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NHL PROSPECTS: Top 8 affiliated prospects in Europe 2023-24

1 - Matvei Michkov - RW - KHL - Philadelphia Flyers 1st rounder in 2023

“Wow” is about all we can really say about Michkov’s first post-draft season. He’s not only produced consistently in one of the top leagues whatsoever, but often done so with grace and style. A man of first round mystery heading into last season’s draft, we all know it was the Flyers who “finally” chanced it on what many felt was a top three talent going at spot seven. There was even a time when the hockey world saw him neck and neck with Connor Bedard as the probable #1 overall pick. Instead, the trickster with eyes seemingly in the back of his head has been the top goal-getter and top PPG player on one of the KHL’s bottom feeders. Some of his moves - both leading to goals and those that haven’t - have been things of beauty that have made weekly highlight reels. Despite him already topping this list and serving as our top drafted player outside of North America, we need to remind ourselves that his contract runs right on through the 25-26 season. Seeing as how he could probably take a top nine shift in the NHL right now; his future rookie season is already shaping up to be one for the ages.

Hardly a game passes by without him looking to entertain the masses:

The Flyers have to be salivating when thinking about him driving to the net like this when he’s got his man-strength:

2 - Alexander Nikishin - D - KHL - Carolina Hurricanes 3rd rounder in 2020

He topped our list at this time last year and he pretty much could have this year as well. After all, rare is the Russian defender who leads KHL defensemen in scoring two years running, finishing top 10 in overall league scoring along the way. Being an U23 player makes it all that much more amazing. The 22-year-old former Olympian leads the entire KHL in +/- with a +32 and has actually topped last season’s regular season production by one point, with his 17 goals well outdoing the 11 regular season tallies he had last winter. That he’s big and can skate with anyone makes the package as enticing as any outside North America. Oh, and he already captains his squad to boot. His KHL contract doesn't conclude until after next season, but there's very little for him to prove in the KHL and he’s as ready as any prospect out there to directly step into his NHL organization’s line-up. Thus, we once again have to ask: Can Carolina get him over?

“Blueline snipes are us” could be his motto:

Nothing to see here. Just your everyday regular stretch breakout pass for a point:

3 - Jonathan Lekkerimäki - RW - SHL - Vancouver Canucks 1st rounder in 2022

Things were very exciting around Lekkerimäki last spring when he turned a meager 3-6-9 regular season (29 games) into a 5-10-15 (15 games) playoff run in the HockeyAllsvenskan, missing out on gaining promotion in a Game 7 loss to famed Modo. He then got his ELC and soon thereafter, we heard he’d be playing SHL hockey for Örebro. Fast forward to now, with the playoffs just having started up, and we can see that Lekkerimäki has taken his game to a whole new level, putting up 19 goals, 31 points, and a +6 in 46 regular season games. He’d likely have suited up for every game of the year had it not been for his silver medal WJC run with Team Sweden, in which he led the way with 7 goals and 10 points in seven games. Thus, it’s been quite a year for a young man who won’t even turn 20 until late July. But as nice and reassuring as all the stats are, the true wonder of his season has been about how he’s created offense and scored those goals, as a majority of them have been thanks to his trademark bullet of a shot, be it his incredible slingshot of a wrister or deadly one-timers. The placement of his shots and the consistency with which they have eyes has been just overwhelming. He’s also shown himself to be completely capable of handling any and all rough stuff, unafraid to force his way to whatever part of the ice he wants to play in. In short, nothing has dissuaded from the hope that his development will be a best-case scenario involving lots of goals in the NHL one day. He’s only reinforced that belief.

He’s been flashing this kind of thing all season long:

Sure, this isn’t the trademark snipe, but a Michigan is a Michigan. Gotta see it!:

4 - Carl Lindbom - G - SHL - Vegas Golden Knights 7th rounder in 2021

It’s really quite early, but all indications are that Lindbom has every intention of becoming the best goaltender ever drafted in the 7th round of an NHL draft. His DY+2 already saw him put up an absolutely amazing HockeyAllsvenskan season for famed club Djurgarden, for whom he not only went 29-11 over 41 total games, but also put up a 1.60 GAA and .936 save percentage. That quickly earned him an SHL situation with top club Färjestad, for whom he was expected to be the back-up goalie. Instead, the 20-year-old has pushed his way into a platooning 1A-1B situation with established veteran Max Lagace, getting a bulk of the starts and battling his way to a 17-7 record with a 2.12 GAA and .911 save percentage. Moreover, the sheer acrobatics Lindbom has shown at times has pulled fans out of their seats and we’re witnessing one of the best seasons a goaltender his age has ever pulled off in Sweden’s top circuit. With the playoffs around the corner, it’ll be very interesting to see if a Färjestad team that has its eyes on the prize will trust Lindbom with the #1 goaltending duties.

Puck-tracking? Check. Stays square to the shooter? Check:


Up and down, back and forth, Lindbom can move while fully concentrated:

5 - Danila Yurov - RW - KHL - Minnesota Wild 1st rounder in 2022

Goodness, has this ever been the season Yurov has needed! After putting up 11 points at the 2021 U18 Worlds, the scouting community was gushing over him whenever it took a breath from gushing over his younger teammate Matvei Michkov. After all, it wasn’t just his U18 play - which was fantastic - but also the fact that he was coming off an offensively dominating showing in the MHL and 24 KHL games (3 points) that winter. But in the season thereafter, he didn’t put up a single point in 40 KHL contests for one of the league’s absolute powerhouses. Sure, he was still killing it in spot duty with the junior club, but his minimal ice time and obviously non-existent production gave reason for concern. The Minnesota Wild weren’t worried though and grabbed the budding power forward 24th overall nonetheless, only to see him follow that up with a “measly” 12 points in 70 total KHL games the season thereafter. Alas, Yurov has completely whipped the worry away from any and all who had it by hustling and bustling his way to 21 goals, 49 points, and a +22 rating in 62 regular season games this year. He’s also added 2 points in the 4-2 playoff series victory this past week and a half. Moreover, he has plenty of tools you want to see in a hockey player and already proving there’s a toolbox. And his current KHL contract? Well, it ends this offseason. #ELCCity

