While a number of picks from the 2010 NHL draft have already had an impact in the league, many of those selected have yet to make their NHL debuts and some have yet to cross the Atlantic. But just because they're out of sight shouldn't mean they should be out of the mind. We polled scouts and coaches from some of the European leagues to find the top five players from 2010 draft still skating in Europe. And their analysis should greatly excite fans who follow the Red Wings, Caps and Blues.
1. Calle Jarnkrok, Brynas, Elite League, Sweden
Draft team: Detroit Red Wings
A second-round pick, Jarnkrok was instantly billed as a typical Detroit pick. And sure enough, he's lived up the the hype. He has already produced more points in 30 games this season than he did over a stretch of 33 games last season, scoring nine goals (four game-winners) to go along with nine assists.
"The future is very bright for Jarnkrok. He reminds me a lot of Nicklas Backstrom," says Leif Boork, a coaching veteran in Swedish hockey with over 30 seasons behind the bench. Boork coached Backstrom in Brynas for two seasons before the young Swede moved to Washington. "Jarnkrok had a slight dip in his performance midway through the season but has stepped up ever since. He sees the ice extremely well and acts very mature."
2. Teemu Pulkkinen, Jokerit, SM-liiga, Finland
Draft team: Detroit Red Wings
A fourth-round pick for the Red Wings, there were some question marks about Pulkkinen's skating and defensive play. Even if the question marks haven't been answered yet, Pulkkinen has excelled in the area of producing points. Last spring he led all scorers with 10 goals and 15 points at the U18 World Championships. In league play it looks like he's picked up right where he left off.
"Pulkkinen's season has been impressive," says a scout. "He's second on his team in scoring and has averaged almost one point per game. That's impressive but not totally unexpected. Pulkkinen has a great shot and a knack for finding the net."
"Teemu has improved his skating and his defensive work," says Lauri Marjamaki, coach for the Finland U-20 team. "There's still room for more improvement but his learning curve is going in the right direction."
3. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Traktor Chelyabinsk, KHL, Russia
Draft team: Washington Capitals
Kuznetov's team isn't exactly a juggernaut, currently 18th in the standings out of 24 KHL teams. But that hasn't seemed to slow down the skilled Russian. After 31 games he has amassed more points, 15, than he did over 35 games last season when he produced only nine. And keep in mind, he's only 18 playing in the same league as Jaromir Jagr and Alex Radulov.
Kuznetsov is second in scoring on his team, trailing veteran U.S. defenseman Deron Quint.
"He's steadily maturing and developing into a valuable asset," says one scout. "Kuznetsov has gotten better every year and is getting his education in a very tough league."
4. Patrik Nemeth, AIK, Elite League, Sweden
Draft team: Dallas Stars
Nemeth's team is new in the league and they've struggled a bit, but the young defenseman has been solid.
"I think Nemeth is brave out on the ice ... not only physically but also the way he acts around experienced opponents and teammates," says Arto Blomsten, a former NHLer (Winnepeg Jets) and current color commentator for Sweden's Canal+. "He handles the puck fine and takes initiative. Nemeth values the situations too, he plays simple when needed and takes risks when there's room for it."
5. Vladimir Tarasenko, Sibir Novosibirsk, KHL, Russia
Draft team: St. Louis Blues
Tarasenko is playing his third season with the big boys in a very competitive surrounding, but like Kuznetsov his team isn't winning all that often (20th in the KHL). But even though his production might not be stunning, he's playing at a high level.
Sources say that the Blues have high expectations that Tarasenko will play well at the WJC later this month. "He has played better each year and seeing him on the small ice for a number of games will give St. Louis a chance to really evaluate his qualities," says one scout.
One major talent is missing from this ranking. Finnish forward, and Minnesota Wild pick, Mikael Granlund injured himself in a league game in mid-October, suffering a concussion when he missed a check and ended up hitting the boards with his head. He has not been able to skate since.
Recently Marjamaki announced that Granlund would not play in the upcoming World Junior Championships that begin Dec. 26 in Buffalo.
"For the last couple of weeks it has become evident to us that a comeback in time for the championship wasn't possible," Marjamaki said. "Mikael is only doing light workouts and he's still not back on the ice yet. This is a huge set back for Mikael and for us as a team. But it didn't come as a surprise; we had known this for a while. Mikael will of course be missed, he's a great player, but now other players have to take the chance to show what they've got."