The NHL season is finally only a few weeks away, and with Traverse City starting in a few days we will be getting substantial hockey news sooner rather than later. While pretty much all of the prospects playing in North America will be taking place in Traverse City, Pavel Buchnevich, Igor Shesterkin (Shestyorkin), Robin Kovacs, Aleksi Saarela and Daniel Bernhardt have gotten some games in their leagues overseas, while Cristoval “Boo” Nieves, Tyler Nanne, and Steven Fogarty will be playing in the NCAA this season.
Pavel Buchnevich- In my personal opinion, he is the New York Rangers’ best prospect and frankly I considered him a better prospect than Anthony Duclair. After a great season last year, many wanted Buch to sign an NHL contract and compete for a spot this season. While that would’ve been ideal, especially with the recent news about Slava Fetisov possibly restricting Russians from coming over to America, I am not worried that Buchnevich will be a legitimate offensive threat for the Rangers.
With his team celebrating their 50th season, it was expected that Severstal would be icing a pretty good team. So far that isn’t the case. The team is struggling and Buchnevich only has 1 goal and 1 assist so far this season. While the team is frustrated and Buchnevich probably is too, that isn’t to say that he is not getting chances. He gets good looks every game but the puck simply does not go in. Perhaps the Rangers are lucky if Severstal continues to struggle; while Buchnevich’s talent is undeniable, Severstal’s season may end early and Buchnevich can come over sooner rather than later.
Here is his beautiful shootout goal to give Severstal the win last week. Skip over to around 5 minutes and 22 seconds.
Igor Shesterkin (pictured above)– People had a nice glimpse of Mackenzie Skapski last year, when he surprised everyone with a pair of strong games against Buffalo. Couple that with Brandon Halverson’s strong season in the OHL, and Igor Shestyorkin was sort of forgotten about because he plays overseas. But there’s a reason he’s the top ranked goalie in Dave’s Top 25 Under 25. Last season he won the Gagarin Cup with SKA, and I was hoping he would get traded to his old team Spartak so he can get more games at the KHL level this season. Sadly that didn’t happen and he has yet to play a game in the KHL this season. Shesterkin has talent, he has unbelievable athleticism, hopefully as he gets older he will be getting more games and display his talents.
Robin Kovacs- Played with fellow NYR Draft Pick Daniel Bernhardt in the Four Nations Tournament this year, and scored a goal as well as a shootout goal while providing his usual energetic play that will make Rangers fans fall in love with him. On top of that, he led Sweden in shots on goal and was on their penalty killing unit. Kovacs will be playing for AIK this season in the Swedish League, so he gets to play against grown men in one of the better leagues in the world. Kovacs should also be a lock for Sweden’s World Junior team.
Daniel Bernhardt- Bernhardt is someone I am really interested in keeping tabs on. At 6’3 192 lbs, the super fast Swedish winger is truly a wonderful athletic specimen. Bernhardt also played in the Four Nations Tournament and had 3 SOG. After the tournament ended, Bernhardt was loaned to Almtuna in Sweden’s 2nd division by his SHL team, Djugardens. Bernhardt started scoring at a torrid pace for Almtuna and watching him essentially dominate in the second division makes me think it isn’t out of the box to expect him to play in the SHL by the end of the season. He should also be part of the World Junior team.
Aleski Saarela- It’s always cool when the guy you profiled actually gets drafted by the team. Saarela is seemingly a lock to make Finland’s World Junior team, and the dynamic forward has the boom or bust potential that I love for teams to take a chance on. Saarela centered top prospects Patrik Laine and Jesse Pujujarvi in the U20 tournament and displayed his offensive awareness there.
Jatkoajan predicts (Finnish) Saarela to contribute 8 goals and 10 assists this season, but I would hope he gets more.