There’s plenty of “Wild Cards” out there in Hockeyland. Most of the time they don’t work out (Roman Cervenka, anyone?) but once in a while they do. This is the core of Moneypuck: wild cards are, by their nature, low-risk and high-reward.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find high-impact players in other leagues; most of the time the reason players aren’t in the NHL is because they’re not good enough to be in the NHL. The trick is to identify the guys who are good enough but for whatever reason haven’t been given the chance to perform in the NHL on a season-by-season basis.
I’d be willing to bet not many of you have heard this name before. The 21-year-old was last seen on this side of the pond when he was scoring 2 goals in the gold medal game of the 2011 WJC a couple of years back. Panarin is 5’10 and 175 pounds, so while he’s a little “small” he’s by no means too small to play in the NHL. Production-wise, Panarin has been playing in the KHL since the age of 17, amassing 81 points in 148 games, for a PPG of .55. With that calculation, his NHLE is 34 (translation factor of .75). Not many 21-year-olds can put up 30 points a year in the NHL. In the playoffs, the right-shooting left winger scored 9 points in 14 games. To my eye, he looks like a pretty smooth skater as well. I have no idea if he has any desire to play in the NHL, but if he does I’d be more than willing to give him a chance.
Age: 21 (on 05/10/13)
Assumed Cost: Likely a standard 3-year entry-level contract.
I could tell you all about the player, his numbers in the NHL, KHL or whatever league, but it’s easiest to just say it this way: Thoresen is an NHL-quality player and the fact that he isn’t playing in the NHL is baffling. Thoresen’s scored at a PPG pace in his time in the KHL and he can play all three forward positions. His Behind the Net page only has one season on it, but a damn good season it was. He also scored 18 points in 8 games last year at the World Championships. Read Jonathan Willis’ article here if you’re looking for more.
Age: 29 (on 05/10/13)
Assumed Cost: Likely a one or two year deal at less than $1.5 million AAV.
There’s likely not a lot of room on the roster for wild cards this year due to the glut of bottom-half talent on the Flames’ roster. However, if they can find a spot for one of these guys, I wouldn’t be disappointed.
Bring up other wild cards in the comments!