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Entry Draft preview: Top 15 European skaters

In the third of a four-part series, here are the 15 best European draft-eligible skaters

by NHL @NHL / NHL.com

With the NHL Entry Draft coming up next week, we took a look at the top prospects available for selection this year in Chicago. In the third of a four-part series, here are the top 15 European draft-eligible skaters, as ranked by the Central Scouting Bureau (CSB).

Klim Kostin
Final rank (midterm rank): 1 (1)
Position: left wing/center
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 196 lbs.
Born: May 5, 1999
Birthplace: Penza, Russia

Klim Kostin has spent much of the 2016-17 season playing professional hockey in Russia, although he has missed a significant amount of time due to injury. The 6-foot-3, 196-pound forward is currently with Dynamo Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League, where he has played eight games, and previously played nine games for Balashikha in Russia's second division, where he scored one goal. Last season, Kostin spent the majority of the year with Balashikha's junior team, recording eight goals and 13 assists in 30 contests. Kostin captained Russia to a silver medal at the 2015 World Under-18 Hockey Challenge (2G, 3A in 6 GP) and also served as captain for Russia at the 2016 Under-18 World Championship (4A in 5 GP) and the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial (4G, 3A in 5 GP). NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb describes Kostin as a "big, strong, mobile power forward who plays a physical game. He is a strong skater with good speed, very good hockey sense and is an excellent competitor."

Elias Pettersson
Final rank (midterm rank): 2 (2)
Position: center
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 161 lbs.
Born: November 12, 1998
Birthplace: Sundsvall, Sweden

Elias Pettersson spent the 2016-17 season with Timra, in Sweden's second division, where he registered 19 goals and 21 assists in 43 games. His goal and points totals were both second on the team, and his 21 assists were the most recorded by a junior-aged player in the second division this season. Last year, the 6-foot-2, 161-pound center split time between Timra's Junior club, where he recorded six goals and eight assists in 22 games, and its main team in the second division, putting up three goals and six assists in 25 contests. In 2014-15, Pettersson registered 20 goals and 18 assists in 18 regular-season games with Timra's under-18 squad, and contributed five goals and nine assists in eight playoff games en route to a bronze-medal finish. Pettersson helped Sweden to silver medals at both the 2016 Under-18 World Championship, where he scored a goal and added seven assists in seven games, and at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial. He was also a member of Team Sweden at the 2017 World Junior Championship where they finished in fourth.

Lias Andersson
Final rank (midterm rank): 3 (3)
Position: center
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 198 lbs.
Born: October 13, 1998
Birthplace: Smogen, Sweden

Lias Andersson played in 42 regular-season games for HV 71 of the Swedish League, scorign nine goals and adding 10 assists. He also added four goals and one helper in 16 postseason games to help HV 71 win the Le Mat trophy as league champions. The 5-foot-11, 198-pound center led the Swedish Junior league in assists (35) and points (59) in 37 contests in 2015-16, a season in which he also played in 22 regular-season and four playoff games at the SHL level. On the international scene, Andersson represented Sweden at the 2017 World Junior Championship, scoring three goals in seven games, and was a part of the silver medal-winning team at 2016 Under-18 World Championship, where he scored five goals and added four assists in seven games. NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb says that Andersson is a "really skilled, two-way forward with great moves with the puck."

Miro Heiskanen
Final rank (midterm rank): 4 (6)
Position: defenseman
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 170 lbs.
Born: July 18, 1999
Birthplace: Espoo, Finland

The top-ranked European defenseman, Miro Heiskanen collected five goals and five assists in 37 regular-season games in 2016-17 and added three assists in eight playoff contests with HIFK in the top professional league in Finland. Internationally, the 6-foot, 170-pound blue-liner was a member of Finland's silver medal-winning 2017 Under-18 World Championship team, notching two goals and 10 assists in seven games. Heiskanen was named the best defenseman of the tournament and was selected for the tournament all-star team after leading all skaters in assists and all defensemen in points. He also represented Finland at the 2017 World Junior Championship (1A in 6 GP) and won a gold medal at the 2016 Under-18 World Junior Championship (1A in 7 GP). Heiskanen was named Rookie of the Year in 2015-16 after scoring three goals and adding 11 assists in 30 games for HIFK's Junior team.

