Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Overseas bargain huntin'

Raise your hand if, prior to last season, you saw Niklas Backstrom, Fredrik Norrena or Johnny Oduya playing a major role in the NHL.

Mine's not up either.

But Backstrom and Norrena head into this season as the starters in Minnesota and Columbus, and Oduya is due to receive big minutes on a Rafalski-less Devils blue line. And if you look around the league, there are plenty of examples of former European league standouts succeeding in the NHL.

The truth is, it's incredibly difficult to know exactly how these veterans coming over to NHL camps will fare, as we really don't have a clue how their game will translate among the world's best. Last year, those three all performed admirably, and given their bargain-basement contracts, they paid off for their teams.

So, then, who might be airlifted in from Europe this season to surprise? Here's a look at my Top 5 candidates at Fanhouse, along with a few honourable mentions.

Consider this an early version of 'The best players you've never heard of' series.


At 10:27 a.m., August 28, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

Juuso Liksman, St. Louis. Another Finnish goalie, he's in a battle to make the team out of camp (not unlike Backstrom last year) with two young former 1st rounders (Toivonen & Bacashihua). He had a tremendous regular season and even better playoff last year in Finland.

Dean Lombardi is hoping Swedish vet Erik Ersberg can make Mark Crawford give up his man love of Dan Cloutier. It's more wishful thinking than anything, nothing is going to stop that.

Montreal is hoping Janne Lahti, a younger guy at 24, sticks and at least fulfills Alexander Perezhogin's role from last year. He had 20 goals in Finland plus 8 goals in 9 playoff games. He has good size, too, which is a plus for Montreal's forwards.

Viukhola is finally coming over, huh? I seem to remember Chicago trying to get him over a couple years back (he was their draft pick) but I think that was Mike Smith who tried and then he got canned.

At 3:37 p.m., August 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Juuso Riksman had an awful summer camp with Blues so he has lots to prove.

I would say that Magnus Johansson ja Josef Boumedienne are two of the best newcomers in this class.

Viuhkola has a chance if he gets PP time but he can't cut it as third or fourth line roles. There's not enough jam or strenght to survive.

Former Atlanta, Columbus, Philly winger Tomi Kallio has dominated in Swedish league year after year but probably won't come back because he is so well compensated in Vastra Frolunda.


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