(Luleå's Daniel Mannberg, one of Sweden's top 2011 prospects)
Although one Swedish skater’s name has been on the tongues of draft-watchers since his Elitserien debut three years ago, the 2011 class is much deeper than just Adam Larsson.
1. D Adam Larsson
See last week’s article for more.
2. C Victor Rask
See last week’s article for more.
3. LW/C Jeremy Boyce
See last week’s article for more.
4. D Oscar Klefbom
2010-11 Team: Skåre BK (Division 1)
2010-11 Statline: 5 GP, 0-1-1, 0 PIM, -4
Skating in Sweden’s third-highest men’s league, like Joachim Nermark, offensive defenseman Oscar Klefbom has managed to trade on the momentum he generated with a strong Ivan Hlinka. Although Klefbom has missed Skåre’s last three contests and has not generated much in the way of points yet this season, his work on the man advantage has not gone unnoticed by the team’s coaching staff, who have praised the youngster’s creativity and enthusiasm.
An excellent skater who prefers to jump up into the play with abandon, Klefbom is a tremendous talent offensively in the way he can make plays at high speed and join the rush at a moment’s notice. A skilled passer either in tight or over long distances, Klefbom is also a capable shooter thanks to a low, powerful slapshot and a pro-caliber wrister. Defensively, Klefbom’s issue is one of experience; too often he will keep his stick too close to his own body, allowing an opponent to pressure and pass unhindered. For a player of his size, Klefbom is also beat too often by players coming from behind the net.
5. C/LW Joachim Nermark
2010-11 Team: Linköping (J20 SuperElit)
2010-11 Statline: 10 GP, 3-5-8, 10 PIM, +7
After a commanding performance at this past summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament made him a name to watch for 2011, 6’1 Joach Nermark has started the season far quieter than expected- but no less effective. An intelligent forward who hangs around in the tough areas of the ice, Nermark has never been a high scorer at any level, bagging just 13 points in 35 J20 games last season. While on pace to beat that modest total within a few weeks’ time, it will be Nermark’s strong all-around game that attracts scouts.
A smooth, agile skater that doggedly pursues the puck and its carrier, Nermark’s fine playmaking touch has carried over from the Hlinka and will be his bread-and-butter going forward. On the ice for just one goal against despite seeing regular top-six duty, Nermark has found himself at center for much of the season, taking over 120 draws and winning 57% of them.
For his fine start, Nermark was rewarded with a three-game stint in the Elitserien, but went pointless in almost no action.
6. C Johan Sundström
2010-11 Team: Frölunda (Elitserien)
2010-11 Statline: 10 GP, 0-0-0, 4 PIM, -1
At 6’3 and 196 lbs, Johan Sundström is the most physically mature 2011-eligible Swede outside of Adam Larsson. A strong, balanced skater with above-average top end speed for a big man, Sundström’s ability to drive defenses crazy with his unique blend of size, mobility and excellent hockey sense led to 30 points in 37 games with Frölunda’s J20 team in 2009-10.
However, coaches at the professional ranks have so far exploited his gifts in order to stop goals, rather than to score them. It’s tough to blame them; a prudent back-checker who can beat men ten or twenty years his senior in battles for possession along the wall, Sundström has been on the ice for just one goal against thus far this season.
It was a similar situation that allowed one Johan Franzen to hover beneath the radar for several years until Hakan Andersson convinced the Red Wings to select him in the 3rd round of the 2004 Draft. However, the Mule’s success will likely encourage NHL teams to take a second look at Sundström. Although easily noticeable due to his frame, when given room to create, Sundström has shown a similar knack for sneaking into open ice undetected for a quick shot on goal. An excellent puckhandler who is even more difficult contain when he uses his body to box out of the puck, Sundström can hold onto the puck for as long as it takes a lane to open up.