Martin Necas
Final rank (midterm rank): 5 (5)
Position: center
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 167 lbs.
Born: January 15, 1999
Birthplace: Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic

Czech center Martin Necas registered seven goals and eight assists in 41 games during the 2016-17 regular season and four goals in 10 playoff contests to help HC Kometa Brno win their first championship. As a member of Brno's under-18 club in 2015-16, Necas scored nine goals and 21 assists in 18 regular-season games and added four goals and 11 assists in 10 games en route to winning the championship. Necas led the Czech under-16 league in assists (59) and points (91) in 34 games in 2014-15. On the international stage, Necas represented the Czech Republic at the 2017 World Junior Championship (1G, 2A in 5 GP) and the 2016 Under-18 World Championship (3A in 5 GP). The 6-foot, 167-pound center served as captain at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial, scoring two goals and adding four assists en route to a gold-medal finish.

Timothy Liljergen
Final rank (midterm rank): 6 (7)
Position: defenseman
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 191 lbs.
Born: April 30, 1999
Birthplace: Kristianstad, Sweden

Timothy Liljegren scored one goal and added four assists in 19 games with Rogle of the Swedish Hockey League in 2016-17. The defenseman also added five goals and two assists in 12 regular-season games with Rogle's Junior team, and contributed one goal and four assists in three postseason contests. Liljegren made his SHL debut in 2015-16, recording one goal and four assists in 19 games, and added seven goals and 15 assists in 29 regular-season games and one goal and two assists in 3 postseason games with the junior club. The blue-liner has represented Sweden at the 2017 Under-18 World Championship (2A in 7 GP) and the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial (1G, 6A in 9 GP). The year before, Liljegren won a silver medal with Sweden at the 2016 Under-18 World Championship (1G, 5A in 7 GP) and was named to the tournament all-star team at the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge after scoring three goals and adding two assists in six contests.

Kristian Vesalainen
Final rank (midterm rank): 7 (4)
Position: left wing/right wing
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 207 lbs.
Born: June 1, 1999
Birthplace: Helsinki, Finland

Kristian Vesalainen scored a goal and registered five assists in 26 games with Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League in 2016-17, and helped them secure their second straight Champions Hockey League title. The 6-foot-3, 207-pound defenseman also appeared in nine games with HPK in Finland's top professional league. Also this season, Vesalainen added four regular-season goals (10 GP) and two goals and one assist in five playoff games with Frolunda's Junior team. Vesalainen won silver at the 2017 Under-18 World Championship and was named tournament MVP, best forward, and was selected for the tournament all-star team after scoring the most goals (6) and points (13). He also represented Finland at the 2017 World Junior Championship (1G, 1A in 6 GP), the 2016 Under-18 World Championship (gold medal, 2G, 4A in 7 GP), the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (3G, 4A in 5 GP) and the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial.

Urho Vaakanainen
Final rank (midterm rank): 8 (8)
Position: defenseman
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 185 lbs.
Born: January 1, 1999
Birthplace: Joensuu, Finland

Urho Vaakanainen played in 41 games for JYP in 2016-17 in the top professional league in Finland, scoring four goals and adding two assists in the regular season, and recorded three assists in 14 playoff contests. Last season, Vaakanainen made his Finnish Elite League debut and collected one goal and five assists in 25 games for the Espoo Blues, and helped the Blues' under-20 club win the Junior league silver medal. On the international stage, the 6-foot, 185-pound defenseman won silver with Finland at the 2017 Under-18 World Championship (3G, 3A in 5 GP), and also represented Finland at the 2017 World Junior Championship (1G in 6 GP) and the 2016 Under-18 World Championship, where they won gold.

Erik Brannstrom
Final rank (midterm rank): 9 (16)
Position: defenseman
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 173 lbs.
Born: September 2, 1999
Birthplace: Eksjo, Sweden

Erik Brannstrom played in 35 games for HV 71 of the Swedish Hockey League in 2016-17, scoring a goal and five assists to help the club capture their fifth Le Mat trophy as league champions. As captain of HV71's Junior team, Brannstrom also added nine goals and 14 assists in 19 regular-season games and three goals and four assists in seven playoff contests. He led all playoff blue-liners in postseason goals, assists and points and was named best defenseman. In 2015-16, Brannstrom made his SHL debut, appearing in three games with HV 71, and also added eight goals and 22 assists in 42 games with the Junior squad. Internationally, Brannstrom represented Sweden at the 2017 Under-18 World Championship (2G, 3A in 7 GP) and at the 2016 Under-18 World Championship (1G, 3A in 7 GP), where he won a silver medal. He also captained Sweden to a bronze medal at the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, scoring three goals in six games, and represented his country twice at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial (2015 & 2016).

