Playoffs are now over in major European leagues like the KHL, SHL and Liiga. We’ve seen many drafted prospects sign their entry level contracts lately. Some free agents have been signed out of Europe as well. Many more free agents are still deciding who to sign with. Here are my thoughts on those players.
27-year-old center Oula Palve signed a one-year contract with the Penguins. It’s a great story because he played second-tier hockey in Finland just three years ago but I have concerns about his ability to play in the NHL. If everything breaks perfectly for him, perhaps he could be a number three center – similar to Antti Suomela with the Sharks. But more likely scenario is that Palve plays a bit in the AHL and returns to Europe shortly after. Palve has had two great seasons in the Liiga but he’s 27, so what you see is what you get – and I don’t think it’s good enough.
24-year-old winger Ilya Mikheyev is rumored to be signing with the Maple Leafs. I like Mikheyev a lot and think he can jump straight to the NHL and play on the third line. He has good size (6-2, 194) and he plays a good two-way game which allows him to play lower in the lineup. But there is definitely some offensive talent there as well. I don’t like Toronto as a landing spot for him, though, because they have so many other options. I fear Mikheyev might get lost in the shuffle.
21-year-old center Arttu Ruotsalainen is rumored to be signing with the Sabres. He’s a talented offensive forward who has always been one of the top players in his age group in Finland but has been overlooked because of his size (5-8, 181). But after a great season in the Liiga, his size doesn’t look like such an issue anymore. He had 21 goals and 42 points in 59 regular season games (both markings led the team) and then added seven points in seven playoff games. It’s hard to see him staying at center in the NHL, so I would expect him to move to wing at some point. He needs a couple of years before he’s ready to play in the NHL but it’s hard not to like him.
23-year-old winger Teemu Turunen had a great season in the Liiga, scoring 20 goals and 54 points in 57 regular season games and then 14 points in 17 playoff games on his way to Liiga Championship. Both marks were some of the best in the league. Turunen is an average-sized (5-10, 176) player with somewhat weak skating ability. His skating has definitely improved which allowed him to have a breakout season but it’s still not a strength. Apparently it’s just a matter of time before his NHL contract is announced. I don’t see his abilities being good enough to play a regular role in the NHL but there’s always a chance after you’ve signed an NHL contract. It depends on the team he signs with, though.
23-year-old defenseman Oliwer Kaski hasn’t yet decided who he signs with but apparently the Blue Jackets are one option. I don’t love that destination for him unless they trade someone like David Savard or Ryan Murray to make room. Kaski is an offensive defenseman with great size (6-3, 187). He’s a late bloomer because of late growth spurt a