Half of the six players selected thus far in the EURO League draft have been defensemen. That includes the first two – Staffan Kronwall, who went to Athens, and Maxim Chudinov, who was selected by Minsk. The most recent selection, 18-year-old Ken Kuusk of Estonia, will join 22-year-old Alex Pietrangelo and a crowded but young blueline corps in Paris.
Minsk is bubbling over with young talent all over the roster and now has four bonafide studs on defense between the ages of 18 and 23: Chudinov, Ryan McDonagh, Nick Leddy and Roman Josi. Chudinov might have the brightest future of all of them.
Athens, which came into the draft lottery with three first round picks, moved all the way up to the head of the class to select Kronwall and – after trading a first round pick away to get Kronwall’s brother Niclas – they then made a trade with Belfast to get a another first round pick. The new first round pick, at the cost of Nazim Kadri and a second-round pick, gave them the fifth pick in the draft and the Greeks looked to offense in selecting Russian Vadim Shipachyov. That means Athens now has Ryan O’Reilly, Shipachyov and Marcus Kruger as their centres of the future, with David Backes, age 28, mentoring them.
Frankfurt, which already had young guns Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux and Drew Doughty, picked Finnish goaltender Kari Ramo third overall. The 20-year-old with a lot of potential will either push 30-year-old Ray Emery out of the Inferno lineup or take over as the number 1, should 25-year-old Ondrej Pavelec not resign with the club. Pavelec started 71 games for Frankfurt last season and had a miserable 4.49 goals against average and 86.4 save percentage.
The fourth pick of the draft belonged to Zurich, who opted for talented winger Alexander Radulov. The skillful 20-year-old Russian should be able to step into the Lions starting lineup this season perhaps even on the third line, where he is likely to work with either Manny Malhotra, Blake Comeau or Ukrainian Alexei Ponikarovsky.
(Editor’s note: With the seventh pick in the draft, Moscow took 21-year-old, Czech-born goalie Alexander Salak. Change the first letter to H and you have Moscow’s top goalie at the moment, 27-year-old Jaroslav Halak. The acquisition of Salak will render Jason LaBarbera expendible and the team will have to decide if it will try to keep free agent Nikolai Khabibulin, the 39-year-old who played in 23 games for Moscow winning 8 and accumulating a 2.76 goals against average and 90.5 save percentage. Halak’s numbers weren’t as good, but he has a lot less gray hair.)