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An inside look at the top 10 European defensemen heading into the 2012 NHL Entry Draft

Wednesday, 06.13.2012 / 3:31 PM / Features
By Kevin Snow  - Sabres.com

With Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson on the verge of a possible Norris Trophy win next week in Las Vegas, one of his fellow countrymen is making a push to be the first European defensemen selected in this year’s Entry Draft.

Hampus Lindholm of Sweden is the top-ranked European defenseman by NHL Central Scouting, and was the fourth-best European skater in the final CSB 2012 rankings. Lindholm checks in at six-foot-three and 196 pounds, but it’s not his physical play that has some scouts drooling over his potential. His steady performance and improved offensive contributions in the Swedish league playoffs with Rogle opened a lot of eyes late in the season.

“The big thing with Lindholm is the maturity he showed as an 18-year-old kid in the playoffs. He thrived in a very high-pressure environment,” explains Kris Baker of SabresProspects.com. “Lindholm is also an amazing skater; just another one of these big, highly mobile defensemen in this year’s draft class.”

Lindholm also put on an impressive performance at the recent Scouting Combine in Toronto, posting the best time in the grueling VO2 Max endurance bike test at 14:40 – which was 68 seconds longer than second-place finisher Ryan Murray.

Baker is also very high on Ludwig Bystrom, another Swedish product who spent this season with Modo in both the Swedish Jr. and Elite leagues.

“Mobility, puckhandling and passing are the strengths of Bystrom’s game,” says Baker. “He is a compelling blueline package that can see him going anywhere from the bottom third of the first round, to the top-half of the second.”

Finland’s Ville Pokka rounds out the trio of top European defenders. Pokka, who just turned 18 on June 3, played as a rookie this season with Karpat in Finland’s top league. He has a big shot that could see him becoming a power play threat in the coming years, but Pokka’s skating is what seems to be holding him back at this point.

Hampus Lindholm

European Skater - Rogle Jr., SWE-JR.
Final Rank: 4 Midterm Rank: 6
Position: Defenseman Shoots: Left
Height: 6' 2" Weight: 196
Born: January 20, 1994
Born in: Helsingborg, SWE

Ville Pokka

European Skater - Karpat, FINLAND
Final Rank: 7 Midterm Rank: 5
Position: Defenseman Shoots: Right
Height: 6' 0" Weight: 196
Born: June 3, 1994
Born in: Tornio, FIN

Ludvik Bystrom

European Skater - Modo Jr., SWE-JR.
Final Rank: 8 Midterm Rank: 8
Position: Defenseman Shoots: Left
Height: 6' 1" Weight: 208
Born: July 20, 1994
Born in: Orskoldsvik, SWE

Mikko Vainonen

European Skater - HIFK JR., FINLAND-JR.
Final Rank: 11 Midterm Rank: 10
Position: Defenseman Shoots: Left
Height: 6' 3" Weight: 205
Born: April 11, 1994
Born in: Helsinki, FIN

Esa Lindell

European Skater - Jokerit Jr., FINLAND-JR.
Final Rank: 12 Midterm Rank: 11
Position: Defenseman Shoots: Left
Height: 6' 3" Weight: 194
Born: May 23, 1994
Born in: Vantaa, FIN

Calle Andersson

European Skater - Farjestad jr., SWE-JR.
Final Rank: 15 Midterm Rank: 16
Position: Defenseman Shoots: Right
Height: 6' 2" Weight: 208
Born: May 16, 1994
Born in: Malmö, SWE

Valeri Vasiliev

European Skater - Spartak 2, RUSSIA-JR.
Final Rank: 16 Midterm Rank: 15
Position: Defenseman Shoots: Left
Height: 6' 1" Weight: 203
Born: May 31, 1994
Born in: Russia

Niklas Tikkinen

European Skater - Blues Jr., FINLAND-JR.
Final Rank: 17 Midterm Rank: 24
Position: Defenseman Shoots: Left
Height: 5' 11" Weight: 172
Born: June 1, 1994
Born in: Espoo, FIN

Christian Djoos

European Skater - Brynas Jr., SWE-JR.
Final Rank: 18 Midterm Rank: 12
Position: Defenseman Shoots: Left
Height: 5' 11" Weight: 158
Born: August 6, 1994
Born in: Gothenburg, SWE

Mikael Wikstrand

European Skater - Mora, SWEDEN-2
Final Rank: 23 Midterm Rank: 34
Position: Defenseman Shoots: Left
Height: 6' 1" Weight: 183
Born: November 5, 1993
Born in: Karlstad, SWE