Sometimes we hockey fans forget that in order to skate in just one NHL game, a player must possess an immense amount of skill. Even the fourth-liners who grind out careers spending five minutes per night on the ice are among the most talented athletes on the planet. I have devoted this week’s installment of the KHL/European Report to five players who are proving just that by virtue of their performances overseas.
– In 106 career NHL games spent between Edmonton and Philadelphia, Thoresen registered a nondescript 24 points, which actually places him third all-time in scoring among Norwegian-born players, but he has flourished since deciding to play in Europe for the 2008-09 season. After one year spent in Lugano of the Swiss League, where he racked up 63 points in 48 contests, the shifty winger has excelled in the KHL and currently stands 11th
in league scoring with 24 points in 26 games. Due to his lack of size, the European game is a much better fit than the North American one, but there’s no denying he has the talent to play in the NHL.
– Robitaille, now 37 years of age, enjoyed a productive NHL career in which he suited up for over 500 games and scored 256 points while wearing the colors of eight different NHL clubs, but with a career-best of 14 goals, he was never mistaken for a dangerous scorer. Now in his second season with Mettallurg Novokuznetsk of the KHL, the former Miami (Ohio) product is demonstrating that he still has life in his legs with 24 points in 27 games. We’ll likely not see him in the NHL again, but those of you in KHL leagues, if these exist, should keep an eye on this veteran.
– A second round selection of the Blue Jackets in the 2003 draft, Fritsche spent over 200 games with the franchise before short stints with the Wild and Rangers in 2008-09. Now playing for Geneva-Servette of the Swiss League, the former London Knight has recorded 21 points in 22 contests. Though some of this success can be attributed to the presence of NHL rising star Logan Couture
, who leads the club in scoring, there’s no doubt Fritsche possesses more talent than he’s given credit for.
– Another former second round pick of the Blue Jackets, this time from 2002, Lindstrom came to the NHL with high expectations, but was a disappointment with multiple organizations, most recently with the Avalanche last season. After posting just five points and a minus-9 rating in 15 contests with Colorado, Lindstrom finished last season with Skelleftea HC of the Swedish Elite League, where he amassed 20 points in 21 games. He has taken his game up another notch this year with 30 points in 22 contests, good for second in league scoring. Still not 30 years of age, Lindstrom could still be a factor at the NHL level if he chooses to pursue that option.
– Cast a third-liner with the Blues and used in a similar role with the Bruins before that, Sobotka has never been given the opportunity to shine offensively at the NHL level, as his career-high of 29 points indicates. By registering better than a point per game during the time he spent in the AHL, the Czech-born center proved he is a skilled forward and he is demonstrating that once again with his play in the Czech Extraliga. With 17 points in 16 games for Slavia Prava HC, Sobotka is making fantasy players take notice and he should be someone to keep an eye on in deeper leagues once the NHL season gets up and running.
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