Flames 2012 First Round Targets: Pontus Aberg

Kent Wilson
June 15 2012 10:05AM

 

As usual this season a number of Swedish skaters dominate the top-end of the European prospects rankings. At the top of the list are Filip Forsberg, who is expected to be a top-5 selection, and Sebastian Collberg, whom we have previously profiled and is expected to land anywhere from 10-15. Pontus Aberg is the third of the "big three" Swedish forwards at this year's draft, although he tends to show up well back of the other two on many lists. The NHLNumbers list had him at 18, Collberg at 13 and Forsberg at 2.

The funny thing is, Aberg was by far the most effective scorer of the trio this season.

While Collberg famously struggled to manage even a single point in the Sweidsh Elite League (SEL), Aberg garnered eight goals and 15 points in 47 games while playing for Djurgarden. Filip Forsberg didn't even crack an SEL line-up, instead spending his season in the Allsvenskan where he scored eight goals and 17 points in 43 games.

So why is the 5'11", 195 pound winger ranked lower than his peers? Mostly because he's older - Aberg was born on September 23, 1993 making him one of the more aged draft eligibles this year. Aberg was 18 when the season started last October and will be 19 when training camp breaks this year. Forsberg, in contrast, was born in August of 1994 while Collberg has a February 1994 birth date.

Scouting Report(s)

What also likely hurt Aberg's stock is injuries in the latter part of the season and a rough second half after a hot start. Still, 15 points in a pro league as an 18-year old is a strong effort. Because of that, Hockey prospectus' Corey Pronman was one draft guru who has Aberg near the top of his list (#9 overall):

Aberg is a plus skater with very good acceleration off his first few steps and a pretty dangerous top speed. He also has a plus shot which will drive a decent portion of his offensive value and allow him to maintain an above league average shooting percentage over his career. His shot is pretty accurate with good technique on his release, his one-timers fly off his stick with remarkable speed, and Aberg has the makings of a dangerous power play triggerman. Aberg has great hands and can show some flash in that area in terms of being able to make great individual plays in creating space for himself.
His true strength isn't about being a dangerous puck controller, though, as it is playing a speed game and getting the puck to the net. At times, he can move the puck around at an average level, but he doesn't overly impress with his vision. Aberg also needs to work on his defense, although with his on-ice work ethic, there is reason to believe the finer points of his defensive game will come along. Aberg's physical game also likely tops out as below-average because of his size but he does work hard and has a gritty edge to his game.

Strengths: speed, shot, work ethic, puck handling

Weaknesses: size, physicality, defensive game, vision

Pronman's scouting report suggests Aberg is a rather one-dimensional sniper type, albeit with a pretty high ceiling if he can make his game work in North America.

I recently received Future Considerations draft guide (available here) and they are far less bullish on Aberg, ranking him 22nd overall. They agree that he is a "speedy sniper and a hard worker". They also note his good skating, acceleration and highly accurate shot. On the downside, they discuss how his game and output changed as the season progressed:

He started the year strong but somewhere along the way he stopped being the “get everything to the net” guy and started forcing passes to teammates, at- tempting lower percentage shots and giving up on prime scoring chances for himself. NHL teams need to wonder if this is a sign that his hockey sense may not be as strong as what most first thought it would be...

For more context, I recently asked Swedish sports writer Uffe Bodin to weigh on Pontus, particularly on why his scoring slowed in the latter half of the year and why his ranking was lower thwn Collberg and Forsberg despite superior numbers.

(on his production tailing off)

"Åberg had a roller-coaster season. He started extremely well and was the talk of the town in the SEL for the first few months before he tailed off. He got injured in the last exhibition game against Canada before the WJC and had to go home. When he came back in January, he wasn't the same and struggled for much of the latter parts of the season (he also got a concussion playing with the Swedish U19 team in Switzerland)."

(on being ranked lower than Forsberg and Collberg)

"I would say that he isn't as big of a talent as Collberg or Forsberg. I think both those guys have bigger scoring potential, but there are a lot of things I do admire about Åberg. He's got a really good shot (for being a Swede) and he doesn't shy away from traffic. He's also hard to get a hold of when he gets his legs going.

