NHL Prospect Watch: Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia

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NHL prospects across the globe have started their 2020-21 season and are in the spotlight among fans and personnel across the League. Each Tuesday, NHL.com will examine one of the major professional leagues in Europe, detailing certain players to watch, as well as noting those from other European leagues who are playing well.

Today, the best players outside Sweden, Finland and Russia.

John-Jason Peterka scored seven goals in his first 12 games this season with Salzburg in ICE Hockey League, the top professional league in Austria, but the Buffalo Sabres prospect has earned as much attention for his playmaking.

Peterka, a second-round pick (No. 34) in the 2020 NHL Draft, had five assists against Fehervar on Nov. 27.

“I’m a creative offensive player who likes to make plays and score goals, be both a playmaker and a scorer,” the 18-year-old forward said. 

Peterka scored 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) for Salzburg before leaving to join Germany’s selection camp for the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. He scored 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in 42 games last season for Munchen in Deutsche Eishockey Liga, the top league in his native Germany.

The Sabres were convinced there was more offense in Peterka’s game, and his early scoring output has proven them right.

“The games that I’ve had the opportunity to watch this year where he hasn’t necessarily produced on the score sheet, he’s been noticeable on the offensive side game in and game out, jumping into holes, getting into space, becoming available,” Sabres director of player development Matt Ellis said. “He’s a strong player from a physical standpoint (5-foot-11, 192 pounds) with good puck protection skills and good speed. Now he’s starting to complement that with some real solid playmaking ability and understanding time and space. That five-assist game definitely attested to it.

“For a young player like J-J … part of growth and development is finding areas to really build and grow your confidence. Coming off a five-helper game like that, you’re really seeing him continue to attack situations. … He’s really started to evolve that part of his game and really round out his skill set. He’s added that little bit of offensive polish to an already strong foundation of work ethic and compete.”

The Sabres are hoping to see Peterka continue to build on his success at the WJC, which is scheduled for Dec. 25-Jan. 5 at Rogers Place in Edmonton. He was tied for second on Germany with six points (four goals, two assists) in seven games at the 2020 WJC but fifth among Germany forwards in average ice time (15:21 per game).

“We look at this as a great opportunity for J-J,” Ellis said. “To be able to hopefully earn and take a little bit more of an opportunity to be a go-to guy for that German team and play in a lot of tough situations in a lot of tough assignments and be counted upon as well in a leadership role as a returning player. Those things add a ton of value to not only the skill set but some of the off-ice attributes from the mental perspective as well. We’re really excited about that opportunity that he’s going to have to carry the ball for that German team and take another step to where he’s able to showcase the work that he’s put in and continuing to evolve his game.”

 

Four other NHL prospects currently playing well (outside Sweden, Finland and Russia):

Tyler Benson, F, GCK

A second-round pick (No. 32) by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2016 NHL Draft, the 22-year-old left wing (6-foot, 190 pounds) has scored 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in 14 games in Swiss League, the second division in Switzerland.

 

Jan Drozg, F, Ljubljana

Drozg, a fifth-round pick (No. 152) of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2017 NHL Draft, has scored 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in eight games in the Alps Hockey League. The 21-year-old left wing (6-2, 174) also has scored nine points (seven goals, two assists) for Ljubljana in five games in the top professional league in Slovenia.

 

Dan Vladar, G, Pardubice

The 23-year-old (6-5, 185), a third-round pick (No. 75) by the Boston Bruins in the 2015 NHL Draft, has three wins, a 1.36 goals-against average and .955 save percentage in five games in the Czech Extraliga, including a 28-save shutout against Brno on Dec. 10.

 

Filip Zadina, F, Trinec

Zadina (6-0, 189), selected by the Detroit Red Wings with the No. 6 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, has scored 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 17 games in the Czech Extraliga. The 21-year-old right wing will play for the Czech Republic at the Channel One Cup, an international tournament in Russia that starts Thursday.

 

Five other NHL prospects to keep an eye on:

Iaroslav Askarov (Nashville Predators), G, SKA St. Petersburg: Askarov (6-3, 176), selected by the Predators with the No. 11 pick in the 2020 draft, has a 0.96 goals-against average and .962 save percentage in seven games in the Kontinental Hockey League. The 18-year-old is expected to be the starting goalie for Russia at the 2021 WJC.

 

Jonatan Berggren (Red Wings), F, Skelleftea: Berggren (5-10, 181) is fourth in the Swedish Hockey League with 24 points (five goals, 19 assists) in 23 games. The 20-year-old right wing was chosen by the Red Wings in the second round (No. 33) of the 2018 draft.

 

Jonathan Dahlen (San Jose Sharks), F, Timra: The 22-year-old forward leads Allsvenskan, the second division in Sweden, with 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) in 15 games. Dahlen (5-11, 176) was traded to the Sharks by the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 25, 2019. He had been selected by the Ottawa Senators in the second round (No. 42) of the 2016 draft.

 

Nils Lundkvist (New York Rangers), D, Lulea: Lundqvist (5-11, 187) is tied for second among SHL defensemen with five goals. The 20-year-old, selected by the Rangers with the No. 28 pick of the 2018 draft, has scored 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 21 games.

 

Arttu Ruotsalainen (Sabres), F, Ilves: The 23-year-old center leads Liiga, the top professional league in Finland, in goals (16) and points (27). Ruotsalainen (5-8, 181) signed a three-year, entry-level with the Sabres on May 8, 2019 and had been playing in Liiga on loan but returned to Buffalo to begin preparing for the NHL season. No date has been announced for when training camps might start.

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