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Patrik Tallinder

S73 Future Watch: EU Conference

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Another season is underway, and that means an update for Future Watch! Here on Future Watch, we take an in-depth look at each VHL team’s prospect pool. Last season, the EU Conference dominated, taking all of the top 4 spots. Can they replicate that? How will the new expansion teams fit into the list? Let’s take a look and see.

 

Before we begin though, I’d like to inform you of some of VSN’s latest content. @PatrikLaine brings a fresh new voice to the writing crew and has already contributed nicely with his season preview. Be sure to check it out among the rest of VSN’s great work!

 

 

 

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RIGA REIGN | 8th in EU | 15th Overall

Top Prospect: Bobby Wyman - S72 3rd Round (29)

 

After two graduations, one retirement, and an expansion draft claim, it’s safe to say Riga’s prospect pool is not what it used to be. Their only active prospect, Bobby Wyman, does have some decent upside though. Selected in S72’s third round, Wyman was a very consistent TPE earner before a drop in his activity recently. Being a member in the SBA, the renewed partnership between the SBA and VHL could really help the defender get back on track. Wyman is an extremely physical player on the back end, with a defence-first mindset that could work unbelievably well with the more offence-oriented DeFenz Mann as soon as S74. Riga does only have one active prospect, but he fits perfectly with their team.

 

 

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MALMO NIGHTHAWKS | 7th in EU | 14th Overall

Top Prospect: Kirishima Wakaro - S73 2nd Round (29)

 

Malmo’s prospect pool is not a deep one either, though they do have some fantastic young pieces on their roster. The only prospect to show VHL potential so far has been Kirishima Wakaro of the Miami Marauders. Wakaro was picked by Malmo in this past offseason’s draft and looks to be a solid top 4 defenceman at the VHL level. He has flirted with inactivity a couple of times, but his TPE earning has been largely consistent. I would say his build is slightly more defence-focused, though there is some offensive upside there too.

 

Another S73 prospect in Malmo’s prospect pool is Kevin Sterk. He has consistently claimed practice facility for six consecutive weeks, but the only other claim he’s made is for training camp. If Sterk shows an ability to earn capped TPE in the near future, he could turn into a more notable prospect, but only portal claims like practice facility and training camp will limit his potential quite a bit. The Nighthawks have a young and exciting team, so hopefully, both of these players can find their way onto the squad to be a part of it soon.

 

 

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LONDON UNITED | 6th in EU | 9th Overall

Top Prospect: Alec Volchenkov - S73 1st Round (12)

 

The London United have done a pretty good job building a prospect pool in their short time in the league so far, adding players through both the entry and expansion drafts, as well as through trade. Their first-round pick, Alec Volchenkov, has been producing TPE at an extremely high pace for quite some time now. With 159 TPE over his last 7 weeks, which averages out to 23 per week, Volchenkov has proven that he is bound to be a massive piece for the team’s future. Having your future number one centre after your very first draft is a really great early step towards success, and Volchenkov is looking like just that.

 

Another player who is coming up to London next season is former Moscow prospect Keith Krestanovich. The 16th overall selection in the expansion draft has shown potential to be a pure goal scorer in the VHL, reflected in his build and his stats. He had a bit of a down week recently with no capped TPE, but in the likely case that it was just a hiccup, he seems to be a pretty high-quality offensive winger moving forward.

 

Nils Friedriksen was acquired through trade and has gone through a rough patch in terms of TPE production lately. After three inactive weeks, Friedriksen returned with 14 TPE (2 capped, 12 uncapped) last week. Not long ago he was a pretty highly touted goalie prospect, so if he can build on that and return to form, London could have a really nice VHL goaltender on their hands. If everything works out, he could be their starter as soon as next season.

 

Two more players were added in the later stages of the S73 draft, and those would be Tim Kamashev and Antti Paakarainen. Neither of them have claimed any capped TPE, so they haven’t shown too much potential. However, they have both updated recently, so if they’re still active then they may be able to figure out capped TPE earning, which will increase their value greatly. Overall, London has a quality group with some wildcards, but the potential is there for sure.

