Round, 139th overall, 2006 NHL Entry Draft)

Obtained in the trade that sent Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt, and Mike Busto to Montreal for Valentenko, Chris Higgins, and Ryan McDonagh, Valentenko spent the 2009-10 season patrolling the blueline for the KHL Moscow Dynamo. A big two-way defenseman, the Rangers are hopeful that Valentenko will return to North America next fall. He underwent shoulder surgery last fall, Valentenko is now healthy. He does have a three-year contract with Moscow Dynamo, however, Valentenko’s game is very well suited to the North American style. Although the Rangers will not guarantee Valentenko a roster spot should he come over, his defensive skills are needed by the Rangers and they are expected to make a big push to get him into camp this fall.

Mihail Pashnin, D, Age 20

Drafted: Seventh Round, 200th overall, 2009

The Rangers were not just shooting for the sky when they drafted Pashnin with their last pick in 2009. Gordie Clark, the Rangers Director of Player Personnel, advised HF that Pashnin told the Rangers prior to the draft that he was interested in coming to play in the NHL at some point in his career. A physical defenseman, with good speed and excellent instincts, the Rangers are still looking for him to mature, but they hope to see Pashnin in North America in the next few years. Chosen first overall in the first KHL entry draft, Pashnin played 44 regular-season games for CSKA Moscow (one goal, four assists). Not expected to come to North America for at least two more years, Pashnin is a player that the Rangers are watching closely.