American hockey players are filling the void made as NHL teams shy away from drafting Europeans

evgenykuz.jpgWe’ve discussed the fact that some think NHL defector Alex Radulov created “The Russian Factor” when he left the Nashville Predators for the KHL, but it seems the real “Russian Factor” is a lot simpler: it’s the lack of a stable transfer agreement between the NHL and most international leagues.

That’s the subject of a great number crunching post today by Habs Watch: the writer broke down how NHL teams have shied away dramatically from drafting European players since 2005, and what kind of players are often filling the gap.

Let me spotlight some of the article’s most interesting findings, although I highly recommend that you read the full piece.

The author found that Sweden is the only European country to see an increase in draft picks when you compare the 2000-04 drafts with the 2005-10 drafts, with a 21 percent increase. Other countries saw a dramatic decrease (Finland is down 45 percent while Slovakia saw a 70 percent and the Czech Republic dipped 65), but this paragraph about Russia’s lack of NHL exports is especially stunning:

NHL teams drafted 39 players from Russia in 2000 but just 4 in 2010, a decline of 90% within a decade. That decline accelerated when Russia backed out of the transfer agreement in 2005 and it appears it’s only a matter of time now before we see an NHL draft where no players are selected from the Russian leagues. The last time that happened was 1981, when Russia was mired in Afghanistan and Ronald Reagan was in the White House.

It’s almost as if there’s an Ice Cold War going on.

After the jump, I’ll discuss where the new picks are coming from … it might make some of you want to wave a flag or two.


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for bennettandetem.jpgAmerica is filling the void

Although the author points out that the number of players drafted from the NCAA dropped dramatically, he points to a whole other shift: most draftees are now entering college after already being drafted.

The most important thing to understand is the number of players being drafted in the US before they even reach college has gone supernova, doubling almost overnight in 2005, the very first draft after the lockout. The days of US kids going to the NCAA, being drafted as a college player and turning pro with a degree are long gone and have been for some time.

Regarding the primary focus of this article, players who’ve just been drafted, all the charts I’ve provided show there’s no exodus of players to either the US or Canada. Any increases appear to be matched coming the other way and one fact can’t be ignored:

United States minor league programs now produce more NHL draft picks than any single Canadian league.

It appears that high schools and the US National Team Development Program have seen the biggest jumps since the lockout. According to the article, the number of picks coming from high school tripled since the lockout while USHL produced 25 percent more.

More from Canada, too

Here is a quick snippet about some of the Canadian leagues that are seeing growth (read the article to get more in-depth numbers about each league).

Within Canada, the OHL grew by 15% while the WHL appeared to be stable or on the verge of stagnation. The QMJHL also saw a 15% increase which actually hides the fact most of that improvement came from import players from the rest of Canada and Europe. The number of Quebec-born draft picks has actually stagnated while the quality of those picks in the NHL has diminished over the years.

What this means

On the bright side, this means that more American hockey players will have a chance to hit the big leagues. It also is a boon for North American hockey in general.

The bad news is that the league and its fans will miss out more and more on talent from European countries, especially Russia. One of the best things about the NHL is that it is truly a worldly league; most successful teams blend the skill and shiftiness often associated with European players with the rugged, tough-in-the-corners style often thought to be North American traits. If this trend continues, the league itself suffers.

Hopefully, someday – maybe the next CBA in 2012 – the NHL will stop the bleeding on imports and open that pipeline of talent once again.

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    Canucks’ Rodin says he’s ‘not 100 percent but getting close’ after freak knee injury

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    Anton Rodin will be among a lengthy list of right wingers looking to compete for a roster spot with the Vancouver Canucks for next season.

    Originally selected by the Canucks in 2009, and after having gone back to play professionally in Sweden, where he began to light it up offensively, Rodin signed with Vancouver for one year, and one way at $950,000. He’s listed as a right winger, but has a left shot and could perhaps help the Canucks find some scoring, which was a major problem for them during a dreadful 2015-16 campaign.

    General manager Jim Benning, in speaking with The Province newspaper, has already compared Rodin’s style to that of Canucks’ forward Sven Baertschi.

    However, he’s still working back from a knee injury that interrupted his 2015-16 season, in which he had 37 points in 33 games for Brynas.

    From Sportsnet:

    Over the past couple of seasons Rodin found a new level in the SHL and was particularly dominant this season. Wearing a captain’s “C” on his sweater, Rodin was leading the league in scoring by a wide margin before sustaining a gruesome knee ligament tear during a mid-January practice.

    That injury sidelined Rodin for the balance of Brynas’ season, but it wasn’t enough to stop him from winning the Guldhjälmen – quite literally “the gold helmet” – which is an MVP award voted on by SHL players, similar to the NHL’s Ted Lindsay Award.