Just imagine Kirill Kaprizov entering the zone with the puck and Yurov marching to the net like this. We sure can!:

Sure, the coverage here is lousy. But grabbing that puck on the backhand, then getting it to the forehand and off into the net at that speed is, well, just dreamy:

6 - Ville Koivunen - C/LW - Liiga - Carolina Hurricanes 2nd rounder in 2021 (now Pittsburgh)

For certain, Koivunen is not the sexiest skater on this list. In addition, it’s not like you’ll watch him play and experience all that many moments where he wows you with what he’s doing out there, unless you’ve simply got a thing for bullet-hard passes with sometimes deadly accuracy. But what Koivunen has done since being drafted in 2021 is produce. After an outstanding U18 Worlds on top of a very productive U20 league season in Finland, his 2nd round selection by Carolina (like, of course) was very logical. He then stepped right into Liiga play and proceeded to put up seasons of 29 and 28 points respectively, jumping from a -11 to +9 in the process. It was then clear that he was going to be an impact player this season for Kärpät as well, but his 56 points in 59 games have exceeded most all expectations, propelling him to 6th overall in league scoring - as a 20-year old. It’s downright unheard of. And you can bet your bottom dollar it’s a chief reason Pittsburgh demanded to have him be part of the huge wealth of assets returned for the playoff services of a one Mr. Jake Guentzel. Carolina already had him over for a 12-game AHL showing last spring, so the door would seem more than open for him to be in North America permanently as of the fall. First we’ll see if he’s a topic for Finland’s national team this spring.

Here’s why Koivunen is not a guy you should afford any time or space:

Talk about threading the needle:

7 - Jani Nyman - F - Liiga

It’s been quite a season for Nyman, a 2022 2nd rounder of the Seattle Kraken who has literally lived up to his size. At 6’4”, 207 lbs., the 19-year-old with an ELC in his pocket has simply become more and more dominant all season long, in what has been his first full season of Liiga action. With the playoffs ready to set into gear, Nyman’s 26 regular season tallies are good for second overall in the league, even if his 43 points and +19 rating only seed him within the league’s top 27 for both stats, respectively. Nonetheless, the numbers are simply not what you get very often from a young man this age who likely would have added to those totals had he not missed a half dozen games while going 2-4-6 in 7 games for his country at the WJC. Before having hit 20 (which will first happen at the end of July), Nyman looks well on his way to a spot in the AHL next season where the Kraken will be able to take a more hands-on approach to a player who is looking more and more like the probable goal-scorer he made headway with in the Mestis during his draft season.

Oh, he knows how to one-time the puck:

And this type of accuracy just ain’t fair:

Just in case you thought that last goal was lucky…:

8 - Oscar Fisker Molgaard - F - SHL

Molgaard makes this list not so much because he’s got numbers that outshine so many of the other European draftees (he doesn’t), but because of the incredible evolution his game has been making this season. The speed, the moves, the timing, the wherewithal - he’s just grown in leaps and bounds, finding a way to be an energetic player who somehow brings fans out of their seats just about every game. And whereas this wasn’t necessarily the case to kick off the season, it certainly has been of late. He finds holes. He dekes out opponents. He weaves around the ice like an artist, but there’s no let-up in his game. He’s making things happen and pepping his team’s offense like a mid-20s veteran, and it keeps making the impression that the sky is now the limit. Whatever Seattle’s plans are with their 2023 2nd rounder, they may have been accelerated in recent weeks.

Yes, you want to see goals, we know, but this is the kind of thing Molgaard is doing with regularity in the SHL this year, even if it’s not always leading to tangible scoring:

Just imagine when these attempts start going in:

And the cherry on top is that he can one-time the puck like this. Sweet!:

Honorable mention: G Damian Clara (ANA, HockeyAllsvenskan), F David Edström (VGK, SHL), D Adam Engström (MON, SHL), F Filip Eriksson (MON, HockeyAllsvenskan), D Simon Forsmark (CAR, SHL), RW Arseni Gritsyuk (NJD, KHL), LW/RW Nikita Grebyonkin (TOR, KHL), RW/LW Lenni Hämeenaho (CAR, Liiga), RW Niko Huuhtanen (TBL, Liiga), G Sergei Ivanov (CBJ, KHL), F Aatu Jämsen (LAK, Liiga), G Alexei Kolosov (PHI, KHL), D Bogdan Konyushkov (MON, KHL), RW/LW Nikolai Kovalenko (COL, KHL), RW Alexander Ljungkrantz (NYI, HockeyAllsvenskan), G Jakub Malek (NJD, Liiga), F Viljami Marjala (BUF, Liiga), G Sergei Murashov (PIT, MHL), RW/LW Jani Nyman (SEA, Liiga), F Zion Nybeck (CAR, HockeyAllsvenskan), C/W Noah Ostlund (BUF, SHL), C Ludwig Persson (WAS, Mestis), G Nikita Quapp (CAR, DEL2), RW Dmitri Rashevsky (WIN, KHL), C Victor Stjernborg (CHI, SHL), G Arno Tiefensee (DAL, DEL), G Yevgeni Volokhin (MON, MHL), G Yegor Zavragin (PHI, VHL)