My concern is that he basically came out of nowhere this past fall while guys like Forsberg and Collberg have been on the radar for a few years. With guys like Åberg, you'd like to see what they can do in their second year to know if they're for real or not. I have a good feeling about Pontus, but I'd like to get some kind of confirmation this fall."

On a follow-up, I used the term "flash-in-the-pan" to describe the risk associated with a guy like Aberg. Bodin replied "I guess flash-in-the-pan is a good expression. I think Pontus scored at least 75 percent of his SEL goal between October and December."

Probable Target?

There is as much to like as there is to be wary of when it comes to Aberg. On the plus side, his scoring in the SEL as a teen was very good and he has some plus tools, including speed, work ethic and a highly accurate shot. On the other hand, he's not very big and doesn't have a well rounded game. On top of that, he wasn't highly ranked previously, is one of the older guys in the draft, and his notable scoring was limited to a small outburst that could well be due to chance/variance.

Put together, that makes Aberg a high risk, high reward sort of selection. His season in the SEL may prove to be a fluke or his it's possible his game won't translate to the NHL. However, he has some notable tools and if he takes a step forward next year as pro in Sweden, there's no question he will be a quality prospect moving forward.

Probability he be around at 14: Very High

Probability Flames will pick him: Moderate

The Targets List

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Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 RexLibris
June 15 2012, 10:52AM
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Interesting. Some of this reads a bit like the early draft reports on Eberle about a good shot, small size, not overly fast, so on and so forth.

His lack of "vision" and presumably this extends to hockey IQ (why is it never Hockey EQ?) though is probably what will keep him out of the top 12 picks.

Is his rating of moderate based more on the quality of some of the other players the Flames might find available, or because he doesn't fit the kind of player that you feel the Flames are interested in at this time?

I guess the question that we are all pretty much dancing around now is: can the Flames afford anything less with this year's pick than a homerun? A swing and a miss, with the next selection in the middle of the 3rd round, could create a significant prospect gap in a Flames system that looks to just be finding its feet.

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#2 Graham
June 15 2012, 10:56AM
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'Put together, that makes Aberg a high risk, high reward sort of selection'

Given the lack of quality prospects in the system, I'm not sure I would take the risk with Aberg. Unless we have a really good read on him, I would pass at 14, and take one of the other rated players in the 12 - 15 position. He might be worth a look later on in the first round, but I'm not a huge fan of trading down more than one or two spots in the draft.

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#3 Ed Ward
June 15 2012, 11:00AM
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Aberg is a really interesting prospect. Like you mentioned Kent he is the definition of high risk, high reward.

I am not sure I'm comfortable with the Flames taking him at #14. I think there will be prospects available there with just as much upside but a little less risk (Collberg, Faska or any of the d-men).

That being said, if we trade down a couple spots and pick up a pick to do so and then draft Aberg I'd be thrilled.

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#5 Ed Ward
June 15 2012, 11:08AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Flames need all kinds of homeruns - both in the draft and elsewhere - to avoid falling into the depths of the Western Conference.

As for the "moderate" rating, I imagine that at least one or two highly touted talents will fall within range of the Flames at 14, making it less likely they take Aberg. The only reason they call his name is they like him a lot more than just about everyone else or they trade down to recoup a pick and he's the best guy left on the board at their new position.

@Kent

We must have been typing at the same time. Haha. I couldn't agree more with your read on where/how Aberg fits into the Flames plans.

Any rumblings coming out of the Flames camp if they rate any of the guys in the later half of the round like lindholm, pouliot or hertl?

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#6 Baalzamon
June 15 2012, 11:19AM
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Rex, where are you getting the not overly fast from? (unless that's only referring to Eberle). Aberg is probably one of the fastest players in the draft.

I really like Aberg, myself, though you have to consider the flash in the pan possibility, obviously. He really likes to shoot 5-hole for some reason.

and for people saying the Flames can't afford to take the risk, I strongly disagree. In my opinion, they can't afford to not take a risk. By not taking risks at the draft, that's how you end up with players like Brendan Gaunce, and are roundly ridiculed for having too much grit and "intangibles" and not enough speed and skill. You know, like how the Flames are already ridiculed.

