Viktor Antipin broke into a broad smile when Oslo GM Chris Lee called his name to open the Season 5 EURO draft Sunday. Lee also smiled. And odds are Morgan Rielly smiled as well. Rielly, 21, was the Outlaws’ top blueliner of the future, considered to have more potential than older teammates Eric Gelinas, 24, and Calvin de Haan, 23. He was the main pillar, the only pillar some say, upon which the team’s defense hopes rested. A tough burden for any 21-year-old to bear. The pressure was relieved when Lee said, “With the first pick of the EURO League draft, the Oslo Outlaws are proud to select, from Metallurg Magnitogorsk,Viktor Antipin.” Antipin and Rielly should complement each other well .. and for a long time. Both have excellent puck skills and skating ability. Antipin has world-class speed that he uses to get into the right position and to chase down forwards. He’s not great in the offensive end. But Rielly will be. And when Rielly wanders out of position to create a play, Antipin should be able to zoom around and cover him. Antipin and Rielly should go together like bacon and eggs, bread and butter, or Don Cherry and Ron MacLean.
Geneva was the winner of the second draft lottery and GM Andy Rolling got to go to the podium next. His team went into the lottery with the 7th pick, but luck bumped the Generals up to a spot where they could take polished KHL star Sergei Mozyakin. The Generals were looking at the chore of having to resign most of their veteran forwards. Eight of their top 12 forwards were without contracts going into the draft. Mozyakin, a versatile player who can play all three forward positions, is good enough to step into the lineup this season and he is a cheap option for Rolling, under contract to be paid less than $1.3 million for the next three years. Mozyakin’s presence automatically erodes the bargaining power of Geneva players like Jiri Hudler, Steve Ott, Chris Kunitz and even Patrick Marleau. One of those will be pushed out the door by the rookie, for sure. And not long after the pick, Rolling received an offer from Bratislava for Kunitz, which he accepted. Mozyakin will give Rickard Wallin a test when the two race for the team’s fastest skater honor and the young Russian is already considered one of the team’s top offensive weapons.
St. Petersburg fans were hoping to stay in the second spot, or move up to number one, so they could cheer for Mozyakin, one of their young Russian heroes. Instead, they will be cheering for a Czech, Jan Kovar. Officials just uncovered the fact that all three of the top picks in the draft – Antipin, Mozyakin and Kovar – were teammates this season with Metallurg. Send your scouts to Magnitogorsk, boys. Kovar is like Mozyakin in that he is a speedy offensive threat. In St. Petersburg, Kovar will probably play with the big team this season. The Red Stars are stocked with forwards who are all about the same level, talent wise. If he is put on a line with Cam Atkinson and Jonathan Huberdeau, it will probably be the league’s fastest skating line, as the three of them have speed attributes of 94, 100 and 100. Kovar’s brother Jakub plays goal for Edinburgh.
Milan GM David Bell isn’t happy about being pushed back a spot thanks to the lottery, but he’s used to it. With the fourth pick, he went with the top-ranked player who didn’t play for Metallurg, Swedish winger Par Arlbrandt. Bell is building a formidable corps of young forwards. Arlbrandt becomes the seventh forward 25 or younger with a PO rating of 80 or higher. The 21-year-old Arlbrandt is the fastest of them all. He will have the offensive skills to contribute on a regular basis, but perhaps not in his first season. And he hustles on the ice as well as anyone. Milan will someday have to shore up its future defense and goalie, but today they added speed and upfront scoring potential.
The new general manager of Munich, Chad Legge, made 21-year-old Russian Fyodor Malykhin his first EURO selection. Malykhin doesn’t have the blazing speed that the three forwards taken just before him have, but he can match them in stickhandling and puck skills. He is actually one of two young skilled stars that will join the team this year. Filip Forsberg, of the NHL’s Nashville Predators, is listed as one of the team’s prospects. Those two will grow up on the team with other 25-and-unders Charlie Coyle, Talgut Zhailauov, Radko Gudas, Nikita Zadorov and Andrew Shaw.
Dutchman Nardo Nagtzaam will have a hard time breaking into the Dublin starting lineup this season, but in the not-too-distant future, he will be able to lock down a center slot for a long time. Nagtzaam is a faceoff specialist who does everything fairly well and won’t hurt the team with penalties, lapses in effort or – as he gains experience – bad decisions. Nagtzaam will thrive most if he is placed on a line with a goal scorer in the future, and the Irish have Evander Kane and Jakub Silfverburg on the roster.
The first defenseman since Antipin to get selected was Vladimir Roth, a raw 20-year-old who will play in the city in which he was born: Prague. An instant fan favorite of Siamese Cats fans, Roth might have to wait a while to hear the cheers. There are five players under contract and three Type 2 free agents ahead of him on the depth chart. What the Cats will get when he matures is a guy who plays a lot like the top four D-men on their roster today: Roman Josi, Dmitri Kulikov, Torey Krug and Justin Schultz.
London GM Geoffrey Paul went with one of the older players available in the draft and the third Russian to hear his name called in the first 8 picks. Artemy Panarin, 24, is a winger who a can score goals and is responsible defensively. The only knock on him is that he needs to put more muscle on his slight frame. In England, Panarin will battle David Clarkson for a right wing spot unless the coaching staff and general manager make some position changes to strengthen the center position. Panarin undoubtedly hopes he gets some time playing with Taylor Hall, Jeff Skinner and/or Brandon Saad, but that probably won’t happen right away.
From his home in France, Loic Lamperier was banking on moving east after this week. Almost all EURO clubs are located east of France. Instead, he goes southwest to Madrid as the 9th player and 7th forward taken in the draft. He becomes the Royals’ second best prospect on either wing behind Gabriel Landeskog. He may someday play with either Derek Stepan or Sean Couturier as his centerman. He won’t have the speed to keep up with either, but he’ll play a sound game and bang in some goals. Broadcast announcers are sure to mispronounce his name because Madrid currently has Max Lapierre on the roster.
Jindrich Barak became the second Czech defenseman and third defenseman of any nationality to be taken in the draft when Stockholm GM Michael Sauer called his name. Last year, Sauer grabbed Finn Julius Honka with a draft pick and now the Eagles have a pair of 19-year-olds with a lot of promise on the blueline. They play a similar game, except Honka will get more hits and Barak will get more shot blocks. Add those two to Cody Ceci and Olli Maatta and the Eagles have an impressive foundation of 21-and-under blueliners.
After one Swedish team picked once, the other Swedish team picked twice. Chris Legge quickly added a pair of slick forwards to the Gothenberg roster, taking Swede Linus Klasen (a popular choice among Gothenburg fans) and Olli Palola of Finland (not as popular). But if the cards play out like Legge thinks they will, Devils fans will someday being cheering loudly for both of them at the same time. Gothenburg doesn’t currently have many options on the wings, so both could see time as early as this season unless free agents barge onto the depth chart above them. But Klasen and Palola will get their chance and since they are close in age and potential, they might be linemates in the future. Both players have very good puck skills and Klasen was the fastest skating player remaining in the draft. Palola, who plays hard, seemed a little disappointed that he and the other half of “The Finnish Sedins” have been separated by the draft. Sakari Salminen and Palola have been best friends since they were about squirt age.