Given the success of many of that country’s players within the organization, it probably wouldn’t surprise anybody if the Calgary Flames drafted some Swedish players at the 2019 NHL Draft. While injuries have limited HV71’s Simon Holmström in the last season or two, he’s a pretty impressive prospect.
Originally from Tranas, in southern Sweden, Holmström put up impressive numbers in his teens and was a highly-touted prospect as of a couple seasons ago. A left shot winger that prefers the right side, he just hit a wall due to injuries and wasn’t able to amass a sample size large enough to really impress scouts.
When he was healthy, though, he was pretty damn good.
Dobber Prospects’ Jokke Nevalainen broke down Holmström’s game over the past season or two:
A year ago, Holmström was seen as a high first-rounder after a great season in the SuperElit as a 16-year-old. But this season has been very difficult for him because he’s had multiple injuries and hasn’t been able to play much because of them. He had a hip surgery in the summer leading up to his draft season, broke his thumb in the first half of the season, and then suffered a concussion in the second half. It’s very unfortunate he’s missed so much time due to injuries during these crucial development years. Holmström is an excellent playmaker from the wing. He has very good vision, and he can make crisp passes. He also has a great shot which makes him a dual-threat. He’s a very talented skater who combines speed with agility. Holmström could be a faller in the NHL Entry Draft because of the injury concerns. But if he’s still available in the second round, his upside is definitely worth a selection there.
Sam Cosentino of Sportsnet was the only major ranking compiler to have Holmström in the first round. He pointed to the Swede’s performance at the Under-18 World Championship as a difference-maker:
Somewhat like Turcotte in that he needed to put injuries behind him before proving just how good he is. Scored six points in seven games at the U18s.
When he’s at the top of his game, as Nevalainen detailed, Holmström is a good skater and a strong offensive player who can distribute the puck or finish plays on his own. But the big challenge for NHL clubs is trying to estimate whether his injury troubles are endemic in him… or if they have lowered his developmental ceiling.
Holmström’s offensive numbers are a good news, bad news proposition. The good news is that he was a point per game player over two seasons in SuperElit, Sweden’s junior league, during seasons where he was just 16 and 17 years of age. The bad news is he was limited to 49 games combined over those two seasons, missing roughly half of the league’s scheduled.
During 2018-19 he was 10th on his team in scoring and fifth in points per game among HV71’s regulars, three of which were significantly older than him. Everything aside from his sample size points to him being a productive player at higher levels, but his small sample size due to his injuries may be enough to give teams pause.
He was fourth on Sweden in scoring at the Under-18 Worlds and helped them capture a gold medal.
Availability and fit
It should come as no surprise that the Flames heavily scout Sweden and with Hakan Loob’s connections, there probably won’t be many surprises for them regarding the capabilities of any potential Swedish prospects. There’s definitely upside with Holmström given his skillset and performance when healthy. But drafting this player in the first round could either be very clever – if he stays healthy, his offense could explode – or way too clever – he might not stay healthy, or he might not develop the way they expect.
Because of the sample size issues and injury concerns, most rankers – aside from Sportsnet – have him in the second or third round: ISS has him outside the first round, Dobber Prospects has him 58th, the Draft Analyst/Sporting News has him 73rd, my rankings at The Hockey Writers have him 50th, Sportsnet has him 26th, The Athletic has him 45th and outside the top 100, and The Hockey News has him 87th.
Holmström will most likely be available at 26th overall. But there’s also a pretty decent shot that he’s also available when they select in the third round at 88th overall – and that might be the better time to take a chance on a player like him.