Will some of the EURO League’s teams get unexpected lineup boosts just in time for the playoffs? It might be less than a week* when we find out the attributes of players like Auston Matthews of Copenhagen, Mitch Marner of Moscow and Ivan Provorov of Paris. The next question is how will their teams use them?
Kyle Brodziak is one guy who is wondering. The 33-year-old earns $2.8 million centering the fourth line in Copenhagen. Will Matthews come along and take his place? Matthews could even end Brodziak’s year and bump Matthieu Perreault down a line all at the same time. That will be Coach Dave Cameron’s call and we assume GM Martin Sayle will have a lot of input.
Moscow will have a similar decision to make with Marner. He could supplant Melker Karlsson on the right wing.
Paris will have a decision to make when Provorov announces he has a Rouge Eiffels sweater that fits. Will they use the mobile 20-year-old Russian in the playoffs or will they prefer keeping Jason Krog’s experience and superb defensive ability on the ice.
Artturi Lehkonen has a chance to bump Tom Kuhnhackl off the fourth-line right wing spot in Athens and Berlin might give Christian Dvorak a shot on the left wing, but they have plenty of veteran skill there now.
The two teams in the playoff picture with most young reinforcements coming are Milan and St. Petersburg. In Milan, there will be three new options for Coach Ken Hitchcock. Matthew Tkachuk, Josh Morrissey and Anthony DeAngelo could give the Guerriero a boost. On a team overflowing with young talent and potential, 29-year-old Jamie McGinn has to be worried about his chances of getting quality ice time in the future. Tkachuk might not cost McGinn time this season, but there is a crowd up front in Milan, such a crowd in fact that a pretty decent center, Patrick Thoresen, has been used in only 2 games this season. McGinn, Peter Mueller, Brock Nelson and Joakim Lindstrom are all wondering where they stand in the team’s long-term plan. On defense, Morrissey will take some current Guerriero’s job, but maybe not until next season. It all depends on the attributes he receives in the next week or so. Andrew MacDonald and Marc-Andre Bourdon are currently on the third pairing for Milan.
In St. Petersburg, Patrik Laine, Jacob Chychrun and Anthony Mantha will be available to join the team, with Laine having the best chance to play. The Krasnyye Zvezdy trail Dublin by 6 points with 7 games to go in a battle for the final playoff spot of the Northern Conference.
Drafting prospects in Websim is a lot like buying a gift for your wife. Sometimes what you think is a good find winds up kicking you in the butt. Other times, you strike gold almost by accident … and you pretend it was part of the plan all along.
In the EURO League, because it’s virtual evolution, much depends on the player’s first season. If they play 35 games and disappoint, then they get poor attributes they have to live with forever. Leon Draisaitl and Nino Niederreitter are good examples of that. As good as they are in the NHL, neither will ever play top-line minutes in Europe. Valeri Nichushkin of Geneva represents just the opposite. A pretty good start as an 18-year-old with the Dallas Stars in 2013-14 gave him attributes that make him an 85 PO player in the EURO League.
Timo Meier, who was a first-round draft pick of the Berlin Smurfs, ended his NHL season last night with the San Jose Sharks and he finishes with 34 games played, one short of what is required to get his Websim attributes. Berlin General Manager Guybrush Threepwood is so happy about that he is doing a dance, and we hate to admit it, but he seems to be a pretty good dancer. Didn’t expect that. Good footwork, Guybrush. If Meier would have played one more game this season, he would have gotten his Websim attributes with 3 goals and 3 assists. He would have joined Draisaitl and Niederreitter in the Disappointing Attributes Forever Club. As it stands, Meier and Berlin will get a second chance next year to earn good attributes. Jesse Puljujarvi owner John Charles of Edinburgh must also be feeling fortunate that his top pick in the last draft only saw 28 games with the Edmonton Oilers. Seven more games and he would have earned attributes that would have been less than most would have anticipated for him.
*League rules are that players can get their attributes at anytime other than during the playoffs, and I read that to mean they will be entered into the league about two weeks before our playoffs start, so they will be available for the playoffs.