Photo Credit: Philipp Hegglin/ EV Zug
Almost every summer for the last ten years the NHL draft has provided us with a very specific type of player. The overlooked European over-ager. A player who was certainly good enough to be taken in their original draft year, but each team passed on at least seven times due to either perceived flaws or a lack of exposure.
Viktor Arvidsson is the poster boy for this. A junior international. Good numbers at age 16 and 17, a solid skill-set to boot. But three years in a row? No NHL team took a gamble on him due to his diminutive size. Those reasons were similar ones to Artemi Panarin going undrafted four years in a row, despite being a solid KHL player at 18 years old.
Now, Dario Allenspach is no Panarin or Arvidsson – that goes without saying – but he does have the ability to be another player teams kick themselves for passing on completely in the 2020 draft. The Herisau, Switzerland native had the type of draft year that should have drawn some NHL admirers. He had solid Hlinka, 12 points in 16 u-18 international games. He was also one of the highest scoring u-18s in the Swiss u-20 league. However, it is hard to be drafted out of Swiss juniors. And the lack of an u-18 World Junior’s certainly hurt him too.
This season though? Allenspach is making it hard for NHL teams to ignore him again. Playing in the Swiss League – the second tier of pro hockey in the alpine nation – the young pivot has put up eight goals and 20 points in just 29 games. He is his teams top scorer despite having missed 11 games. As an August birthday he is only months older than many of the first time eligible for the 2021 draft. Projected 2021 first rounder Brennan Othmann is playing in the same league. Yet Allenspach has put up 0.69 P/GP vs Othmann’s 0.52. They are separated by just five months age wise.
D.O.B – August 20, 2002
Nationality – Switzerland
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –159 lbs
Position – Center/Left Wing
Handedness – Left
Allenspach’s Style Of Play
But now you know just what Allenspach has done over the last two years, how about his skill-set?
First, the downside, and a large part of the reason he went undrafted last summer. Despite playing well in a men’s league, the young Swiss pivot could be mistaken for someone far younger than 18. While he stands at 5’11, his listed weight is under 160lbs. He was even less physically developed last summer. This can lead to him getting rag-dolled, and he struggles in one-on-one physical battles.
However, that makes what he “can” do, and how he plays the game, even more impressive. Despite his size, and the fact he goes into most battles at a disadvantage, this does not deter Allenspach one bit. He seems to thrive when going to the danger areas, digging out loose pucks, getting to the crease, and will take a hit to make a play when players fifty pounds heavier might think twice about it.
This might make those with a weaker stomach grimace at the thought… but the greatest skill the young Swiss has means that he is rarely in a position where anyone can get him clean.
Simply put, Allenspach processes the game at a level that many seasoned NHLers can only dream of. He is smart. With a great understanding of pressure. At times it seems like he has eyes in the back of his head, so many hit attempts glance off him, or hit the boards where he was 0.5 seconds before. He might not be the fastest skater – though is not deficient in that area – but he is elusive. An opponent might think they have the upper hand on him, only for him to slip through their checking like sand through their fingers.
His high IQ extends beyond just his evasive qualities though. Allenspach has great vision and when allied with plus hands that can weight a perfect pass he dissects defensive zone coverages with bullets right onto tape. While he is a “pass first” player he also has a nice release that he disguises well and can catch opposition goalies off guard. This, combined with his ability to find space in the offensive zone, means that he can pop up un-marked around the slot and crease to score “easy” goals with some regularity.
Allenspach is also a real pain to play against, whether he lines up down the middle or at wing. He showed this at the World Juniors. He employs a style of defense not dissimilar to someone like Ryan O’Reilly. Wherever the opposition center turns he sees the Swiss forward right there, sticking to him like glue. It can be extremely frustrating and leads opponents into making mistakes. Alongside his IQ and gnat-like fore-checking he turns a lot of pucks over as well as stifling opposition offense.
Allenspach is a player who may well have a great chance to seriously break-out over the next few years due to the combination of a well-rounded game, high IQ, and due being behind a lot of his peers physically. While it is foreseeable that he “just” ends up a very good Euro-leaguer who is a “tweener” at NHL level, if he continues to develop, getting bigger, stronger, and faster he might grow into a good NHL bottom six forward. If he is available come the fourth round or so he may well be a steal.
Lucas Wallmark, Center, Chicago Blackhawks
Like his Swedish counterpart, Allenspach is a high IQ player who can make some skill plays, and also shut down opponents. Both are somewhat physically underdeveloped for their size, but make up for it by being in the right place at the right time. They also share the ability to pop up around the crease and slot with no defenseman in sight to put the puck in the net. Additionally, the Swiss and the Swede both have plus releases. Allenspach is a better skater than Wallmark at the same age, but neither are burners.
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Alexander Appleyard. If you would like to follow Alex on Twitter, his handle is @alexappleyard.
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