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2008 Draft: Top European Defensemen

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
As a lead-in to the 2008 NHL Entry Draft June 20-21 in Ottawa, Ontario, will be taking a look at the top prospects available in this year's draft class. Today we will continue with the top European defensemen.

1) Luca Sbisa (Lethbridge, WHL) - 62 games, 6g-27a-33pts, 63 penalty minutes
CSS-NA #12, HN-#17, ISS-#10
Sbisa's viewed by most scouting services as a quality two-way defenseman with strong skating skills and a developed offensive game. He impressed many with his decision to leave Switzerland and make his North American debut this season in the WHL. Sbisa struggled down the back stretch of the season, but still is viewed as a solid early-to-mid first round talent.

2) Jyri Niemi (Saskatoon, WHL) - 49 games, 14g-20a-34pts, 57 penalty minutes
CSS-NA #25, HN-#44
Niemi's one of the elite offensive-defensemen in this year's draft class, with a tremendous slap shot from the point. Like Sbisa, he earned praise from scouts for leaving Europe to make his North American debut in the WHL. Niemi won the Hardest Shot competition at this year's CHL Top Prospects Game. Though known for his offensive acumen, the scouting services noted that Niemi improved his overall play over the past season.

3) Erik Karlsson (Frolunda Jr, SWE Jr) - 65 games, 6g-13a-19pts, 97 penalty minutes
CSS-E #4, NH-#71, ISS-#22
An elite offensive-defenseman, Karlsson was named the Top Defenseman and the World Under-18 Championships. Scouting services question his size (165 pounds) and attention to defensive zone responsibilities. He spent most of the season in the developmental league, but made his Swedish Elite League debut with seven games for Frolunda.

4) Roman Josi (Bern, SWI) - 35 games, 2g-6a-8pts, 10 penalty minutes
CSS-E #6, HN-#49
Josi is another talented European offensive-defenseman. His numbers are skwed by playing in the men's league in Switzerland instead of a junior league, but the scouting services note his skating and puck moving abilities. Josi needs to improve his strength before he gets to the NHL and may be a little slower to develop than other top defensemen in this year's draft. He doesn't sound likely to play in North America in 2008-09 and any team that drafts him will likely want to see him compete in North America before slotting him into their NHL plans.

5) Vjateslav Voinov (Chelyabinsk, RUS) - 36 games, 1g-3a-4pts, 20 penalty minutes
CSS-E #8, HN-#76
Voinov is viewed by scouting services as a future two-way defenseman with a more polished offensive game at this point of his development. He fell slightly from the #4 European slot to the #8 European slot in the final Central Scouting rankings and -- as with just about all of the Russian prospects -- may see his draft status fall as a result of the questions around Russia's participation in the international transfer agreeement.

Other names of note:
Philip Larsen (Frolunda, SWE) - 16 games, 0g-0a-0pts, 2 penalty minutes
CSS-E #11, HN-#98
Tomas Kundratek (Trinec, CZE) - 14 games, 0g-1a-1pt, 10 penalty minutes
CSS-E #12, HN-#63
Johan Motin (Bofors, SWE-2) - 28 games, 0g-2a-2pts, 10 penalty minutes
CSS-E #13, HN-#51
Kristoffer Berglund (Bjorkloven, SWE-2) - 42 games, 4g-21a-25pts, 14 penalty minutes
CSS-E #14, HN-#47
Lukas Stoop (Davos, SWI) - 28 games, 1g-2a-3pts, 26 penalty minutes
CSS-E #8

Key: CSS-E (Central Scouting-European Rankings), CSS-NA (Central Scouting-North American Rankings), HN (The Hockey News), ISS (International Scouting Services)
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