After profiling some of the early season breakouts in the North American leagues, I wanted to give some love to the various European leagues. It's a lot tougher for me to watch players in Europe, so rather than breaking them up into each country and trying to find a few from each to profile, I decided to combine one or two from each country that has stood out to me.
As always, I'm going off a combination of: looking at the top producers for each league per their age group, seeing who scouts rave about online, and catching whatever highlights or games I can of those that really catch my interest. Most of the time I'll have seen no more than parts of one game plus some clips for anyone mentioned, with rare exceptions. I'm combining what I can read of these players in scouting reports with the bits I can see myself.
That out of the way, let's get to it!
Demidov and the very early breakout of Anton Silyayev have the early season headlines, but Artamonov has been the an underrated surprise out of Russia so far this season – and I actually wrote about him very early in the season. But by nw, he's cemented his status as a breakout story this year. He's a 5'11" right winger who has played every game this season for Torpedo, the same team as Silyayev. He's regularly played in their top six, and has 13 points in 25 games. He has more points in the KHL so far than most of last year's draft picks in the KHL this year. Scouting reports love his pace, effort and playmaking. I've seen him a couple of times whenever Torpedo has played Grebyonkin or Akhtyamov's teams, and he's definitely been impressive. Playing in the KHL and getting real minutes isn't as rare in the KHL as it used to be, but he's still looked like a late first rounder for me.
Adam Jiříček, the younger brother of David Jiříček that was a top 10 pick by Columbus two years ago, may get all of the hype as Czechia's top prospect this year, but Galvas is another defenseman that is having a breakout as well. Playing in 9 games in their U20 junior level, he has 9 points. And in 12 games at the top pro level, he has 3 points. He's a 5'10" left shot defenseman, and he has all the skills you'd want in a smaller defender. Scouts give him strong reviews for his skating and his defense, though his lack of strength is noted as an issue along the boards and in front of the net. When I watched him at the Hlinka, I thought he reminded me a lot of Niemelä in how much he moved around the offensive zone. For his size, I'd guess that he would not become any higher than a 2nd or 3rd round pick, but he could make for a very interesting swing.
Hemming is one of the big breakouts of the early season. It started at the Hlinka where he had 9 points in 5 games for Finland. It continued in Finland's U20 junior league, where he had 15 points in only 8 games. It then continued again when he was called up to the pro Liiga level, where he's put up 3 goals and 4 points in 15 games. He's a 6'2" and 196 lb winger who has a wicked shot and is developing a bit of a power forward game, with improving skating. I thought he looked pretty great at the Hlinka, and wrote about him a bit after the tournament. He's putting himself into the conversation for being a late first round/early second round guy.
Soini is a 6'2" right shot defenseman who has already played in four different levels in Finland's system. In 2 games in the U18 junior league he has 3 points. In 6 games at the U20 level he has 0 points. In 10 games in the second-tier pro league, Mestis, he has 3 points. And in 5 games in the top pro league, Liiga, he has one point. Being able to play in any pro level games already is a good mark for a Finnish 17 year old, and while I've seen only a bit I'm interested enough to have added him to my watch list for the future.
The vibes I get from watching Pettersson a bit at the Hlinka this summer, and even moreso when reading his scouting reports from this season, is that he could be a guy like Easton Cowan but Swedish. He's listed as 5'11" and 170 lbs, he's an energetic and intelligent forward that plays at center and the wing, and he was described by Elite Prospects as a "mature two-way center which the team can rely on in any game situation." He's gotten a taste of the SHL pro level in Sweden with one game there, but has been one of the more dominant U18 forwards at the junior level with 11 goals and 24 points in 19 games. He's also played for Team Sweden at the Hlinka (4 points in 4 games), and in some other tournaments like the Five Nations Cup (9 points in 6 games). At the Hlinka he was used a lot at even strength, on the powerplay, and was their go-to forward when killing off a 5 on 3. He gets rave reviews for his leadership qualities and communicating with teammates to direct them on the ice. I definitely have him on my watch list, but we'll see where his rankings wind up over this season.
Fernström has the second highest point per game rate in Sweden's U20 junior level for this age group. He's a 6'1" right winger on Örebro, and in 22 games his 15 goals leads the team and 28 points is tied for the most. He has also played for Sweden internationally this year like Pettersson, with one more point (5) at the Hlinka but the same points in other tournaments after (9 points in 6 games). Unlike Pettersson, he has not gotten into any SHL games yet, but reading into his scouting report he sounds like a good prospect in his own right. He profiles as a goal scoring, shooting, forechecking winger that may have some slight weaknesses, but at skating is not as much of a problem. He may not have the all-around game that Pettersson has, but he profiles as a more dangerous producer who does still work hard defensively to steal it back.
Fransén is the third and final Swede on this list, and might be the best of the three. He's a 6'0" left shot defenseman who has put up 13 goals and 24 points in 22 games in the U20 junior league. That's good for 4th best point production for his age group among all players, and actually leads his whole team. From reading scouting reports, he gets good reviews for his skating, puck movement and activating from the point to take more dangerous shots in close rather than settling for point shots from afar. His defense sounds like it's at least okay for the level, making him a dark horse to be a late riser this year if his production and play in all three zones continues.