This is the 3rd part of 4 in the season preview series. Today we are looking at the first division in the Northern Conference, being the Kharlamov Division that comprises of the Northeastern teams.
As always, I rate goalies, top 4 D, and top 6 offence out of 10, the “future” potential of the team out of 5, and cap space out of 3, in order to make a reasonable prediction about the standings for the current year.
I also tried to compare these teams to other divisions in order to keep the rankings consistent.
The Karlamov Division boasts a great set of goaltenders, which is good because there is a lot of offence on these teams and not a lot of defence. The three teams that have extra special goaltenders are Gothenburg with Brodeur, Helsinki with Bryzgalov, and St. Petersburg with Rinne. However, the rest of these teams in the division have a goaltender with a rating of at least 80, which means that there won’t be a lot of pressure on the backups. That being said, Helsinki has a great backup in Mason (and Stockholm has a great one in Hedburg) if things get crazy, and for that he takes the top ranking in this round.
Out of 10:
Helsinki – 8 Points
Gothenburg/St. Petersburgh/Stockholm – 7 Points
Minsk – 5 Points
Moscow – 4 Points
The Karlamov Division currently has only 2 star defence man in their midst, compared to 7 and 4 in the southern divisions, and quite a few teams currently have fringe defenseman plugged into their top 4, which could cause trouble in matchup situations. The two top defences have to go to Gothenburg and Moscow, who have the 2 star Dman previously mentioned in Girardi and Keith, but also a good #2 in Robidas and Kuba and #3 in Carlson and Mitchell respectively. Don’t count out St. Petersburg however, who have Burns, Bieksa, and Mitchell.
Out of 10:
Gothenburg/Moscow – 6 Points
St. Petersburg – 5 Points
Helsinki – 4 Points
Minsk/Stockholm – 3 Points
This division features a lot of current and young stars on the forward side, which will make for great 6-5 barnburners. Will it work in the playoffs I am not sure of, but it will sure be fun to watch. The top team in this division for offence in this division is Stockholm, who also boasts the biggest 1st line threat in Eriksson, E. Staal, and Doan. However, they also have a veteran 2nd line featuring Koivu and Smyth which will cause problems for teams with little depth on defense. Other teams to watch would include the dynamic duo of Ovechkin and Kopitar on Moscow, and the collection of great forwards in Neal, Filppula, Richards, Legwand, Alfredsson, and Cole on St. Petersburg, which is tremendous depth on the top 6. Minsk will be the team to watch in the future, as they feature a top 6 all under 25 years of age, and that all project to be stars.
Out of 10:
Stockholm: 8 Points
Moscow/St.Petersburg – 7 Points
Helsinki – 6 Points
Gothenburg – 4 Points
Minsk – 3 Points
As I said previously, the offensive potential in this division will even be greater in years to come. Young stars such as Eberle, Henrique, Tavares, Hopitar, Ovechkin, Neal, and Eriksson, will, with time, make the Karlamov division a true offensive powerhouse.
Leading the way is Minsk, who has a plethora of young talent, all very much under 25. Although I usually only rate the top 5, if we rated the whole division on potential, Minsk would definitely take that by a longshot. However, they do have great top-end potential in Price, McDonagh, and Backstrom/Voracek. Another team that stands out is the top end talent of Moscow, which has that tandem of Kopitar/Ovechkin.
Out of 5:
Minsk: 4.5 Points
Moscow: 4 Points
Gothenburg/St.Petersburg: 3.5 Points
Helsinki/Stockholm: 3 Points
Moscow and Stockholm are very close to the cap with around 60-62M in payroll already, while Minsk has obviously gone the “future” route and has only 37M in payroll. Whether any potential deals will be made to close that gap is uncertain, but it bodes well financially for Minsk if they can get people in the seats.
Out of 3:
Minsk: 3 Points
Gothenburg: 2.5 Points
St. Petersburg: 1.5 Points
Helsinki: 1 Point
Moscow/Stockholm: 0.5 Points
The high-powered offences and fragile defences in this league will mean lots of goals and goalies hung out to dry, but isn’t that the best type of hockey anyways? This division will be super-competitive, but I see the top team in this division being St. Petersburg for not only the best goalie, but also a good all-around mix of talent which is evidenced by their deep top 6. 2nd place would go to Gothenburg, as it seemed they focused on defence but also a young offensive core in Lucic, Henrique and Eberle.
Final Projected Standings:
1st Place: St. Petersburg (best goalie, great all-around talent)
2nd Place: Gothenburg (great defence and offensive young stars)
3rd Place: Moscow (Keith, Ovechkin, and Kopitar will carry this team to a playoff spot IMO)
4th Place: Helsinki (Good balance of veteran leadership and young stars)
5th Place: Stockholm (Best offense in the division, but the D is not going to help out Ward too much)
6th Place: Minsk (building for the future will cause them to pay the price this year)