One of the many things we would change, if we were calling the shots in the NHL, is some of the drafting rules, specifically pertaining to European players. In Europe, where soccer is king, those clubs obviously want to see the multi-million dollar transfer system to shuffle players over to North America. But, as it looks they are learning, that is not going to happen in the foreseeable future.
The way the current draft rules work now in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (in short: if you draft a player, European or otherwise you have just a few years to sign him; just 2 or 3 years we believe for European players) are not friendly to NHL teams or European players with NHL aspirations. NHL teams would be better off not risking it and drafting more collegiate or CHL players that would have more time to develop and be more open to spending time in the AHL. And, as the data shows, in the past couple years more and more picks (especially high ones) are being used on players playing in North America.
But what about these highly skilled players that play in Europe and need a little more time to develop before jumping to the NHL. Players, like say Daniel Alfredsson, who was drafted in the late rounds (the 6th round of the 1994 draft in this case), and didn’t come over to North America quick enough for his team to retain his rights (though Alfredsson did come over to the NHL for the start of the 1995-96 season, he was 22 years old by then).
We mention Alfredsson by name, because a young player in Sweden, named Fabian Brunnstrom, is said to be perhaps the next Alfredsson, at least by The Hockey News. (follow that link to another link to youtube for a pretty slick highlight reel).
First of all, how awesome is that name; Fabian Brunnstrom. It sounds like he should be some mid-20s hipster heir to a fortune that routinely sips mochas with the likes of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan or something.
But in this case, Brunnstrom is a name you will likely learn for his skill as a hockey player, and learn it quickly too. At 22 years old, Brunnstrom is playing his first year in the Swedish Elite League for a team called Farjestads, and playing well. According to his hockeydb profile, he’s a team high +11 and has 28 points (7g, team high 21a) in 34 games, one point off the team leader.
Bunnstrom is a unrestricted free agent in terms of the NHL, any team could sign him. In essence, what Japanese players are to Major League Baseball could be what Europeans like Bunnstrom are to the NHL. True, there is a salary cap so the big markets cannot gobble up all the talent with big money, but something doesn’t sit right about the whole process.
In the old days, European prospects went to the team’s that dug those diamonds up in the rough, like Alfredsson, or Pavel Datsyuk (drafted 171th overall in 1998) or Henrik Zetterberg (210th in 1999) or even to a lesser extent someone like Radim Vrbata (212th in ’99).
Now, it seems, the European prospects might be left to see what cream rises to the top and then be signed by the highest bidder.
Somehow, that doesn’t seem right.