Crossing the pond once more, we venture into the hockey rabid country that is Sweden, hope to some of the greatest hair the NHL has to offer.
To discuss Sweden’s entry to the 2016 NHL Draft is Chapin Landvogt, not only a scout and writer for FutureConsiderations and Hockey’s Future, but also a junior hockey coach back in Germany. It’s a shame I forgot to ask him how close he was to landing the Calgary Flames head coach position. I guess we’ll have to stick to prospect talk today.
CR: Outside of Alexander Nylander, who is technically a North American prospect this year, Sweden seems to be missing those “big names” they’ve had represented at the draft in the past. How do you categorize this draft class for Sweden? Is it mostly depth and support players, or are there still a few potential stars available?
CL: Truth is, this year’s class is missing those big names and anything resembling star power. And it’s a shame considering that prospects such as Rasmus Asplund and Carl Grundstrom didn’t exactly show up as expected. People have talked about them for several years.
However, we’re looking at a group that can rightfully be classified as depth and support player at this juncture. This is not to say that a few haven’t already done some real good things at the pro level, but we shouldn’t necessarily expect this to be a year where 25 Swedes are taken, which has been the case several times in recent years.
As for star power, only Nylander has given any indication of maybe going down that path. The kids coming out of Sweden haven’t indicated to date that there’s any star potential at the NHL level to be expected. Not at this point. But, maybe a few good scouts have located something in a candidate or two and are licking their chops in anticipation of grabbing one of these kids at a ‘bargain’ spot in the draft.
CR: After Nylander, the “next best thing” seems to be Farjestad’s Rasmus Asplund. What type of player is Asplund and do you see a significant talent gap between him and the top Swedish prospect in this draft?
CL: Asplund is a nice player to have. He’s not big, but the Swedish association holds him in very high regard and apparently he’s got some leadership qualities in him. Farjestad clearly thinks highly of him as well, because he’s played the better part of two seasons with the big club, even if only garnering lower line minutes. Internationally, he gets a few points at every event and usually has a letter on his chest. In fact, when I’ve seen him, I haven’t seen much difference between him and Dmytro Timashov. They seem to be about the same size and have somewhat similar hands. I think Asplund is the better skater, especially in the speed department. Some other people may feel differently.
As such, for all we know, Asplund could have been an 80+ point player in say the QMJHL this season, but he’s been in a much different atmosphere and not in a situation that would allow us to get any real feeling at what stats he’d be capable of against players his own age.
What we do know is that Asplund played with Nylander a bit at the WJC and they looked very nice together. Asplund was the guy assuming more of the defensive duties. He can do that. The offensive prowess looks possible, but is unproven. At this juncture, Nylander spent a whole winter scoring more than a point per game at every event he participated in and even though I see his brother William as the better player, the scouting community must feel there’s a considerable gap at this juncture between Alexander and Rasmus. We’ve seen every indication that this is the case.
CR: Nylander and Asplund are the only two Swedes ranked inside FutureConsiderations’ Top 30 for the 2016 NHL Draft.
CL: Rightly so. Unless someone needs a goaltender big time and feels Filip Gustavsson is the top one in the draft, it’s hard to imagine any other Swedes going in the first round. I’m not even sure that any Swede outside of Alex Nylander will be a first rounder.
CR: The Calgary Flames hold three second round picks, and winger Carl Grundstrom is an interesting name in that region. What are your thoughts on the winger who put up decent numbers (seven goals, 16 points) playing for MODO – already in his second season – in the SHL this season?
CL: My thoughts are that Grundstrom needs to show that he has a better head on his shoulders. I haven’t always been too keen on his decision making and I feel he takes the types of hits that indicate that he isn’t all that aware of his surroundings.
Coming into this season, it was easy to love the fact that he drives to the net and adores taking the puck there. He came in looking like a nice little power forward in the making with a good bit of moxy. I wasn’t impressed at the WJC, where he made little impact. He scored alright for a kid his age in the SHL, but despite having nice young talent, his Modo team was relegated – and it wasn’t pretty. He’s given reason for scouts to think he may be an NHLer based on effort and the understanding of what it takes to be a pro, but not necessarily with much offensive upside. He’s as much a risk in the second round as anyone. And I happen to think that a lot of second rounders this year could have fine little NHL careers.
Like so many, he’ll get drafted, but then the real work will start.
CR: As I mentioned, the Flames hold three second round picks as well as a third rounder. Are there any other Swedes that could prove to be value picks for the Flames around that region?
CL: Definitely! Jonathan Dahlen is a kid I’ve liked since he was at the U18 in Switzerland. I see a good bit of his father Ulf in him and I can’t say enough about how well he transitioned to the pro game this year. Neither big nor a particularly great skater, he simply gets it. He knows what he has and how to use that to his advantage. He constantly shows that he understands his surroundings, what he needs to do to survive, and then adapts himself to excel. I love that he has the – gumption – to try moves and tricks that a lot of guys just wouldn’t. He has confidence and his little boy looks shouldn’t scare you – he can handle the rough stuff and still come away with the puck. I think he’s as good a second rounder as there is.
