The 2023-24 season has already started in Europe. Before we dive into the stats, some housekeeping. As the season is only a few games young, I won’t have a spotlight this week, but I plan to reintroduce the spotlight once the season gets further along. Of all the prospect pools in the Devils system, the European prospect list was the hardest hit since last season through trades (Mukhamadullin), signings (Misyul and Vilen, who will be covered with the Utica Update), aging out (Zaitsev), the expiration of rights (Pasic) and executive decisions (Nikita Popugayev). For the record, Popugayev did sign with Lada Togliatti of the KHL and has started the season with a respectable three points in six games, but does not seem to be in the Devils future plans. The Devils have picked up a few new prospects in last year’s draft: defenseman Daniil Karpovich (Belarus) and winger Lenni Hameenaho (Finland), but overall it’s a much smaller pool.
For those reasons, the coverage will be the same this year but the format will be slightly different. As there are less players in the European pool, they now all fit into one chart. This will make it easier to compare players at a glance. I’ve also added PNHLe to the chart from Dobber’s model as I think those numbers (which takes age into account amongst other things that NHLe does not) are a better benchmark for evaluating prospects. That out of the way, let’s take an early look at how their seasons are going.
Zakhar Bardakov has returned after sustaining a minor pre-season injury. Though pointless in his first four games on the chart, Bardakov did score in SKA St. Petersburg’s weekend 2-1 win over Admiral. Arseni Gritsyuk did not play this weekend and thus far has only played in four of SKA’s 10 games, often spending time on SKA’s third line in games that he did play. Gritsyuk has one point, a power play goal, in those four games thus far. It’s worth noting that Gritsyuk also had a slow start last season before raising his game in the 2nd half.
Artyom Barabosha started the season with an assist in eight games for Zvezda Moska of the VHL — Russia’s second highest professional hockey league. Barabosha projects, if he projects at all, to be a bruising third-pairing defensive defenseman in his prime years who kills penalties and eats up defensive zone minutes, so the lack of points is to be expected. Barabosha is a long term project but playing regularly in the VHL is a good next step for his development.
Defenseman Daniil Orlov seems to have settled into the KHL after dominating the MHL for two games. The 19-year-old defenseman was showing early signs of breaking out last year before an injury derailed his promising season. Should Orlov stick in the KHL, this could be a breakout year for him, but don’t expect eye-popping point totals given the way the KHL tends to treat younger players, especially defensemen.
In Belarus, 2023 6th round pick Daniil Karpovich has settled in with HC Neman Grodno of the Belarusian Extraleague scoring 3 points in his first 9 games after scoring his first professional goal this weekend. It wasn’t exactly a ripper. Here’s a look at it:
Daniil Karpovich scores his first professional goal vs. Lida. Nudges the puck in after everyone thought his teammate's shot went in. Counts the same.#NJDevils | #Extraleague pic.twitter.com/gbdYJDRHwq— Dylan Griffing (@GriffingDylan) September 9, 2023
Rest of Europe
In the Liiga, this year’s 2nd round pick Lenni Hameenaho has started off with a bang for Assat. Hameenaho now has five goals in six games as he scored another tally after this chart was made, which puts him tied for the league lead. Those five goals put Hameenaho on a 50 goal pace. It’s too early to tell if the 70 PNHLe (Dobber’s threshhold for a first liner) is sustainable, but the early start should excite Devils fans even if the 20% shooting percentage probably won’t last. For those wondering, Reid Gardener led the Liiga last season with 27 goals and per Quant Hockey, no player has scored more than 37 goals in a season in the Liiga in the past 20 years. Regardless, Hameenaho should decimate his last season total of 9 and at least for now is amongst the league’s top scorers.
Also in the Liiga, it looks like Jakub Malek is in a platooning-role early for IIves winning his first three starts and posting a 2.67 GAA and .905 SV%. That may change soon as Maluk is thus far outperforming fellow netminder Jonas Gunnarsson, who has started his season 0-1-1 with a 3.45 GAA and .841 SV%.
In Czechia, Petr Hauser and Jaromir Pytlik have had quiet starts in their first three games with Hauser earning one assist. Pytlik also picked up an assist in his fourth game after the chart was compiled.
AROUND THE POOL
- Per Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald: Chase Stillman will be out a few weeks with an undisclosed injury.
- Seamus Casey earned first-team preseason All-Big Ten honors. Stick tap, Seamus.
Now it is time to tell us what you think. Who are you most excited to follow this season? Let us know in the comments below.