The Hockey News’s Ryan Kennedy frames NHL teams’ decisions to send some of their top prospects over to European pro leagues as the NHL, AHL and ECHL deferred their 2020-2021 season starts to December 1st at the earliest. Kennedy kicks his column off by noting that the Red Wings have sent Moritz Seider to Adler Mannheim of the DEL, and Filip Zadina to Ocelari Trinec of the Czech Extraliga.
As you know by now, Filip Hronek (HK Mountfield), Gustav Lindstrom (Almtuna IS), Mattias Brome (Orebro HK) and Albin Grewe (Djurgardens IF) are the other Wings prospects playing in Europe instead of North America.
Kennedy focuses on the players with AHL experience who’ve been assigned to European teams, noting that the team
The important aspect of this shift overseas is that both Seider and Zadina have already played in North America. Zadina was over here the longest, having come over to playing junior in the QMJHL with Halifax as an import before graduating to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins last year. The talented winger has also seen some time up with Detroit both this season and last, so he is well on his way to becoming a top-six NHLer. Seider was a rookie with Grand Rapids this season, but as one of the Griffins’ top blueline scorers, proved he could handle himself on North American ice.
And there is an adjustment period for many Europeans. Not only are their cultural barriers to overcome off the ice (learning the language, getting a driver’s license and so forth), but the smaller ice surfaces in North American rinks has quite the impact on game play: over here, players have less time and space to make decisions with the puck and the game tends to be a lot more physical.
Undoubtedly, this influx of talent – both the kids coming home and the North American imports – will have an interesting impact on the level of competition in Europe this year. It is sometimes lost over here that when exciting European players come over to North America, it means one more talented player gone from the home ranks. It can hurt the overall level in Europe, but can you blame a kid for chasing his NHL dream?
At least for the early portion of 2020-21, Europe is getting a windfall, one which could benefit the clubs, the NHL and the young players themselves.
Continued; there are around 25-30 NHL-contracted players who are skating with European teams instead of trying to earn spots in the AHL, ECHL, Major Junior or NCAA leagues.
I would suggest that most European leagues have been very selective to ensure that they’re not going to suffer a “talent drain” when North America’s hockey season begins. At the beginning of the summer, it was assumed that a cavalcade of players would head to Europe for a couple of months, and that hasn’t materialized for reasons both practical (like contract insurance) and philosophical (the SHL has refused to accommodate NHL players without SHL contracts).
Overall, the European pro leagues have done a very good job of making sure that their teams won’t experience seismic shifts in talent if and when North American hockey resumes.