I can also see teams being enthralled with towering defensive defenseman Jacob Cederholm, all-round defenseman Jacob Moverare, overager defensemen Lucas Carlsson and Sebastian Aho (probably THE foremost player who hasn’t been drafted, yet most independent scouts can’t fathom why) and of course the aforementioned goalie Gustavsson. Moverare is hard to read, because he has much of what you want in a defenseman, but was most enticing during the U18 and it’s hard to tell if that was the culmination of his year at the most important moment, or just a decent tournament? The offensive upside is in question.
Some teams will surely have AIK winger Jesper Bratt and late-season Farjestad call-up Oskar Steen on their radars in rounds two and three, just as was the case with Robin Kovacs and Lukas Vejdemo last season – both of whom had very strong 2015-16 winters.
CR: Filip Gustavsson is the number one ranked Euro goaltender by NHL Central Scouting. Is he an elite goaltending prospect in your estimation? Goalies can be unpredictable, but do you see a bright future for him?
CL: Elite? I don’t think any goalie this year has earned that billing. Some might be good and surely they could be elite in 5-10 years’ time, but Gustavsson just didn’t show the kind of regular season in juniors that would indicate he’s going to be elite. Now, I do see a bright future and feel he has a lot of the prototypical tools teams are looking for and have come accustomed to from top-flight Scandinavian goalies. Size, schooling, reactions, ability to read the game and wait out shooters. There’s lots to like and truth is, probably every team sees him as being among the top 3-5 goalies in this draft.
He’s got some goods and almost more importantly, he seems to have confidence and mental strength.
CR: Which Swedish draft eligible has been the greatest suprise for you, this season?
CL: I have to go back to Dahlen. Before the season, I would have thought that Jesper Bratt would be the kid who puts up 30-plus points in the very strong Allsvenskan (ended up with 17 and a poor playoffs), but it was Dahlen. He had 15 regular season goals and then six post-season tallies. We’re talking about a league where, in 52 games, there were only two 50 point players and six guys even reached 20 goals. The emphasis on four lines and defensively responsible play is really high in Sweden in general. As such, Dahlen’s achievements were impressive and the way he did it gives you the feeling that much more is on the way.
CR: Who has been your biggest disappointment?
CL: Tough to answer. Grundstrom could definitely be the guy here, because I was excited about him last winter. I felt he stalled a bit. Maybe it was too much pressure? Maybe he’s learned a bit and we’ll see that next winter? That can happen after being drafted and attending a prospects/developmental camp. He’s not gonna be going between 15-22 and that’s where I saw him coming in.
Other than that, I wasn’t disappointed, but had hoped for more from overagers F Sebastian Ohlsson (Skelleftea) and D Jonathan Leman (Frolunda prospect) as well as USHL center William Fallstrom (heading to college), who left a lot to be desired this past winter after having been a first line center at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. But he’s seen as a North American prospect, if he’s even really considered whatsoever at this juncture. The aforementioned Ohlsson and Leman were a bit sheltered, but both could end up being nice pros in the near future. Ohlsson is a little guy.
CR: If you had to choose a most overrated and most underrated prospect for this year’s draft from the Swedish draft class, who would they be?
CL: The most overrated – and I don’t know if he really is – would be Jacob Cederholm. I just don’t know if there’s an NHL player there and he’s one of two defensemen who we are going to be seeing taken within the top 90. It’s all about size and leadership. He’s a great kid, no doubt, but I’m thinking much has to improve in the side of the game involving puck movement and possession. I just don’t know if he’s going to be able to catch the curve.
There are a few candidates for the most underrated, but junior defensemen Filip Berglund (overager who exploded for Skelleftea’s junior team) and David Bernhardt (offensive junior defenseman for Djurgarden) could definitely be among them. We all know that defensemen take longer, but both of these boys really make you wonder what they could have been doing in Canadian juniors this winter. They’ll likely be taken at some juncture and I think that’ll be a wonderful gamble as of the fourth and fifth rounds.
This said, Steen could be held in much higher esteem than many are thinking at the moment. He has a lot of attributes that NHL teams have to like in a kid who should be a mid-rounder.
CR: Lastly, who’s your favourite Swedish draft eligible and why?
CL: I do like Asplund, I really do, and both Dahlen and Moverare are kids I’d want to add to my stack of prospects, but there are a couple of boys who could sneak in late in the draft who I just can’t get enough of and both a pretty average-to-small in size. Forwards Tim Wahlgren and Linus Weissbach play that type of game where you just think, “Noooo, you didn’t have the guts to try that, did you? Oh my, and you got away with it!” They’ve each got plenty of skills and a lack of fear. They bring what they have. I like how they skate, move and perform. I think if both were 6’2″, 205 lbs., they’d be way up on everyone’s draft lists. As things stand now, I can see Wahlgren going late and Weissbach may not be taken whatsoever, but the fan in me really likes and is rooting for both of them.
Sweden’s draft class does look very interesting indeed – a nation that always seems to pump out a few gems per draft, at both the top and bottom ends (I’m looking at you Patrick Hornqvist, last overall pick). Thanks again to Chapin for joining us and getting us informed on all things Swedish prospects, be sure to follow him on Twitter.