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European Prospect Report: Standouts from the weekend’s U20 tournament

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The next wave of European talent was showcased in a pre-WJC competition

Team Sweden v Team Finland Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

With games on hold for the international break in Europe, this week’s European Prospect Review will focus on three of the players from the Under-20 tournament in Gothenburg, Sweden this past weekend.

There were north of 100 scouts present from all NHL teams, including Mr. Trevor Timmins of the Montreal Canadiens, when national teams from Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, and Sweden battled it out on the ice in the last tournament before the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship. Sweden won the tournament, thanks to overtime wins against Czech Republic and Finland and a regulation win over Russia.

The Swedish top line featured Carl Grundström, Lias Andersson, and Elias Pettersson. We will get back to Pettersson at a later date, but for now we’ll focus on his linemate.

Lias Andersson, C, HV71 (SHL)

Lias chose to go a bit out of the spotlight and not play with Frölunda, as his father (Niklas) and uncle (Mikael) are huge parts of the Frölunda history. The decision has served the player quite well, as he began playing in the SHL last season, where he actually took a centre spot and a pro contract with a top-tier team before he turned 18.

He is listed as 5’11” and has a great vision and good hands; abilities he listed as his biggest strength in an interview with Henrik Lehman. He is determined to make it to the NHL and you can find him on the practice rink day or night.

He posted the same offensive numbers in SuperElite U20’s a year prior to his draft season as William Nylander (1.59 PPG), and it wouldn’t surprise me if he were taken around a similar spot as Nylander went when he was drafted in 2014.

In last week’s U20 tournament in Gothenburg, Andersson scored seven points (2G, 5A) in three games., and that whole line combined for 21 points. While being a bit guarded in his answers, Sweden’s coach, Tomas Montén, smiled when asked if this was a future line for this winter’s WJC tournament.

Andersson will attend the 2017 World Juniors, and regardless of linemates, you should keep an eye on him.

Miro Heiskanen, D, Helsingfors IFK (Liiga)

The Finnish defender was voted the best defenceman of the tournament, in front of a big audience filled with scouts. It was no surprise as he has managed to stick with one of the top teams in Finland’s Liiga, HIFK, for all 16 games to start the season.

He had a calming presence on the ice and had few, if any, mistakes. He is the type of player that, in my opinion, Finland has lacked: the puck-moving defenceman. While not overly physical, and without any offensive output, he was still voted the top blue-liner.

Heiskanen is definitely someone to watch out for when you have a chance to watch HIFK in either Liiga or CHL action, or for the future WJC events he will undoubtedly be a part of.

Filip Zadina, HC Dynamo Pardubice, (Extraliga)

Not eligible for selection until the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the big winger was a standout for Czech Republic, not only here in Gothenburg, but also in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament earlier this year, where he averaged 1.75 points per game (5G, 2A in 4 GP) only being outdone by Sasha Chmelevski (2.00 PPG) and Michal Pastujov (1.80 PPG).

His talents are obvious in the work of HockeyNinja in this report that focuses on analytics. He really should be the next big thing out of Czech Republic, but as readers of these articles know, the Czech league is not the best league in the world, nor particularly known for developing new talent in regards to trusting young players and letting them develop naturally. It is a known fact that Luleå (of SHL) has tried to lure him away, and it remains to be seen what will happen in the immediate future.

I reached out to Andreas Eklund for some more info on Zadina, and this is what he came back with:

"He has a fantastic hockey sense combined with a smooth, floating skating technique. He leads his teammates even if they are four years older. He led the team in more ways than what the points show; a true leader. He had six games in the Under-18 competition last season and had four (!) game-winning goals."

There is no doubt Zadina is an exceptional talent and the future of Czech hockey, and it will be interesting to see where he ends up playing next.