Prospect Ramblings: 2019 European Free Agents

Jokke Nevalainen

2019-01-28

 

Every year, NHL teams sign a bunch of free agents out of European pro leagues. Most of them don’t amount to anything but occasionally there are some players who become fantasy relevant. Here are some players who will likely draw interest this summer.

 

The top player available this summer is 24-year-old winger Ilya Mikheyev out of Avangard Omsk in the KHL. Mikheyev has great size at six-foot-two, 194 pounds. He also plays a pretty good defensive game which isn’t always something you see from European free agents. Currently, his 22 goals is second-best in the league, and his 41 points rank 14th in the league.

 

Mikheyev leads his team in both goals and points. Omsk isn’t really known for being a high-scoring team, and he doesn’t have a ton of talent around him. Mikheyev’s contract expires after this season, and I believe he’s capable of jumping straight to the NHL and play on the third line. After he gains some experience in the NHL, it’s possible he could even play on a second line. He’s definitely no Artemi Panarin (remember – those types of players don’t come along often) but he could provide solid points for free.

 

Other forwards from the KHL who could cross the pond include Mikheyev’s teammate Kirill Semyonov. He’s a 24-year-old center with average size (6-0, 172) and average skill. But someone could add him for depth purposes. Semyonov is responsible defensively and capable of killing penalties. He has 13 goals and 24 points in 56 games this season.

 

Another possibility is 23-year-old winger Vladimir Tkachyov who plays for Salavat Yulaev Ufa. Tkachyov was famously signed by the Oilers in 2014 but his contract was ruled ineligible by the league. He spent another year in the ‘Q’ after that, never got drafted, and has been playing in Russia these past four years. He has four goals and 24 points in 48 games which is much worse than the 18 goals and 40 points in 48 games he had last season.

 

A couple of defensemen and goalies will likely get signed out of the KHL but I don’t see any of them being fantasy relevant. So let’s move our attention to other leagues.

 

In the SHL, 25-year-old winger Jakob Lilja leads the league with 32 points in 36 games. He’s primarily a playmaker as you can see from his low goal-total of just nine. Lilja is someone who could make a living on the third line, and I believe there will be serious interest to bring him over this summer.

 

Jacob Josefson is a familiar name to most, and he’s actually leading the league in points-per-game average – he has 28 points in 28 games. Josefson spent eight years in North America bouncing between the AHL and NHL, and being a depth player most of his time at the NHL level. Someone could give him another chance after a strong season in the SHL. He was drafted 20th overall by the Devils back in 2009 but he’s a free agent now.

 

27-year-old Jesse Virtanen leads the league in points among defensemen. He has two goals and 23 points in 36 games. This is his second strong season in the SHL as he had 30 points in 51 games last season. And before that, he had seasons of 30 and 39 points in the Finnish Liiga. A team in need of offensive talent could gamble on him.

 

The best European goalie in the free agent market may just be Adam Reideborn. He turned 27 about a week ago, so it’s not too late for him to cross the pond if he wishes to do so. He’s not as big as most w