 

 

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HC DAVOS DYNAMO | 5th in EU | 6th Overall

Top Prospect: Jer Lefebvre - S72 2nd Round (23)

 

Davos has been a team on the rise over the past couple seasons, and with that comes the likely decline in prospect quality. However, despite not having one of the top prospect pools in the league anymore, Davos has formed a prospect pool with plenty of good pieces that will come up and make an impact throughout their cup window. There are a lot of players here with a high floor, and will probably serve as really useful supplementary players down the road to the young core they’ve already built.

 

In the crease, they’ve got John Poremba, who they received in the ACL TEAR trade. Poremba has progressed about as consistently as one possibly can, dropping below 8 TPE in only two weeks during his career, and never below 6. He may not have superstar potential, but he will be an extremely reliable option with the upside to become a decent starter as well. 

 

A fair amount of the Dynamo’s current prospects have struggled a bit with consistency in staying active, yet have the potential to be important parts of the team. An example of that would be Empty. After a successful career with Pat Svoboda, StamkosFan went inactive for a while with Empty. However, he then came back for two weeks earlier this month, earning 10 TPE in that span. He hasn’t shown a ton of potential yet, but you can never rule out StamkosFan from turning it around and making another great player. King Kruul and Gino Alkamino find themselves in similar situations, where they seem to dip in and out of activity. They’ve both shown flashes of quality but will need to put it all together quickly if they want to be real difference-makers at the VHL level. Centre Turner McHugh finds himself stuck in inactivity, but as it’s only been three weeks, he still has a chance to be a great player if he gets back to form.

 

This team has done pretty well in the latter part of the draft too, drafting three noteworthy prospects past 40th overall. The first would be Chance Rust, selected at number 40 exactly. Rust has been a staple on team USA’s defence for two seasons now at the world juniors and could make it three in S73. He is a tremendous puck-moving defenceman with remarkable vision, and he could be a big part of Davos’ defence in the future. Next, we have a pair of wingers: Jared Willis and Vlad Imir. They were both selected past 40 as well in the past two drafts. Willis is the definition of an offensive threat, with a versatile skill set that allows him to score in all situations. What he may be lacking is a defensive side to his game, which is where Imir comes in. Imir has a balanced build with a nice grasp of the defensive aspect of the game. They’ve both been earning TPE at a good, steady rate, and could become linemates one day.

 

Lastly, we have the team’s top prospect, Jer Lefebvre. Other than a little bump in the road with an inactive 07/19 week, Lefebvre has been a pretty exciting prospect as a goal-scoring forward. He is currently over a goal per game in the VHLM and is sure to surpass last season’s 29 by a significant amount. Since the young Canadian is already at the VHLM’s TPA cap, he will be on the big league squad in S74. Davos continues to have remarkable depth in their group, which even outweighs the pure upside of some of the smaller groups in my opinion.

 

 

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PRAGUE PHANTOMS | 4th in EU | 4th Overall

Top Prospect: Andre Lebastard - S73 1st Round (15)

 

Even with last season’s top prospect retiring, Prague’s group takes a massive step forward, going up from 9th overall to 4th despite four new teams being added. The group has some nice depth, and two players really lead the way for the others.

 

Forwards Andre Lebastard and Dan Baillie Jr are the two big names here, selected in the S73 Draft at 15th and 21st overall respectively. Lebastard is more of a playmaking centre, while Baillie Jr complements him nicely as a scoring winger. The duo are both very respected among their peers. For Baillie Jr, he has a very accomplished family and he more than lives up to the name. In Lebastard’s case, he managed to become Miami’s very first captain in franchise history. They are really neck-and-neck in terms of my decision for top prospect, but I believe Lebastard may have a slightly higher upside. Regardless, both of these players are not only bound to be on the Phantoms soon, but they could also be real catalysts for the team at their peaks.

 

On defence, Prague has a talented asset in Riley Knight Gee. He has torn up the VHLM season so far with 10 more points than anyone else. This is no one-off either; The Houston Bull has produced well over a point per game over his career in the minors. His TPE production has really picked back up in these last couple weeks as well, and he is looking more and more like a key part of this team’s tomorrow.