Jesper Boqvist
Final rank (midterm rank): 10 (11)
Position: center
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 179 lbs.
Born: October 30, 1998
Birthplace: Falun, Sweden

Center Jesper Boqvist collected six assists in 16 regular-season games and added one goal in 10 playoff games with Brynas of the Swedish Hockey League in 2016-17, helping them to an appearance in the playoff final. Also last season, Boqvist appeared in 15 games with Brynas' Junior club and registered 10 goals and five assists, and added three goals and nine assists in 19 games on loan to Timra in the second division. Internationally, Boqvist represented Sweden in their silver-medal entries at the 2016 Under-18 World Championship (2G, 1A in 7 GP) and at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial (1A in 5 GP).

Filip Chytil
Final rank (midterm rank): 11 (15)
Position: center
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 178 lbs.
Born: September 5, 1999
Birthplace: Kromeriz, Czech Republic

Filip Chytil split the 2016-17 season between HC Zlin in the Czech Republic's top league, where he scored four goals and added four assists in 38 games, and its Junior team (2 GP). In 2015-16, Chytil posted 28 goals and 22 assists in 30 games for HC Zlin's Under-18 squad. On the international scene, Chytil represented the Czech Republic at the 2017 Under-18 World Championship (2G, 3A in 5 GP) and the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (1A in 5 GP). The 6-foot, 178-pound center also registered two goals and one assist in four games at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial on the gold medal-winning Czech team.

Marcus Davidsson
Final rank (midterm rank): 12 (12)
Position: center
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 191 lbs.
Born: November 18, 1998
Birthplace: Stockholm, Sweden

Marcus Davidsson played in 45 games in 2016-17 for Djurgardens of the Swedish Hockey League, collecting five goals and nine assists, and added six goals and four assists in nine contests with the Junior club. While with the big club, Davidsson skated on a line with his older brother, Jonathan, and Canadiens prospect Lukas Vejdemo (drafted 87th overall in 2015). Davidsson won a championship with Djurgardens' Junior club in 2015-16 after compiling 17 goals and 23 assists in 45 regular-season games and three goals and three assists in six postseason contests. He was named playoff MVP. In international play, Davidsson represented Sweden in their silver-medal entries at the 2016 Under-18 World Championship (2G, 1A in 4 GP) and the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial. He also helped Sweden win bronze at the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (1G, 1A in 6 GP).

Alexei Lipanov
Final rank (midterm rank): 13 (18)
Position: center
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 165 lbs.
Born: August 17, 1999
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia

Alexei Lipanov played 21 games for Balashikha in the Russian league's second division in 2016-17, notching three goals and five assists. He also suited up for Balashikha's Junior squad, adding three assists in 11 contests. In 2015-16, the 6-foot, 165-pound center played in 32 games for Balashikha Jr., recording three goals and five assists, and added two goals and 12 assists in 18 games with Dynamo Moscow's U17 club. Lipanov has represented Russia at the 2017 Under-18 World Championship, collecting three assists in seven games, and registered five assists in as many games in the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial, helping Russia to a bronze medal at both events. He also played for Russia at the 2016 Under-18 World Hockey Championship, where he scored one goal and added two assists, and was on their 2015 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge entry, scoring two goals and adding two assists in six games.

Ostap Safin
Final rank (midterm rank): 14 (9)
Position: right wing
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 191 lbs.
Born: February 11, 1999
Birthplace: Prague, Czech Republic

Towering winger Ostap Safin appeared 24 games with Sparta's Junior club in 2016-17, scoring six goals and adding 12 assists in 24 games, and added a goal and an assist in eight games with the big club. In 2015-16, Safin played in 38 games for Sparta's U18 squad, notching 28 goals and 19 assists in 38 games. The 6-foot-4, 191-pound Czech represented his country at the 2017 Under-18 World Championship (1G, 3A in 5 GP), the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial (3G, 1A in 5 GP, gold medal), and at the 2016 Five-Nations Tournaments in Zuchwil (2G, 2A in 4 GP) and Plymouth (2G, 1A in 4 GP).

Filip Westerlund
Final rank (midterm rank): 15 (10)
Position: defenseman
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 180 lbs.
Born: April 17, 1999
Birthplace: Sabra, Sweden

Defenseman Filip Westerlund split his time between Frolunda's Junior and top teams in 2016, collecting one goal and six assists in 23 games in Junior and four assists in 33 games with the big club. In 2015-16, he scored four goals and added 12 assists in 39 games with the Junior squad. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Swede represented his country at the 2017 Under-18 World Championship (1G, 1A in 7 GP) and at the 2016 Five-Nations Tournaments in Sundsvall (1A in 4 GP) and Plymouth (1A in 4 GP).
 
For the full rankings and more info on each player, head to the Central Scouting Bureau's 2017 Draft Prospect Rankings page.

 

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