2017 Power Ranking – Line Player
August 7, 2017
These days it seems like there are only key positions in handball, but a line-player plays a critical role in any team, without any doubt. If a club is lucky enough to have a great pivot on the roster, then it’s a big deal. Right now, there are many around and their differing styles make it tough to come up with a perfect list. Still, I’ll give it a try.
# 5: Stole Stoilov (Vardar Skopje and Macedonia) maybe one of the players most fans do not know outside of his home country, especially as he is not a major goal scorer. But his role is a different one and he does what he is supposed to do. His physical presence on the line makes it difficult for any defense to react in time. Stoilov creates plenty of space for his teammates and he was a key factor in his team lifting the 2017 Champions League trophy.
# 4: Bjarte Myrhol (Skjern Håndbold and Norway) may not play with the best anymore on a regular basis, but he is still one of the very best on the line. Finally, Norway’s men have established themselves among the world’s premier national teams, partly because of the veteran leadership of Myrhol, who is a great defender and one of the best locker-room leaders you will find. Thanks to his experience he is also the key player in a rather young national team and surely the best line-player in the Danish league. It’s a shame that he doesn’t play in the Champions League anymore.
# 3: Patrick Wiencek (THW Kiel and Germany) could easily be the best line-player in the world. But sometimes he is running out of luck and injuries stop him from topping lists like this one. His club has also seen better seasons, but that’s not his fault. Still, I think he could improve his shooting average, but his defense is outstanding – Wiencek is a rock. For other defenders he is extremely hard to move and he maybe the most complete line-player of all candidates. But in my view, the following two competitors enjoyed an even better season.
# 2: Ludovic Fabregras (Montpellier Handball and France) will join FC Barcelona for the 2017/18 season and the Catalans know what they will be getting – a well deserving successor to Jesper Nøddesbo, who left the team at the end of June. Fabregras was voted into the All-Star team of the Champions League while playing for a team from the Groups C and D, which says it all. He also defends on a very high level. A great player to watch for years to come.
# 1: Hendrik Pekeler (Rhein-Neckar Löwen and Germany) has decided to go back home and re-join THW Kiel in the summer of 2018. When he left there, he was a young, talented pivot, known to be stubborn. But after stints at Bergischer HC and TBV Lemgo he developed into a world-class player on both ends of the court in the least two seasons. He can defend at the top of a 3-2-1 defense and also play in the center of a 6-0 formation. He took over from Rafael Baena on the offensive end as well. It all paid off including another league title. He may not be an offensive force as others are, but he is such a complete player, that he is the best one right now – for me anyway.
Honorable Mentions: Yes, it’s not easy getting to the Top 5 and it’s even tougher for the line-player position. Some of the very best didn’t make it, but not because they weren’t good enough, just because the others did such an outstanding job last season.
Others include – in no particular order – Luka Karabatic (Paris Saint-Germain and France), Rene Toft Hansen (THW Kiel and Denmark), Julen Aguinagalde (Vive Tauron Kielce and Spain), Jannik Kohlbacher (HSG Wetzlar and Germany), Rastko Stojkovic (Meshkov Brest and Serbia).