    As per News 1130 Sports in Vancouver on Friday, the 25-year-old Rodin will arrive in town next week to have his knee checked out.

    Avalanche, Tyson Barrie have arbitration hearing, could still reach a deal before ruling

    DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 08:  Tyson Barrie #4 of the Colorado Avalanche skates against the Minnesota Wild at Pepsi Center on October 8, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Wild defeated the Avalanche 5-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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    So far, scheduled arbitration hearings around the NHL have been avoided — until Friday.

    The Colorado Avalanche and defenseman Tyson Barrie went ahead with the player-elected arbitration hearing on Friday, however, the two sides can still reach a new deal before a decision from arbitrator Elizabeth Neumeier must be provided within 48 hours of the hearing.

    Here is what was separating the two sides heading into the hearing, as per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet:

    Last season, the 25-year-old Barrie, who brings an offensive style to Colorado’s blue line, tied his single-season career high in goals with 13. He also had 49 points, which is four shy of his single-season career high from 2014-15.

    He also just wrapped up his two-year deal, which came with an average annual value of $2.6 million.

    Given his numbers and the position he plays, Barrie is in for a substantial raise. Exactly what dollar figure that comes to has yet to be determined.

    From the Denver Post:

    The arbitration hearing could get bruising, with the Barrie camp citing his offensive numbers and arguing that as a terrific skater and puckhandler, he is among the top offensive defensemen in the league; but with the Avalanche countering that as an undersized defenseman, he has deficiencies in the Colorado end.

    The Avalanche have the option of walking away from the arbitrator’s ruling, but that could make Barrie, a right-shot blue liner, an unrestricted free agent.

    Barrie has also been the subject of trade speculation, but Avalanche GM Joe Sakic has already said the Avs are not trading Barrie.

    “I’d like to do a long-term deal with Tyson. If that doesn’t work out, it’s expected he’ll go to arbitration,” Sakic told the Denver Post last month. “Either way, he’ll be here.”

    Related: Barrie’s agent says no lingering issues with Avs from O’Reilly situation

    NHL to arbitrate co-owner’s case against Predators

    NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 11:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettmann attends Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Nashville Predators and the Detroit Red Wings during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bridgestone Arena on April 11, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) A judge has ruled against a co-owner of the Nashville Predators in his bid to keep his lawsuit against the franchise in a Tennessee court and allowed the case to go back to the NHL for arbitration.

    According to online court records, Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle issued her ruling Friday after hearing arguments July 20. But her ruling dismissing David Freeman’s request for a stay of arbitration had not been posted as of Friday afternoon. At least parts of the order likely will be sealed or redacted.

    The Tennessean first reported the ruling.

    The former Predators chairman and Commodore Trust sued Predators Holdings LLC and current team chairman Tom Cigarran on June 23 seeking $250 million in damages for his original 48 percent stake in the team being diluted.

    Related: Predators’ messy legal battle may go to arbitration with NHL

    ‘Thank you, Mom’: Bobby Ryan pens emotional letter to his late mother

    NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 21:  Bobby Ryan #6 of the Ottawa Senators prepares for the game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 21, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    A week after announcing on Twitter that his mother passed away, Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan penned an emotional letter in the Players’ Tribune, thanking her for having such a profound influence on his life.

    A story from Sportsnet in September of 2013 detailed how Ryan’s childhood completely changed after his father committed a horrendous act of domestic violence that would eventually land him in prison, but not before the family was uprooted from New Jersey to California, and their names changed.

    Ryan’s father, Robert Stevenson, was charged with attempted murder for an attack on his wife and Ryan’s mother when Ryan was just 10 years old, according to the Ottawa Sun. Stevenson fled to California and the family eventually followed, before Stevenson was arrested again and incarcerated.

    In the Players’ Tribune, Ryan revealed the sacrifices his mother made as the sole provider for the family after the imprisonment of his father, working 16 hours a day “so that I could realize my dreams of becoming a professional hockey player.”

    From Bobby Ryan:

    As I reflect on our time together, there’s something I really need to tell you — and for the world to hear me say it: Thank you, Mom. Thank you so much.

    Thank you for putting your life on the back-burner for several years just so that I could be happy. I know you didn’t have anyone to lean on, but you understood how much I needed you, and so you gave me all of yourself.

    Thank you for showing me what it means to be a professional, for showing me that no matter what obstacle you may be facing, the best approach is always to just put your head down and go to work.

    Thank you for helping me get through the eighth and ninth grades when neither of us really knew what we were doing with the whole homeschool thing. I still can’t believe we pulled a 3.0 GPA.

    Thank you for playing so many roles in my life. You were my only parent for so long, but when it was time you were still able to let me go so that I could learn about the world on my own. I know how difficult that was for you. One of the biggest reasons I am where I am today is because you put me in a position to succeed. And not only succeed, but succeed on my own.