Continuing on with our NHL Draft Scout Series, we hop the pond over to the homeland of Hakan Loob and also probably the Book of Loob: Sweden.
Christian: From the Victor Hedmans and Adam Larssons, to the Elias Lindholms and William Nylanders, it feels like Sweden produces Top 10 talent for the NHL Entry Draft yearly, but looking at consensus rankings around the scouting world right now, they’re void of Swedes in their Top 10. Do you think this is a down year in terms of elite prospects coming out of Sweden?
Jacob: The group of 97 has never been seen as one of the better age-groups in Sweden. It is relatively small compared to lets say the 96s and 94s and that has probably lead to a shortage of top 10 talent this year.
C: How do you feel about the Swedish draft class as a whole? Does it have the potential to yield many impact NHLers or is it a year for depth players?
J: The Swedish draft class looks okay at this point, but there are a couple of players that have some potential to make it really good – I’ll come to them a bit later. I could take an easy route here and say that it’s too early to tell, but for the most Swedish players in this years draft it’s probably going to be a bottom six role or no NHL at all. Right now I don’t see the skill set on most of the guys to take to a level where they become a real offensive force but hopefully some of them can take some real steps this summer and prove me wrong.
C: Oliver Kylington was supposed to be that elite talent this year, and everyone agreed at the beginning of the year, but he has plummeted down draft boards, universally. Why is that? How do you view Kylington?
J: Kylington has had a rough year. Last year he made his debut in SHL and made some real noise after becoming the youngest scorer in SHL history. As he was only sixteen, he was given a lot of slack for his mistakes, and there were a lot. But going into this year the stakes were raised and he was suppose to build on last years performance. Unfortunately he couldn’t and i think that lead to a lot of stress and pressure that he couldn’t handle.
My view of Kylington is that he is a fantastic skater – brilliant, in fact – but I don’t see him having a basic understanding of the game or the vision that will take him to the next level. Perhaps it’s just a phase, but I don’t see him becoming the defender a lot of others see. As to the drop I think some of the scouts have picked up on it. The ones that still thinks his a top prospect are the ones who’ve not seen him enough.
Add to that a reputation of being difficult to deal with and you have a perfect storm to drag you down the draft lists.
[Author’s note: Kylington played on three teams this year. Some attribute that to level of play, others to attitude. I am obviously a very big fan of Kylington, as you may have read here, but as Jacob said, ‘those who like him have not seen him enough’ and I have not watched Kylington live, which is a far superior method of scouting compared to scouting off a laptop. When watching off a screen you never see a player without the puck, his positioning and what he does. If the guys who watch him day in and day out dislike him, there must be something there you don’t see on a screen. I loved him every time I watched him, but I sure won’t sit here all stubborn and ignore someone who’s actually watched him live. I for one am certainly more wary.]
C: Joel Eriksson Ek’s stock on the other hand has been on the rise of late and is hovering in and around where the Calgary Flames are picking, at 15th overall. What are your impressions of Eriksson Ek?
J: Eriksson Ek has had an tremendous season – his spring in particular has been amazing. When I saw him last year I could see some of the qualities that has shown during this season, but it was not clear that he was going to such a large leap in his development, like he’s done.
I see Eriksson Ek as a good strong centerman with has a fantastic shot. His vision and playmaking skills are well above average but he’s not among the top in either of them. He can certainly make a great pass and dazzle you with some puckhandling skills from time to time, though. He’s a good skater but in my opinion he seems a bit rigid in his gluteal muscles which make it seem like his stride isn’t as efficient as it could be, but that can be worked on. All in all he’s a good center with a nack for scoring goals. I don’t see him becoming a first-liner but he could probably be a good second-line in some time. (Author’s Note: Something really Backlund-y about this scouting report, no?)
C: Jacob Larsson and Gabriel Carlsson are two blueliners who have had fabulous draft years – and could be candidates for the Flames to select, if not in the 1st round, then with one of their 3 2nd rounders – and in the eyes of some have surpassed even Kylington. How do you evaluate the two? Do you like either over Kylington?
J: Larsson and Carlsson are two opposites on the ice. Larsson is two way defenseman who can contribute both offensively and defensively, while Carlsson is mainly a shutdown D.