 

Some players here have been a little inconsistent, and others very much so. Starting with the former, we have Jack John, Bobbie Cheechoo and Theodore James St Louis. A few weeks ago I would’ve told you that three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and Jack John earning six TPE every week. When his TPE production lowered recently it did cause a bit of concern for me, but I definitely wouldn’t count him out from making his way onto this Prague team yet. He has displayed incredible consistency before and just needs to get back in that rhythm. Cheechoo and St Louis are both S73 players who have had some inactive weeks recently but have shown VHL potential before. All they need is to find some regularity in earning TPE, and the Phantoms will have themselves another useful duo. They have fairly similar builds as scoring right-wingers and could be players to look out for soon enough.

 

Now we move on to the lesser active players. Ernie King, Zachariah Kisslinger and Secel Keller make up this group. They all made comebacks after activity droughts in the week of 07/19, and two have continued their progression since then. Kisslinger has been claiming welfare and whatever uncapped opportunities he sees, leading him to a really solid 27 TPE over his last 2 full weeks. His build is very balanced, leading a bit more towards defence. If he continues to develop as he has lately, he could be an interesting prospect down the line. Keller came back from an extremely long break, and really impressed with a 33 TPE week last week. It remains to be seen if he can keep this up, but there’s no doubt the defensively responsible winger will be among the better prospects in the game if he can. Prague’s group is full of reliability at the top, and some untapped potential which is ready to be unleashed at the bottom.

 

 

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HELSINKI TITANS | 3rd in EU | 3rd Overall

Top Prospect: Patrik Laine - S73 1st Round (9)

 

It’s truly miraculous that Helsinki has managed to put forward back-to-back seasons with a top 3 prospect pool in the VHL after all of their best prospects graduated this past offseason. What kept them here is a fresh new batch of prospects who are surely going to be difference makers for the club real soon. Kicking things off with a pair of right-wingers, Patrik Laine and Oh Sens are top tier talents. They both cap out often and earn an abundance of uncapped TPE as well. Laine has made his mark on the league early in his career with his articles, even earning himself a spot here at VSN in the process. Both playing in Miami this season, the two could quite possibly form some chemistry that could carry over to Helsinki next season. With Laine being a pure goal scorer and Sens being a more balanced threat, they could have the makings of quality linemates.

 

In net, Helsinki has two prospects worth noting. Hex Valentine has been weaving between earning TPE at high and low rates, but if he can find a way to make those highs more often than not, he has the potential to be a decent VHL goaltender. Also between the pipes is Calvin Harvey, who fell in the S73 Draft a bit because of the sheer amount of goaltenders available. This is no knock on his individual skill though because he is an outstanding prospect. He puts up around 8-12 TPE most weeks but blows that out of the water fairly often too. There’s a ton of potential here, and he will make a fantastic tandem with Zamboni Driver very soon. While Helsinki doesn’t have a crazy amount of players, there is some unquestionable talent at play here.

 

 

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MOSCOW MENACE | 2nd in EU | 2nd Overall

Top Prospect: Wolf Stansson - S73 1st Round (13)

 

After last season’s first-place finish, the Menace only move down one spot in the rankings. They’ve kept two high-upside players from last season’s group, on top of some wonderful additions.

 

In the S73 Draft, the team added a pair of terrific defensemen. In the first round, they went for Wolf Stansson, a two-way defender with huge upside. The 17-year-old cracked 30 goals in S72 and will look to build on that this time around. There’s really no weaknesses in his game, and he is almost a sure thing to be a top-pairing defenceman one day for this team. Fat palloon was picked up in the second round, and he looks to be a decent prospect as well. His weekly TPE totals can fluctuate quite a bit, but the bottom line is that he gets the job done. The Rush defenceman has managed to be over a point per game this season so far despite his defence-first mindset. Both him and Stansson will be a great boost to the Menace in the near future.

