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2020 Flames First Round Targets: Helge Grans

The 2020 NHL Draft is scheduled for October 6 and 7, conducted remotely. The Calgary Flames have a first round selection and will pick 19th overall. In advance of the draft, we’ll be looking at some contenders to be selected at 19th.

Let’s take a look at a type of player the Flames tend to love: Swedish defenseman Helge Grans.

Scouting report

Originally from Ljungby, Grans moved two hours south of his hometown to pursue his hockey dreams a few seasons ago. The 6’3″, 190 pound right shot defender has been playing in the Malmo Redhawks organization, playing chunks of the past two seasons for Rasmus Andersson’s dad in the SHL. (Papa Andersson has since moved to a gig with Brynas.)

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Dobber’s Jokke Nevalainen broke down Grans’ game:

Grans is an offensive defenseman with great size and a right-handed shot which is always valuable. He is a great skater who glides very smoothly and is very good at using his edges. Grans makes very good breakout passes and he loves to join the rush. His passing skills are very good but he also owns a good shot, although he should use it more and work on his accuracy as well. Grans has a lot of room for improvement in his defensive game. He is far more likely to be used on the power play than on the penalty kill which speaks volumes about his strengths and weaknesses. But his biggest weakness right now is his decision-making which can be baffling at times. He can make good decisions with the puck most of the time but the mistakes he makes are massive and unexplainable.

Despite the flaws in his game, Grans owns some of the best physical tools in the draft, so a team that trusts him to figure things out could select him in the first round. But a more likely scenario is that he gets drafted in the second round. Grans will likely spend the majority of this season in the SHL and he is also expected to play a big role for Team Sweden at the U18 Worlds, so he definitely has a good opportunity to improve his draft stock before June.

Over at The Draft Analyst, Steve Kournianos had this assessment of Grans’ defensive game:

Grans’s overall defensive game is adequate but inconsistent. The best explanation for that assessment is that the difference is split between impressive smothering performances and bench-worthy stinkers. He utilizes his long reach and quick feet to react to rapid changes in puck travel and will apply hard shoves to try and knock an opponents off balance. You rarely see Grans stapled to the low slot and he will pounce on forwards near the half wall with proper timing, especially on the penalty kill. Grans appears more than willing to assume risk when he activates in any zone and it seems as if his partner at every level understood this. The results were more mixed on the international level, however, as Grans needed to bailed out time and again for either overcommitting far from the danger areas or treating the puck like a hot potato. He isn’t overly physical and can be loosey-goosey with his gap coverage and crease protection, although his stick work and hand-eye coordination are impressive. These traits likely explain why he was used sparingly on the penalty kill.

So, he’s not a shutdown defender and would probably need some time and patience to round out his game. But the last time the Flames took a right shot defender from Sweden at the NHL Draft, it turned into Andersson. Grans has many of the same exciting characteristics that the Flames adored about Andersson.

The numbers

Grans split the 2019-20 season between the SHL and Sweden’s junior league, J20 SuperElit.

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He had 27 points in 27 games in J20. That was seventh in the circuit in points by defensemen, and everybody ahead of him played more games. He was third on a points-per-game basis among regulars J20 defenders trailing only HV71’s Anton Johanneson (24 points in 20 games) and Skelleftea’s Adam Wilsby (14 points in 13 games).

He had three points in 21 games in the SHL. He was one of just two under-18 blueliners to play more than five SHL games. He didn’t rack up a ton of points, but his mere presence in the league at his age and at his position are pretty impressive.

Availability and fit

Defenseman? Check. Right shot? Check. Offensive-minded? Check. Swedish? Check. Grans ticks a lot of the boxes for what the Flames need right now, and the things he’s good at are the things the club values in their prospects.

And he’ll probably be available! FC Hockey has him 28th, Craig Button has him 69th, McKeen’s has him 39th and Bob McKenzie has him 32nd. He’d be a bit of a reach at 19th overall, but not a massive one. He’s one of the better defensemen available early in the draft and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch if the Flames called his name at 19th overall.

2020 First Round Targets

Braden Schneider | Kaiden Guhle | Seth Jarvis | Connor Zary | Jacob Perreault | Noel Gunler | Lukas Reichel | Dylan Holloway | Hendrix Lapierre | Jan Myšák | Jake Neighbours | Mavrik Bourque | Ozzy Wiesblatt | John-Jason Peterka | Yaroslav Askarov | Tyson Foerster