Nerius Alisauskas, an 18-year-old defenseman with a booming slapshot, will journey directly north from his home in Lithuania to play for Helsinki this season. Alisauskas was selected with the 8th overall pick in the EURO League draft today, becoming the fourth defenseman off the board. His future will include Jack Johnson, Marc Staal and Jared Cowen on the Helsinki blueline, and scouts think Alisauskas has the most upside of all of them. Before GM Trevor Grimm called Alisauskas’ name, the relatively subdued draft party got loud as many started chanting a name they hoped Grimm would repeat. The Finns were hoping Helsinki would take one of their own, Mikko Lehtonen, a 19-year-old defensive forward from Espoo.
Lehtonen’s name did get called, but a pick later by Berlin GM Guybrush Threepwood. Lehtonen will have a difficult time breaking into the Smurf lineup this season, but his future might put him alongside center Logan Couture, 23, to make up two-thirds of a formidable checking line.
The 10th pick saw London grab Jimmie Ericsson, a big 19-year-old power forward from Sweden. He’s durable, good with the puck and won’t take a lot of penalties. The London team is well known already for its young stars up front, particularly centers Tyler Seguin and Jeff Skinner, and wingers Taylor Hall, Devin Setoguchi and Michal Grabner. Seguin, Grabner and Skinner were the top three scorers for London last season, each tallying at least 20 goals and 60 points. The future of the London defense is in the hands of four 22-year-olds (Zach Bogosian, Luca Sbisa, Jake Gardiner and Marco Scandella) and 24-year-old Jamie McBain. They appear set in goal for years with Marc-Andre Fleury and Semyon Varlamov.