Aberg isn't my first choice (I pretty much tie him with Collberg (although I'm constantly going back-and-forth between the 2), and both are slightly behind Girgensons) but if the Flames take him at 14, I'd be fine with that.

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#7 walkinvisible
June 15 2012, 11:56AM
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i've never met a pontus i didn't like. ;)

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#8 everton fc
June 15 2012, 12:04PM
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Those of you reading this who are close the Flames GM and scouting... Who can get a message from a fan to this group... Please tell them to interview Emil Lundberg - 6'4", 209 lbs, 19 years old. Put 10 pounds on the frame and you have a better "high-risk/high-reward" prospect. He does need to work on his skating, from what I read. Unlike Aberg. But he can apparently drive the net and score.

Might not be available when we pick in the 3rd (75th pick, right?)... But if we trade up to a 2nd round pick... I'd take a punt on Lundberg.

I still like the Girgensons, at #14.

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#10 Ryan Pike
June 15 2012, 12:35PM
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I like Aberg, but he's not as sexy a pick as Collberg or some of the others available.

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#11 flamesburn89
June 15 2012, 12:53PM
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I'd only take him if the Flames trade down a handful of spots. Faksa is my front-runner, but from everyones opinions it looks like him and Trouba won't be around at 14. If not, then Collberg would be my choice.

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#12 T&A4Flames
June 15 2012, 01:58PM
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If we stay at 14 and other teams start taking flyers on FWD's like they often do, even when D are the better prospect, we could get a really good D prospect at 14. Ceci, Reinhart and Trouba are all high on my list. That said, if these guys aren't available, I have no problem trading down to the low 20's to aquire a 2nd rounder as well. If we trade down, I really like Koekkoek as a lower pick. It seems like his shoulder is much better and he sounds like a beast with a right hand shot. Would probably have been ranked higher if not for the injury.

I stand corrected. I just checked, he's a left shot. Still a good option in the low spots.

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#14 t
June 15 2012, 04:37PM
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Too many flags for me. I'd pass on him.

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#15 JF
June 15 2012, 04:38PM
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@Kent Wilson

"Filip Forsberg didn't even crack an SEL line-up, instead spending his season in the Allsvenskan."

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the Allsvenskan a relegation league? Meaning that it's not that Forsberg wasn't good enough to crack an SEL line-up but more that he team wasn't good enough last year to play in the SEL this year.

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#16 RexLibris
June 15 2012, 04:52PM
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@Baalzamon

Yeah, that was in Eberle's scouting report.

@Kent

I might argue that what the Flames really need, in spite of themselves, is to fall into the basement of the conference. But that is another debate for another thread.

The Flames have six picks this year. Would a conversion rate two years from now, of 4/6 prospects being signed and moving to the professional ranks be roughly what you have in mind?

I think a draft year similar in early returns (minus the obvious surprise of a Baertschi) to last June is the minimum required for this team to keep its development system moving forward.

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#17 Baalzamon
June 15 2012, 05:33PM
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@JF

indeed it is. Great prospects have come out of Allsvenskan before, such as Oliver Ekman-Larsson

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#19 Baalzamon
June 15 2012, 11:29PM
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@Kent Wilson

that, in fact, is the way it goes. In fact, Djurgarden (Aberg's and Zibanejad's team) was relegated to Allsvenskan at the end of the season. The Allsvenskan team that got promoted in their place? Rogle, the team Hampus Lindholm plays for.

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#21 Franko J
June 17 2012, 09:31AM
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@ Everton FC

I agree 100% Lundberg is a prospect who has been in my top 10 list since November. He play reminds me of Fransen in Detroit. Along with Girgensons, I feel Calgary would have some prospects with a good combination of size and skill with above average speed. Referring to the Kings, both Lunberg and Girgensons, down the road could be sparks to our lineup like King and Nolan in LA. From a pure fantasy point I would love to see if Calgary move their limited assets and try to land more draft picks. More picks = more assets. I would like to see Ceci, but I think he will be gone by 14.

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