How Are Europe’s Top Talents Faring in Their Rookie NHL Seasons?

How Are Europe’s Top Talents Faring in Their Rookie NHL Seasons?

28 Nov 2018 |

Each year, it seems like more and more of Europe’s top young talents get drafted by the NHL teams of North America. What’s even more impressive is that many of these players are drafted from European leagues, and some even get into the league in the same year of their draft selection.


Rasmus Dahlin, Swedish

Rasmus Dahlin has been a catalyst for the Buffalo Sabres to shoot up from rock bottom in the standings to be in the wild card play-off places after 18 games played. Dahlin was the focus of the 2018 NHL Draft, with everyone waiting on his inevitable first-overall selection.

Before the season had even started, the Swedish wunderkind was tipped to win the Calder Trophy – awarded to the league’s best rookie each year – with his one goal, six assists, +4 rating, an average of 17:55 minutes per game helping his claim through the opening weeks of the season. However, Sportsnet warns that only two of the last 14 winners of the Calder Trophy have been defensemen, with Aaron Ekblad and Tyler Myers stepping up in a big way in their rookie season.

Andrei Svechnikov, Russian

IMAGE SOURCE: Carolina Hurricanes, via Twitter

If it wasn’t for the phenomenal talent of Dahlin, Russia’s next top super sniper, Andrei Svechnikov, could have been taken second-overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. Due to the draft lottery, the surging Carolina Hurricanes managed to steal the second place in the draft and add the sharpshooting right winger to their ever-improving young team. To ease Svechnikov into the NHL, the Hurricanes started him off as a bottom-six winger, but have since moved him up to the top six, according to The News & Observer, joining Swedish centre Sebastian Aho and Micheal Ferland. Svechnikov rewarded his coach’s faith by scoring his third goal of the season.

It is because of the team’s depth and the anticipated continual improvement of Svechnikov and his fellow young stars that many see the Hurricanes as Metropolitan Division contenders. Their slow start to the season appears to be behind them, but as of the 16th of November, they’re at 6/1 to win the wide-open division with Betway. The Canes have been able to ease their Russian starlet into their lines to ensure longevity and an adjustment period. Now that he’s playing alongside even more talented skaters, his stat line of four goals and eight points through 18 games is sure to rise, helping his team to continue to assault the division’s leaders.

Elias Pettersson, Swedish

IMAGE SOURCE: Sportsnet 650, via Twitter

Elias Pettersson has the whole ice hockey world buzzing after his show-stopping start to the NHL season. Fans of European ice hockey knew that something big was on the horizon for Pettersson after he won the MVP, Best Rookie, Best Forward, and came first for total points in the SHL last season. After scoring ten goals in his first ten games, totalling ten goals and 17 points through 15 games, the supposed bottom-dwelling Vancouver Canucks have received a huge boost from the Swedish centre and sat second in the Pacific Division after 21 games.

Pettersson’s performances have earned him comparisons to some of the best players of all-time, including the greatest of them all: Wayne Gretzky. Even ‘The Great One’ weighed in on the rookie’s hot start, saying that his hockey sense and playmaking ability will have people comparing the two of them, as reported by the Daily Hive Vancouver.

Oskar Lindblom, Swedish

After a very strong season in SHL in which he was among the leaders in goals and points and made his Team Sweden debut, the Philadelphia Flyers decided that it was time to call up Oskar Lindblom. The Swedish left wing was originally drafted in 2014, in the fifth round, but has since perfected his game, boasting a tremendous work ethic and sublime playmaking skill.

The 22-year-old rookie has emerged as one of the most underappreciated stories of the season, as shown by NBC Sports, as his slick passing and tremendous effort without the puck has bolstered the Flyers significantly. With four goals and six assists through 19 games, he’ll be in the running for the Calder Trophy is he stays consistent.

Dahlin, Pettersson, Svechnikov, and Lindblom have all been very impressive through the early stages of their NHL rookie seasons, and could all be in the running for the Calder Trophy at the end of the season. If any of these or any other European rookie claims the coveted prize, they will become the fifth European player to do so since the 2004/05 lockout season, joining the elite company of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Gabriel Landeskog, and Artemi Panarin.

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