2024 draft prospect Alfons Freij is quietly one of the more exciting defenders in his class

Photo credit:Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
8 days ago
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If you’ve consumed any content about the upcoming 2024 NHL Draft, you’ve probably been walloped over the head with the notion that it’s a good year for defencemen. This year’s draft features a truckload of strong blueliners slated to go somewhere in the first half of the draft.
But in the shadow of that slam-dunk first round group is Swedish defender Alfons Freij, who’s somewhat quietly put together a really strong body of work.

Scouting report

A product of Sölvesborg, Sweden – a coastal town in southern Sweden located northeast of Malmö – Freij is a February 2006 birthday. He’s a left shot defenceman listed at 6’1″ and 196 pounds.
Freij bounced around a bit in his youth, but he landed with the Växjö Lakers HC organization as a 15-year-old in 2021. He bounced around different levels and leagues in 2021-22, but he found a foothold on their under-20 team in 2022-23 (as a 16-year-old) and spent the bulk of that season and 2023-24 in Sweden’s top under-20 league, the J20 Nationell.
He also represented Sweden in 2023-24 at three major events: the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, the World Junior-A Challenge, and the Under-18 World Championships. He helped Sweden capture bronze at the Under-18 Worlds.
In February, McKeen’s Hockey’s Felix Robbins wrote a really lengthy breakdown of Freij’s game:
Despite being somewhat overlooked, Alfons Freij has consistently shown that he is a dynamic, mobile, offensive puck-moving defenceman – perhaps even one of the best in the class – all year long. His skating, which will likely be a tremendous strength even in the NHL, is the foundation on which his game is built on. Freij is able to process the game at the speed he plays it – fast! This opens up worlds of time and space for his playmaking and shooting, as well as the effectiveness of his stickhandling and body fakes. His defending and physical presence may not be stellar yet, but he has good habits when it comes to retrievals and zone entry denials. While his over-aggression, especially his shooting decisions, can be frustrating, the pros of his hockey sense and decision-making heavily outweigh the cons. NHL teams looking for a puck-moving defenceman who can score 40-something points a season while not getting caved in defensively should be looking at Alfons Freij, as he is firmly at the top of my list of defencemen in the Swedish region.
In March, Sportsnet’s Jason Bukala listed Freij among his top 50 prospects in the draft class and had this brief assessment:
Transitional defenceman whose bulk of ice time comes at even strength and the power play. Beautiful skater with great jump. On his toes all the time, exploding to take away space or pounce on a puck to outlet and join the rush offensively. Average plus defender who’s not overly physical. Elite elements are pace and puck moving. Needs to be paired with a more physical stay at home partner.
Dobber Prospects’ Sebastian High had this rundown of Freij in his April scouting report:
Freij has been a riser on our board all season long, due to his combination of three elite elements: his reading of the game (especially with play in front of him), his mobility, and his playmaking ability. He is a dynamic creator from the blueline in all three zones. In the breakout, he takes charge – wanting the puck on his stick – and is as much a threat to carry the puck up the ice, integrating liberal lateral and gear shifts into his rushes, as he is to spring the attack with a seeing-eye stretch pass. In the offensive zone, he frequently activates up the boards, creating lanes through defensive structures with both his feet and hands, and placing accurate passes onto the tapes of teammates in high-danger areas: he’s one of the draft’s premier playmaking defensemen. His defensive game is characterized by a tight gap, calculated stickwork, and a lack of physicality, which will be one of the main elements needing progression before his jump to the NHL. While he’s exclusively played J20 competition this season and the lack of experience against adult competition will hurt his eventual draft stock, the creativity, intelligence, high-end tools, and promising development curve make him the first European blueliner I’d select on draft day. He could be an incredibly high-value add on Day 2 of the draft in Vegas.
All-in-all, Freij seems like a really interesting young defender. He’s dynamic, resourceful and really smart with the puck, while his defensive game is effective but not really all that physical. He slated to spend 2024-25 in the second-tier pro HockeyAllsvenskan with IK Björklöven on a loan from Växjö.

The numbers

Freij posted 14 goals and 19 assists for 33 points in 40 games in Sweden’s J20 Nationell, their top under-20 league. He was tied for third among defencemen in points – behind only Noel Fransen and Leo Sahlin Wallenius – and was tied for fourth in goals.
Internationally, he appeared in three events for Sweden. He had a goal and three assists at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, two goals and five assists at the World Junior-A Challenge, and two goals and four assists at the Under-18 World Championships.

Availability and fit

Would the Flames like a puck-moving, smooth-skating Swedish defenceman in their ranks? Yes, we believe they would. The game is moving more and more towards mobile defenders that can do smart things with the puck, and Freij fits that descriptor to a tee.
In terms of whether Freij is available when the Flames select, that depends on what draft choice you’re thinking about. A handful of scouts really love Freij, and he’s appeared on occasion in the top 10 or 20 of various draft rankings. Generally, he’s appeared more often towards the end of the first round, and even sliding into the second round – the big knock is he hasn’t played any pro games yet, and he’s been merely good (rather than outstanding) at international events against his peer group.
If you’re thinking about seeing if Freij is available when the Flames select at 28th overall, using Vancouver’s pick from the Elias Lindholm trade, we’re thinking that’s not a terrible bet. If you’re hoping against hope that he’s available at 41st overall, with the Flames’ first pick in the second round, he might get snapped up before then by a team that’s a bit surprised that he got through the first day of the draft without being selected.

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