Could the Calgary Flames unlock Swedish prospect Otto Stenberg’s consistency?
Photo credit:courtesy Frölunda HC
By Ryan Pike3 months ago
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Since the late 1970s, the Calgary Flames franchise has been one of the league’s most prolific drafters and developers of Swedish hockey players. From Kent Nilsson and Hakan Loob, all the way to Mikael Backlund and Rasmus Andersson in present day, the Flames seem to adore Swedes.
One tantalizing Swedish prospect in the 2023 NHL Draft class is forward Otto Stenberg, a player that has been lauded for his talent but criticized by some for his consistency.
A product of Stenungsund, Sweden – a town north of Gothenberg on Sweden’s southwest coast – Stenberg is a May 2005 birthday, making him on the young side of the 2023 draft class. He’s listed at 5’11” and 181 pounds, and is a left shot forward who has primarily played as a winger over the past few seasons.
So here’s the deal with Stenberg: he’s been playing a couple years above his age group since he was in his early teens. His 13 and 14-year-old seasons were split between Sweden’s under-16 and under-18 leagues. After his 15-year-old season was disrupted by the pandemic, he became a nearly point-per-game player in Sweden’s highly-touted under-18 league (as a 16-year-old).
He made his pro debut in the SHL during the 2022-23 season as a 17-year-old.
Here’s a rundown of Stenberg’s game from The Hockey News’ Tony Ferrari:
Stenberg possesses all the tools you would want in a draft prospect. He is an excellent skater with the elusiveness to create space for himself. Stenberg is a willing and lethal shooter with a wicked snap shot and great hands to finish in tight. His playmaking is inconsistent, but he has flashed some pretty passing ability.His motor and willingness to play a sound two-way game have improved over the year. Playing against men, he’s learned to play stronger on the puck, win board battles with positioning and skill, and use his skating to his advantage. It’s come down to Stenberg simply processing the game faster than he could at the start of the season.
Over at Dobber Prospects, Alexa Potack had this scouting report in April:
Once thought to be the second-best prospect from the Swedish leagues, Stenberg’s inconsistent season has pushed him down the list. As seen while representing Tre Kronor, Stenberg has an advanced playmaking ability and can play a dynamic game. His feet are always moving, working to create deceptive plays. The one downside to this, which is fixable, is that he can get caught with his feet moving before his hands, getting him stuck in challenging situations. The jump to the SHL, though brief, was some of Stenberg’s best hockey this season. In junior hockey, Stenberg sometimes seemed disinterested in the pace of play and competition. While up with the Men’s team, Stenberg played a more selfless game and was consistently engaged.
Here’s my broad assessment of Stenberg from the scouting reports we’ve seen: he’s really talented. And he’s been arguably more talented than his peer group for awhile, to the point where he can be talented (and not have to work hard) and succeed. In the pro game, he’s pushed by playing against grown men and got more engaged in the game – he was challenged more than in junior, so he had to work harder to succeed.
If you’re a team that thinks you can keep Stenberg’s emotional engagement consistently dialed-in, he could be a really good find in the back half of the first round.
Stenberg played all over the damn place in 2022-23.
He played his club hockey with Frölunda HC, split between three levels. He had 18 points over nine games in Sweden’s under-18 league. He had 26 points in 29 games in the J20 Nationell, Sweden’s under-20 league. He had three points in 23 games in the SHL, representing his first pro games ever. He also made appearances in the playoffs of all three leagues, and played for Frölunda in a pair of Champions League games.
Only two under-18 players dressed for more SHL games than Stenberg did: Oscar Fisker Molgaard and Theo Lindstein. Even with splitting his season between junior and the pros, he was 10th among under-18 players in the J20 Nationell in points-per-game – when he was in junior, he was pretty productive offensively.
In addition to all that club hockey, Stenberg represented Sweden at three different international events, serving as captain in all three:
- He had nine points in five games at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, capturing silver.
- He had three points in six games at the World Junior A Challenge, capturing bronze.
- He had 16 points in seven games at the Under-18 World Championships, capturing silver (and being named a tournament all-star).
Stenberg bounced around different levels of Frölunda’s organization and headed all around the world to play international events, but was still a productive offensive player despite all that change in his circumstances.
Availability and fit
Stenberg is Swedish. He’s a forward that can play multiple positions. He has high-end offensive talent and just seems to need a bit of a push towards consistency to unlock his potential. He seems like a really good balance of risk and reward at 16th overall.
In terms of availability, he’s ranked 12th by FC Hockey, 22nd by McKeen’s, 16th by Sportsnet, 28th by Daily Faceoff, 28th by Corey Pronman and 28th by Scott Wheeler. He’s probably still on the board when the Flames select. The big question is whether there’s a player available at that point with higher ceiling, and perhaps fewer obstacles to reaching that ceiling.
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