There's no question the closer we get to the 2012 Entry Draft, the hot topic not only will be Russian forwards Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting and Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Quebec Remparts, but that incredibly talented crop of defensive prospects starring in the Western Hockey League.
However, there's also a fine group of prospects starring overseas who also might capture the fancy of NHL scouts and general managers.
Recently, NHL.com caught up with NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb
to find who he thought were the most talented players outside North America. For starters, Stubb didn't hide the fact that Sweden will present a hockey haven for most scouts this season, with Finland coming in second.
"At present, there are some prospects from Russia, but no superstars," Stubb told NHL.com. "The Czechs, Slovaks, Swiss and Germans don't have anyone in the top 10 (among European skaters overseas) … right now."
Here are Stubb's top five European standouts eligible for the 2012 draft:
1. Filip Forsberg, F, Leksand (Sweden)
- The 6-foot-1, 180-pound left wing (no relation to former NHL All-Star Peter Forsberg
) was spectacular for his country at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka
Memorial Tournament in August, totaling 4 goals and 10 points in six games for the silver medal-winning Swedes. His ability with the puck has been compared to fellow Swede Daniel Alfredsson
of the Ottawa Senators
|Swedish standout Filip Forsberg
"I think my offensive game is my biggest strength," Forsberg told reporters in July. "I like to shoot the puck, but I think I can play a complete game in terms of scoring, playmaking and defensive play."
Said Stubb: "He's a talented, speedy, two-way forward who can score the big goals. He also has a good selection of shots."
2. Sebastian Collberg, F, Frolunda (Sweden)
- With decent size (5-11, 180) and sniper-like mentality off the right wing, Collberg is a player who might be off the radar at this point, but he won't stay there long. Collberg had 21 goals and 44 points in 35 games with Frolunda HC in 2010-11. In addition to a great wrist shot, scouts love the fact he isn't afraid to initiate contact in the corners.
"He has a great first step … is so quick," Stubb said. "He rushes down the wing and shoots a lot; he's got soft hands and a quick shot. He's a player with great offensive instincts."
3. Pontus Aberg, F, Djurgarden (Sweden)
- The 5-11, 187-pound left wing, who missed being eligible for the 2011 draft by eight days, offers a right-handed shot. He produced 13 goals and 30 points in 41 games with Djurgarden's junior club in the J20 SuperElit league last season and already has 4 goals and 6 points in nine games playing in the Elitserien this season. Aberg's contract with Djurgarden runs through the 2013-14 season.
"He's played great to open up the fall season," Stubb said. "He's a speedy, hard-working winger with a nose for the net … a sniper with a very good overall skill level."
4. Teuvo Teravainen, F, Jokerit (Finland)
- The left-handed Teravainen is being touted as Finland's top performer. NHL Network analyst and prospect guru Craig Button labeled Teravainen as a potential sleeper for the 2012 draft. The 5-11, 187-pound right wing had 16 goals and 35 points through 11 games for his Jokerit U-16 club in 2009-10. Last season, he had 5 goals and 17 points in 11 games for Finland's Under-17 Team. He has compared his style of play to Patrick Kane
and Pavel Datsyuk
"Talk about a dynamic skater ... Teravainen is a guy who can make things happen so quickly," Button said. "He's really smart and able to draw defenders to him and make really good plays. Right now he's a little slight, but when you watch him on the ice, he's a real dynamic player. Right now, for me, he's a guy who is a first-round pick. By springtime, he could be mentioned among the top guys."
Stubb agreed: "He speedy, quick and talented … an offensive-minded winger who, with quick, surprising moves creates scoring chances for linemates and himself around the net. He's a bit inconsistent from game to game and will need to improve in that area."
5. Henrik Samuelsson, F, MoDo (Sweden)
- If the name sounds familiar it should -- Samuelsson is the son of former NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson
, who spent 16 seasons in the NHL. Henrik left the U.S. National Team Development Program when his father was hired as MoDo's coach and has 2 assists and eight penalty minutes in eight games so far this season.
His older brother, defenseman Philip Samuelsson
, was selected in the second round (No. 61) by the Pittsburgh Penguins
in the 2009 draft.
Henrik, a 6-foot-2, 193-pound right wing was born in Scottsdale, Ariz., and had 28 points and 98 penalty minutes for the U.S. National Team Development Program's under-17 squad last season.
"He's got good size, works hard and plays with grit," Stubb said.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale