Every year, NHL teams go mining for overlooked gems in European leagues. Here's a look at some of the top names to know that are ready to fight for NHL roster spots come training camp:
Sakari Manninen, F, (Vegas): No “rookie” of the year, Manninen is already 30. He won’t wow fans in Vegas with his 5-foot-8 frame, but given the Golden Knights’ cap woes, there’s a chance the team might give Manninen a legitimate chance to showcase his high end offensive zone vision. In particular, Manninen thrives on the power play and had no shortage of big-moment goals internationally in recent years with Finland. There's true low-risk, high-reward potential here.
Pontus Andreasson, F (Detroit): At 23, Andreasson still has time to become an NHL contributor. He was second in SHL rookie of the year voting showcasing his skating skills and ability to finish around the net. Andreasson scored 18 goals with Lulua during the regular season and had 13 points in 13 playoff games. With Red Wings super-scout Hakan Andersson following Andreasson this season, the Wings certainly did their due diligence and feel Andreasson has NHL upside. He’ll likely join Grand Rapids in the AHL this season, but don't expect him to be ignored for too long.
Lukas Klok, D (Arizona): A strong-skating defensive defender, Klok showed some offensive upside this season in the KHL and Olympics. On a starved Coyotes team, Klok will have every opportunity to play NHL games this season. Arizona took several shots at the European market this summer, a list that also includes Grigori Dronov, a six-foot-three, 24-year-old defender from the KHL who will get a long look for a roster spot. They also inked a pair of Olympians in 23-year-old Slovak Milos Kelemen, and 27-year-old Czechian Ronald Knot. With Arizona’s roster in a state of disrepair, it would not be surprising to see multiple names from this cohort get NHL auditions.
Denis Malgin, F (Toronto): Malgin didn’t get much of a shake on his first go-round in North America, and there’s no guarantee he’ll get the minutes to score this time either. Small and skilled, Malgin could surprise many benefitting from the talent in Toronto’s lineup. When Malgin finished the 2019-2020 season with the Leafs, they gave him a qualifying offer, but Malgin chose to return to Switzerland. Last year he had 52 points in 48 games in the NL. Malgin was the return for a trade sending Mason Marchment from Toronto to Florida, and has pressure on his back from the fan base to perform after Marchment broke out for 47 points in 54 games with Florida last season.
Andrei Kuzmenko, F Vancouver: Widely considered the top free agent outside of North America, Canucks fans and media went wild over Kuzemenko... but be sure to temper your expectations. Kuzmenko has the potential to provide secondary scoring, which he demonstrated compiling 53 points in 45 KHL games, good for second in league scoring. He is skilled and can contribute at the NHL level, but expectations should remain realistic for the 26-year-old.
Pavol Regenda, F (Anaheim): There’s much to like about Regenda’s upside. Identified as a player NHL teams would be watching before the Olympic Games, Regenda is 6-foot-4 and is only 22-years-old. He put together two strong international performances for Slovakia this year, scoring four points in seven games at the Olympics, and upping that with five goals and six points in eight games at the World Championship. He scored almost a point per game with HK Dukla Michalovce in Slovakia’s top league, and could earn games in Anaheim with a strong start with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. Regenda plays with an edge, and could end up as a future bottom six option for Anaheim.
Fredrik Olofsson, F (Dallas): The 26-year-old played in the USHL and then 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 opting to return to Sweden. In his three years in Sweden, Olofsson showed consistent growth and development finishing 16th in SHL scoring with 42 points in 49 games this season. He’ll fight for a bottom six role 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 lineup. They believe they’ve added that in former Columbus Blue Jackets forward Lukas Sedlak. Tied for sixth in KHL scoring this season with 43 points, Sedlak played in the QMJHL and spent three seasons in the AHL and three in the NHL before returning to Europe. With Columbus, he totalled 27 points in 162 NHL games, but looks to have regained offensive confidence since he left North America. Sedlak will battle for a fourth-line role to start the season.
Max Veronneau, F (San Jose): Once a highly touted free agent out of the NCAA, Veronneau bombed with the Ottawa Senators after they signed him in 2019. Flash forward two seasons in Sweden, and Veronneau topped the SHL in goals with 34 and was named the league’s most valuable player. The Sharks currently don’t feature a dearth of scoring along the wings, and if Veronneau shows his touch in training camp, he could earn an opening night roster spot.
Gustav Rydahl, F (NY Rangers): A six-foot-three forward, Rydahl plays like a wrecking ball. He’s aggressive and effective in using his frame to defend. His offensive upside is limited, but the Rangers have plenty of talented young forwards who bring skill to the table. Already 27, Rydahl isn’t coming to North America to spend years in the AHL, he’s coming to compete for a fourth line role. The AHL could be Rydahl’s ceiling, but he could also prove 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).