Every year, NHL teams in European leagues look for overlooked gems. Here’s a look at some of the top names ready to compete for NHL roster spots in training camp:
Sakari Manninen, F, (Vegas): Manninen is not a “rookie of the year” but is already 30 years old. He won’t wow fans in Vegas at his 5ft 8 height, but given the Golden Knights’ cap issues, there’s a chance Team Manninen will have a legitimate shot at showcasing his high-end offensive zone vision. Manninen thrives on the power play and has had no shortage of big international goals with Finland in recent years. There is real potential here with low risk and high reward.
Pontus Andreasson, F (Detroit): At 23, Andreasson still has time to become an NHL staffer. He came second in voting for SHL Rookie of the Year, which showcased his skating skills and ability to hit the net. Andreasson scored 18 goals and had 13 points in 13 playoff games with Lulua in the regular season. With Red Wings super scout Hakan Andersson succeeding Andreasson this season, the Wings have certainly done their due diligence and believe Andreasson has the advantage in the NHL. He’ll likely move to Grand Rapids in the AHL this season, but don’t expect him to be ignored for too long.
Luke Klok, D (Arizona): A strong defensive back, Klok has shown some offensive advantages this season in the KHL and Olympics. In a starved Coyotes team, Klok will have every opportunity to play NHL games this season. Arizona has made several attempts at the European market this summer, a list that also includes Grigori Dronov, a 24-year-old defenseman from the KHL who stands at 6’1″ and will be looking for a roster spot for a long time. They also inked a pair of Olympians in Slovakia’s Milos Kelemen, 23, and Czech Republic’s Ronald Knot, 27. With Arizona’s roster in a state of disrepair, it wouldn’t be surprising to see multiple names from this cohort earn NHL auditions.
Denis Malgin, F (Toronto): Malgin was barely shaken in his first round in North America and there’s no guarantee he’ll get the minutes to score this time around either. Small and skilled, Malgin could surprise many if she capitalizes on the talent in Toronto’s lineup. When Malgin finished the 2019-2020 season with the Leafs they gave him a qualifying offer but Malgin opted for a return to Switzerland. Last year he had 52 points in 48 games in the NL. Malgin was the return for a trade that sent Mason Marchment from Toronto to Florida and is being pressured by the fan base to perform after Marchment scored 47 points in 54 games with Florida last season.
Andrei Kuzmenko, F. Vancouver: Widely regarded as the best free agent outside of North America, Canucks fans and media were excited for Kuzemenko…but be sure to lower your expectations. Kuzmenko has the potential to score secondary points, which he demonstrated with 53 points in 45 KHL games, good for second place in the league standings. He’s talented and can contribute at the NHL level, but the expectations for the 26-year-old should remain realistic.
Pavol Regenda, F (Anaheim): There’s a lot to like about Regenda’s positive side. Regenda, who has been identified as a player NHL teams would watch ahead of the Olympics, is 6ft 4 and just 22 years old. He has had two strong international performances for Slovakia this year, scoring four points in seven games at the Olympics and adding five goals and six points in eight games at the World Cup. He scored almost a point a game with HK Dukla Michalovce in Slovakia’s highest league and earned games in Anaheim with a strong start with the San Diego Gulls of the AHL. Regenda is playing with an advantage and could end up in the last six as a future option for Anaheim.
Fredrik Olofsson, F (Dallas): The 26-year-old has played in the USHL and then the NCAA, so he’s familiar with the North American game. Originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014, Olofsson never ventured into professional hockey in North America, instead choosing to return to Sweden. In his three years in Sweden, Olofsson showed consistent growth and development, finishing 16th in the SHL this season with 42 points in 49 games. He will fight for a top six spot at camp but could end up in the AHL.
Lukas Sedlak, F (Colorado): After winning the Stanley Cup, the Avalanche needed to find affordable depth to replenish their roster. They believe they added that in Lukas Sedlak, former Columbus Blue Jackets forward. Sedlak ranked sixth in the KHL this season with 43 points, played in the QMJHL, and spent three seasons in the AHL and three in the NHL before returning to Europe. He had 27 points in 162 NHL games with Columbus but appears to have regained offensive confidence since leaving North America. Sedlak will be in contention for a fourth-row role early in the season.
Max Veronneau, F (San Jose): Veronneau, once a touted NCAA free agent, bombed with the Ottawa Senators after they signed him in 2019. Flash forward two seasons in Sweden, and Veronneau led the SHL with 34 goals and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. The Sharks have no shortage of goals on the wings at the moment and if Veronneau shows his talent in training camp he could earn a spot in the opening list.
Gustav Rydahl, F (NY Rangers): Rydahl is a two meter tall forward and plays like a wrecking ball. He is aggressive and effective at using his frame to defend. His advantage up front is limited, but Rangers have plenty of talented young forwards who bring skill to the table. Rydahl is already 27 and isn’t coming to North America to spend years in the AHL, he’s coming to compete for a fourth-row role. The AHL could be Rydahl’s cover, but he could also prove to be a useful and affordable fourth-line checker.
Other notable European signings: Oscar Dansk and Adam Klapka (Calgary Flames), Otto Leskinen (Montreal Canadiens), Anton Levtchi (Florida Panthers), Ville Petman and Peetro Seppala (Seattle Kraken), Joona Luoto and Oskari Salminen (Winnipeg Jets), Markus Nurmi (Nashville Predators) , Kair Wissmann (Boston Bruins), Lawrence Pilut (Buffalo Sabes), Marcus Bjork (Columbus Blue Jackets), Filip Roos (Chicago Blackhawks).