 

The Menace acquired Michael Hall in a trade with Davos, and he was on pace to becoming a decent VHL player before going inactive three weeks ago. If he comes back, he is one to keep your eyes on. For now, our focus concerning the S72 Draft lies on Cole Newhook and Pietro Angellini. Both of these players were nothing short of a straight robbery at their draft positions. Newhook had a bit of an off week with no capped TPE last week, but that’s not a big deal if he can rebound by the end of this week. The two centres have earned TPE at the same rate as some of the top prospects league-wide, and are must-see players to say the absolute least. Angellini is more of a natural centre, while you could likely place Newhook in any offensive position. Both of them are amazing scorers, though Angellini has shown a bit more of that in his VHLM career so far. I could go through the checklist of what makes a great player, and these guys check all the boxes. There’s honestly no limit to how good this group can become, yet only time will tell how it all turns out.

 

 

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WARSAW PREDATORS | 1st in EU | 1st Overall

Top Prospect: Dakota Lamb - S73 1st Round (10)

 

And here we have it, S73’s top prospect pool! And who better to have this honour than one of our brand new franchises, Warsaw. The club had an extraordinary draft and picked up another tremendous player in the expansion draft too. The positional depth here is unbelievable, and the raw talent on display in this group is unmatched.

 

Perhaps the most impressive part of this group is their centre depth. Consisting of 10th overall pick Dakota Lamb and 3rd overall expansion pick Arthur Dayne, the centre of the ice is more than secure for plenty of seasons to come. They’ve both got very well-put-together builds for the middle of the ice, and have been capping out regularly as well. The balance of capped and uncapped TPE is there, and Lamb has even grabbed the position of a backup graphic with VSN! These two are nothing short of elite players, and will play a huge role in this team’s success.

 

Another forward who is primed to make an impact for Warsaw is Mexico City’s, Jeremy Lin. Lin has been a steady TPE earner, usually around 9-12 per week. Last week was a big moment for him though, where he posted an impressive 30 TPE. He is a versatile offensive threat with a scoring touch that has allowed him to be over a goal per game to date in the VHLM this season. His potential isn’t necessarily as high as Lamb or Dayne, but his floor is incredibly high, and his reliability is something that can’t be understated.

 

Transitioning to the back half of the ice, the Predators look great in goal and on defence as well. Their future starter, Ajay Krishna, has gone from an impressive goalie prospect to one of the most highly touted young goalies in the league lately, at least in my opinion. The reason for this is an adjustment in his TPE production. Not only does he earn every possible capped TPE every week, but he is also now earning high amounts of uncapped TPE along with it. Krishna will be the club’s first true number one goalie, and an exceptional one at that. In front of him will be yet another top tier prospect in Victor Grachev. The Russian defenceman has found his bread and butter as a defensive-minded puck mover from the back end and will be an integral piece of their blueline. Grachev joined considerably late in S73 eligibility and wasted no time catching up to his competition. Watch for him to continue this, and to keep garnering more respect across the league. I think it’s fair to say Warsaw has set themselves up for the future quite nicely, and it will heavily benefit them sooner than one might expect.

 

 

That’s it for this season’s EU Future Watch! As always, you can follow these players through the VHLM Weekly series here on VSN, as well as through our WJC coverage whenever it begins! I wish all these players the best in their careers and hope they can find their way into the VHL soon enough.

 

Players mentioned: @Lefty_S @Snussu @TenZi @SirRupertBarnes @Boragina @Biggreen10 @Ninjaboi @SeamusSv @CrlineDijohn14 @StamkosFan @LefLop @ChaceT @Turner @turkey2349 @Jared Willis @Big Dee @Jer_Lefebvre @Andre LeBastard @wcats @KnightRiley @GoadenGoalie35 @Sharkie @Nick Kirkpatrick @Greg Ernest @Kisslinger @xsjack @PatrikLaine @osens @DrHexDex @Mrpenguin30 @ahockeyguy @UnkemptCL4PTP @Hops @GrittyIsKing09 @okifenoki @dlamb @Infernal @jman9theman9 @Hooperorama @KaleebtheMighty 

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