The IIHF World Championship is underway over in Russia and there are some very familiar names up among the scoring leaders. Names such as Marian Gaborik, Lee Stempniak, Paul Stastny, Tomas Plekanec, Shane Doan, Rick Nash and Alexander Frolov.
This column was originally posted by The Hockey News, ESPN and MSN.ca on May 9.
There are also some names that are not quite as well known, but some of these players may be on their way to the NHL and just might make an impact. In some cases, these guys are worth taking flyers on in your keeper league.
First and foremost is the enigmatic Aleksey Morozov, who leads the tournament in scoring with 13 points in six games. The former Pittsburgh Penguin was also the top point-getter in Russian League by a wide margin. He has expressed interest in returning to the NHL, especially after seeing how successful Evgeni Malkin was in his rookie campaign. Just over a year ago, Malkin and Morozov had virtually identical numbers in the Russian League.
Granted, Morozov’s career high in the NHL was 50 points, however he did that at the age of 27 and he had 29 points in his last 27 contests. The season before that he had 25 points in 27 games before an injury took him out for the rest of the year. We have not yet seen this guy in his prime in the NHL and if we do – we will see him put up a point per game. Minimum.
Sweden’s Johan Davidsson is second in tourney scoring and is another former NHLer. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward gave up on the NHL a little too soon, going back to Europe at the age of 24 after tallying 15 points in 83 games with the Ducks and Islanders. Now 31, he is in his prime and could make an impact in the NHL. As of yet, he has not expressed an interest in crossing the pond again, but if you see that he does sign somewhere – he is worth a flyer.
Another Swedish former NHLer (and another former Duck) is Tony Martensson. The 26-year-old put up decent American League numbers and had two points in six contests for Anaheim. His numbers in the Swedish Elite League have been improving each and every year and his eight points in six games in World Championship tournament has me thinking that in the right situation, he could make a dent on some NHL scoresheets.
Florida’s recent signing defenseman Cory Murphy has made an impression for Team Canada. The 29-year-old rearguard lit up the Finnish League and has continued his solid play at Worlds with five points in six games. Murphy should be on the top power play pairing for the Panthers next season and a 45-point year would not be shocking.
There are also some current NHLers who are making a statement. The aforementioned Plekanec, a forward with the Montreal Canadiens, is showing that he is more than a defensive player – he’s found some pop. Bump his upside up a little. Stempniak of Team USA has nine points in six contests. The St. Louis forward had an upside of a third liner just a year ago, but I am steadily moving his potential higher the more I see him play.
Yes, keeper-league owners need to look at every scrap of information that they can get their hands on. This tournament has loads of it.