International Ice Hockey Federation

NHL pre-season underway

NHL pre-season underway

New Euros hope to make an impact

Published 24.09.2014 15:28 GMT+2 | Author Marek Kratochvil, David Jahoda
NHL pre-season underway
From left: Leon Draisatl, Petri Kontiola, Jaromir Jagr, and Kevin Fiala. Jagr and Kontiola will be counted on to provide scoring for the Devils and Leafs respectively, while Fiala and Draisatl are hoping to crack their teams' lineup in their rookie seasons. Photos: Jukka Rautio, Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Hockey season has already started on the old continent, but the biggest show in North America is yet to begin as the NHL gets ready for 2014-2015.

As hosts of the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, the Czech Ice Hockey Association will be keeping tabs on the NHL’s top Czech players, hoping to ice the bet possible team come May. The top names on the list would be David Krecj (Boston Bruins), Jakub Voracek (Philadelphia Flyers), Tomas Plecanec (Montreal Canadiens), and Ondrej Palat (Tampa Bay Lightning).

The oldest player in the league will most likely be double world champion and future Hall-of-Famer, 42-year-old Jaromir Jagr. He will enter his 22nd NHL season and, incredibly, his 27th season as a professional.

For experienced players who already have roster spots secured, the pre-season is an opportunity to get into game shape for the start of the NHL season, but there are a lot of young players and others on the border for whom it is a time to prove they belong on an NHL team. For top draft picks such as defenceman Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers) or forwards Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres) and Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers), the question is whether they are ready yet to lead their new teams to better results.

In all, 62 European rookies either moved to or signed with NHL teams – that’s a 13 per-cent increase compared to last year. Sweden set a new record with its contingent of 29 players. The other big European providers of junior talent to the NHL this year are Finland – second-ranked for the fourth consecutive year with 10 players – the Czech Republic (9) and Russia (7). One potentially big story this season could be Borna Rendulic, a Colorado Avalanche prospect that has the chance to become the first Croat NHL player to have developed in the country that is ranked 28th in the IIHF World Ranking.

Although the hockey communities of countries such as Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland are smaller, it doesn’t mean a lack of quality since German forward Leon Draisaitl, Danish forward Nikolaj Ehlers and Swiss forward Kevin Fiala were solid first-round picks this year, drafted 3rd, 9th and 11th respectively and all have a chance to make their teams in their rookie seasons. Other players in the plus-40 category who haven't appeared at NHL camps yet include Martin Brodeur, Ray Whitney (both 42) and Daniel Alfredsson (41), meaning that the second-oldest player this upcoming season could be 40-year-old Dallas Stars defenceman Sergei Gonchar.

It will be also interesting to watch the fates of some players who have already played plenty of NHL games but can’t be sure of a place on a team for next season. For example, the New Jersey Devils have started their camp with several veterans. American Scott Gomez, Ukrainian Ruslan Fedotenko and Czech Tomas Kaberle are looking to re-establish themselves in the league. In a similar situation is Russian goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who is trying to catch on with the Minnesota Wild.

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