Flames 2019 First Round Targets: Tobias Björnfot

If there’s one thing the Calgary Flames love, it’s Swedish hockey players. Their blueline group, in particular, has been bolstered by some promising young Swedes. In the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft, might they consider Swedish defender Tobias Björnfot?

Scouting report

It’s easy to see why scouts would like Björnfot. He’s listed at 6-foot-0 and weighs 203 pounds, and he’s played pro games (in the Swedish Hockey League) and in several major IIHF tournaments.

Jokke Nevalainen of Dobber Prospects had a pretty detailed breakdown of Björnfot’s game and season:

Björnfot was expected to become a high first-rounder after he put up very impressive numbers in the SuperElit as a 16-year-old. But he hasn’t taken that next step offensively this season which is part of the reason he’s seen more as a second-rounder now. Even though Björnfot has improved as an all-around player compared to last season, his points-per-game average is almost identical to a year ago which is never a good sign. Björnfot is a reliable two-way defenseman who makes smart decisions at both ends of the rink. He likes to join the rush but avoids unnecessary risks. He has decent size, and he’s a good defensive player because of his high hockey sense. Björnfot has also shown good leadership qualities at a young age. He’s an alternate captain on his team in SuperElit, and he’s been carrying the ‘C’ on his sweater for Team Sweden in international tournaments.

Ben Kerr of Last Word on Sports added his breakdown:

Björnfot could develop into a two-way defenceman with a top-four role at the NHL level. Like most young defenders, he still has some things to learn in his own zone. That said, he is already highly advanced for a draft-eligible player. The question here is the offence. It is rarely seen in Björnfot’s international appearances (with the exception of the Five Nations tournament). While he puts up points in the domestic junior league, there is also some concern that the points per game did not grow much from last season to this one. If a team can unlock his puck-moving and offensive skill, they could have a gem on their hands.

The scouting consensus is that Björnfot is a really good skater with a strong two-way presence in his game. His offense hasn’t yet caught up to his mobility, and may not quite ever do so, to the point where he may become a Swedish TJ Brodie – somebody with excellent skating, but whose offense impacts are dependent on who he’s on the ice with.

The numbers

Bjornfot spent the entire season with Djurgardens IF, split between their SHL club and their SuperElit (junior) team. In seven SHL games he had zero points, while he had 11 goals and 22 points in 39 SuperElit contests.

He led his entire league in goals by a U18 defenseman and was third overall in defensive points in his age group. He led Djurgardens in defensive points and was 18th in the entire junior league in that category. He was one of the most productive defensemen in a pretty strong junior circuit.

The anxiety regarding his game primarily lies in his lack of offensive growth; if you look at his offense at a per-game basis, it hasn’t made any big leaps (and is actually somewhat flat in some metrics). He’s a good U18 and U20 defender, but he never really became a dominant one the way you would hope a first round pick would in his draft year.

Availability and fit

Björnfot is a consensus pick somewhere late in the first round to midway through the second round. ISS has him 29th, Dobber Prospects has him 38th, the Draft Analyst/Sporting News has him 39th, my rankings at The Hockey Writers have him 46th, Sportsnet has him outside the first round, The Athletic has him 37th and unranked, and The Hockey News has him 32nd. As with Beecher, if the Flames love this player it might be wise to trade down (and get an additional pick) to get him.

In terms of how the Flames draft and what they value, though, Björnfot fits like a glove. He’s Swedish. He’s a strong two-way player. He skates well. While his offense hasn’t blossomed to the point where he’s dominating his league, he’s posted pretty damn respectable numbers in a strong U20 league. If he can fill out and keep developing his offensive game, he could be a really great value pick late in the first round.

2019 first round targets

Egor Afanasyev | John Beecher

  • Baalzamon

    I like Bjornfot, but it’s worth pointing out that he’s significantly behind where both Kylington and Andersson were at the same age. Players develop at different rates, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

  • Mitchell

    His skating and defensive play are top tier in this draft, and he also plays a physical game. He will use his stick, and body to disrupt plays. He is such a great skater that he usually just skates the puck out of the defensive zone after he gains possession. I’ve seen him occasionally rush the puck in the offensive zone though it rarely amounts to anything. He seems to lack the offensive creativity to accomplish much. His shot is nothing to write home about either. As defenceman go in this draft I feel like their could be better options at 26 like matthew Robertson, but if calgary trades down to the second round he would be a solid option. Just my 2 cents on what I’ve seen from him.

  • Garry T

    Gaudreau looked frustrated in the playoffs and apparently his re-signing with the Flames is in question. So he plays this year and we move him in 2020 to either of the New York City Teams or PHL or to the Devils. We need to Add picks, we need to grow team size, scoring, etc. So, why delay moving him. Approach Jersey about Taylor Hall, the number one pick this year, Jerseys first pick in the second plus a second in 2020 or 2021. Johnny and his frustration move on, we get the first which gives us a great player or you swap that with the Rangers for their 2 pick and their 20th. Plus their first in the 2nd. We have Taylor Hall , the 2nd and 20 pick plus our own at 28th. 3 picks in the 1st round plus two more in the 2nd. If Jersey wants to play with us fine, if not we send him to the Rangers for their first two picks plus their first two 2nd round picks. We then talk to the Avalanche about swapping spots for the 4th slot and additional picks.

    • Slick77

      Ray Shero would hang up for that asking price. In no way is Gaudreau going to get Hall (2018 Hart Trophy winner) plus a first pick over all, plus 2 second round picks. NJ has zero issues with Hall, why would they trade him away?
      Also why would a rebuilding team trade away 2 first round picks and 2 second round picks for a small forward who can’t play in the playoffs?