Top international leagues such as those in Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Russia often play a crucial role in NHL player development, but many of those storylines don’t get much coverage outside of teams’ local media. PHR is aiming to change that by shining a light this season on some notable stats and trends concerning NHL-affiliated talent suiting up overseas this season, keeping tabs on some potential future stars.
Vegas Golden Knights 2021 seventh-round pick Carl Lindbom has seen a sharp rise in stock since draft day, and his start to the 2023-24 campaign can only be described as meteoric. The 20-year-old netminder is on loan from Vegas to SHL club Färjestad BK this season after signing his entry-level contract earlier in the summer, and he’s stolen the starting role from overseas veteran (and former Golden Knight) Maxime Lagace thanks to a strong pre-season showing, posting a 2-0-0 record and .936 save percentage in two Champions Hockey League tournament appearances earlier this month. That translated into Lindbom getting the start for Färjestad in their first two games of the SHL league calendar, conceding just one goal in each of their games against Växjö and Skellefteå en route to a 2-0 start to the season with a .952 save percentage to back things up.
Sticking in Sweden, many watchful eyes will be on Vancouver Canucks 2022 first-round pick Jonathan Lekkerimäki after an inconsistent 2022-23 campaign. He’s on loan from Vancouver to the SHL’s Örebro HK this year after spending last season in the second-tier Allsvenskan, and he looks like he’s fitting right in to start the year. Assuming a top-six role out of the gate, the right winger has two goals through his first two outings, both coming on the power play.
Moving over to Russia, it’s been a strong start to the season for three players with NHL ties: Nikita Gusev, Ivan Morozov and Nikolay Goldobin, who currently occupy the top three on the KHL’s points leaderboard. Gusev, who remains under contract with Dynamo Moscow through this season, is averaging nearly 20 minutes per game and leads the league with 11 points through seven games, helping the squad to a 5-2-0 start. After a disappointing end to his NHL tenure with the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers in 2020-21, the 31-year-old could be looking at an NHL comeback next summer after what looks to be three strong campaigns in his home country.
Morozov was the Golden Knights’ second-round pick in 2018, and they’ve loaned him out to Spartak Moscow for this season after an underwhelming performance with AHL Henderson last season, in which he netted just 17 points in 58 games. He’s got three goals and ten points through seven games to start the season, however, including a three-assist performance in Spartak’s season-opening loss against Kunlun Red Star.
Rumors have also swirled about a potential NHL return for the 27-year-old Goldobin in recent months, but nothing came to fruition this offseason. He obviously hasn’t let that affect his play, recording eight goals through seven games for Spartak to lead the KHL. His last full NHL season came in 2018-19 with the Vancouver Canucks.
Finally, things are looking up once again for future Philadelphia Flyers star Matvei Michkov after KHL powerhouse SKA St. Petersburg loaned him out to bottom-dweller HK Sochi for the consecutive season. After playing a combined 6:12 through SKA’s first four games of the campaign, Michkov has assumed a top-six role once again in Sochi and is delivering the goods with two assists and a combined 12 shots on goal through his first two games, helping Sochi win back-to-back games. Their record is 3-3-1 through the first seven games of the season after winning just nine games throughout all of the 2022-23 campaign.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images