As of right now, I would take Larsson ahead of Kylington, but not Carlsson. My reason for that is that Larsson has a larger repertoire than Kylington. Sure, Larsson doesn’t have the skating abilities of Kylington but the way he reads the ice and and his vision is a lot better.
Carlsson is a stay at home defenseman with a good first pass and decent shot. He has a tremendous reach and is very hard to go around. He also read the ice very well and can analyze what will happen in a good way. The reason i would pick Kylington over Carlsson is because there’s a higher reward for Kylington. Sure the risk is much higher as well but if you willing to take a gamble Kylington could play out – even if I have my doubts.
C: Which Swedish draft eligible has been your greatest surprise this year?
J: There’s been a lot of surprises. Jens Lööke really surprised me in the beginning of the season. That he was going to be able to play at an SHL level so early was a big surprise. Unfortunately his form dropped during the spring and he almost took a step back which was sad to see. Robin Kovacs was also someone who surprised me. If someone had told before the season that he was going to be leading scorer in AIK in Allsvenskan I probably would’ve laughed, but he really showed that he’s grown a player and a person and he looks really promising.
I was also suprised how well a couple of the Swedes were doing in the Canadan junior leagues. I knew Dmytro Timashov (yep, he’s a Swede not a Russian) had some serious skill but I didn’t think he would step up like he did. The same with Rasmus Andersson. And for Gustav Bouramman to go in a put up the points he did is very impressive. Unfortunately I haven’t seen them play – as they are in Canada – so I can solely judge them from their stats, but they are very impressive.
C: Which has been your greatest disappointment?
J: Most disappointing is Kylington. Maybe the hype became to big for him to handle but he didn’t have a good year.
And although I haven’t seen him, Gustaf Franzén is another. He left Sweden – for Kitchener of the OHL – with a good reputation but his first season wasn’t all what I expected. Sure, the transition to NA can be difficult and I’ve never seen him as a really big point producer but I though he was going to do better than that, point wise that is. But I have heard that he wasn’t up to par game wise either.
C: If you had to choose the most overrated Swedish eligible this year – the one everyone loves but you’re skeptical about – who would that be?
J: Again Kylington come to mind although he’s fallen a lot during the season, but more so I’d have to say Fredrik Forsberg, little brother to Filip Forsberg. He had a good season last year but he couldn’t deliver on the same level this year. It’s unfair to compare him to his brother because they’re not at all on the same level, but right now I don’t see him becoming a NHL-player. He simply doesn’t have the skating for it. Maybe he could change that but it’s a long way to go.
C: Who is the most underrated Swedish draft eligible this year?
J: Most underrated i would have to say Sebastian Aho and Robin Kovacs. I was very surprised that Aho was left out in the draft last year and I’ve jokingly said that every scout should lose their job if he is left out again.
I’m not saying that he will become a leading defenseman but he has all the ingredients to be given a chance. He’s not very big but neither is Tobias Enström and they are very similar in the way they play and they way the handle themselves on the ice.
Kovacs is still, in my opinion, very underrated among Swedish players which is strange to me. He’s similar to Jakub Vrana who was drafted by Capitals last year, perhaps not as skilled, but he has enough skills to be ranked higher than he is.
C: Lastly, if you had to choose your favourite Swedish draft eligible prospect, who would it be?
J: Well my favourite is probably a bit of a surprise, as I would go for Lukas Vejdemo myself. Maybe not in the first four rounds but after that I would pounce on him.
The guy has had numerous injuries and he’s been sick. That has left him behind in strength and development but when catches up, he’s going be really good. He dominated the under-20 series in Sweden this year for Djurgården, and when I say dominated I mean DOMINATED. I truly believe he’s a hidden gem. That my professional side speaking.
On a more personal note I’d just like to see the guy have some success. I coached Vejdemo when he was 14-15 (years old) in a club here in Stockholm. Just before I joined, Lukas lost his mother due to sickness, but during this hard times hockey became a way for him to deal with. He has a perspective on life that I think is healthy and for that I’d like him have great success as a player.
Thank you again to Jacob for joining us and sharing his tremendous insight into Swedish hockey with us, you can’t get this kind of first hand information from many places.
You can follow Jacob on twitter @JacobNystrom, and as we lead up to the NHL Entry Draft I really recommend you do!