7. RW Daniel Mannberg
2010-11 Team: Luleå (J20 SuperElit)
2010-11 Statline: 9 GP, 1-2-3, 12 PIM
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a munchkin-sized wunderkind winger playing in the Luleå organization who possesses tremendous one-on-one ability and explosiveness but little in terms of an all-around game. Taking after Linus Omark, 5’9 Daniel Mannberg is a lithe bundle of energy who owns great outside speed and the soft hands and agility to quickly dance inside on a defender when necessary. Often a one-man show thanks to his speed, skill and crackling wristshot that can’t possibly seem to come from someone so small, Mannberg netted well over a PPG in J20 as a 16-year-old. As feisty as he is dazzling, Mannberg is an intriguing player that will need at least a couple of years to even become a regular Elitserien player.
8. D Jonas Brodin
2010-11 Team: Färjestad (Elitserien)
2010-11 Statline: 7 GP, 0-0-0, 0 PIM
The youngest player ever to suit up for Färjestad’s top men’s club, prior to his promotion to the Elitserien in 2009-10 for three games, Jonas Brodin’s most frequent competition had come against J18 clubs- the North American equivalent of Midget AAA. At just 6’0, 163 lbs, Brodin is a shining example of just how far elite hockey sense can carry you.
“He's not a spectacular player, he will not take on three players at one time with the puck. But he solves almost any situation and plays smart and simple,” raved head coach Tommy Samuelsson in an interview with HockeyServige.se last season after the youngster’s debut.
An even more memorable quote came from the then-head coach of the Timrå Red Eagles, whom Brodin faced in his first game.
“I did not think I would be impressed by such a young guy,” said legendary coach Charles Berglund to HockeySverige. “One thinks, of course, to tell the players just to ‘run over that fucking brat’, but it is of course not that easy.”
Now in his first year as a Färjestad regular, Brodin is continuing to impress with his steady defensive play. Quick on skates- especially when forced to change direction at a moment’s notice- Brodin may never be a Nicklas Lidstrom, but he has the potential to be a top-four defender at the NHL level.
9. D Patrik Norén
2010-11 Team: Leksand (Allsvenskan)
2010-11 Statline: 9 GP, 0-3-3, +1, 8 PIM
Another bantam-weight rearguard with off-the-charts hockey sense, 5’11 168 lbs Patrik Norén prefers to play instead as if he is 6’3 and 220 lbs. A fierce hitter- especially in open ice- Norén has acquitted himself well against professional competition since joining Leksand’s top club in the Allsvenskan. In addition to his no-holds-bar physical game, the diminutive rearguard has demonstrated tremendous poise when pressured one-on-one. In the offensive zone, Norén is a treat to watch as he utilizes his excellent mobility and whip-like passes to work the point. A strong comparable to Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall, Norén racked up 68 PIM in just 34 J20 games last season as he helped Leksand’s junior club to the league championship.
10. RW Sebastian Dyk
2010-11 Team: Malmö Redhawks (HockeyAllsvenskan)
2010-11 Statline: 7 GP, 0-1-1, 0 PIM
Even if he never makes it to North America, Malmö’s Sebastian Dyk can still say he had the opportunity to strut his stuff against NHL competition. On October 5th, the Columbus Blue Jackets played the Redhawks as part of an annual series of increasingly popular exhibition games staged between NHL teams and various European professional clubs.
Although the Jackets won handily by a 4-1 score, Dyk was one of the few bright spots for the home side. Tasked to check the likes of Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius, the 6’0, 187 lbs winger stood out in the way he managed to keep up and contain his mark shift after shift. A strong, smooth skater, when given the opportunity to jump up offensively, Dyk was equally as effective in advancing the puck through the neutral zone.
While Dyk will perform a similar duty most of the year with the Redhawks, his junior numbers indicate there is still some offensive ability to come. In 38 games with Malmö’s J20 squad, Dyk potted 18 goals and 39 points to finish second in team scoring during the 2009-10 season.
11. D Victor Berglind
2010-11 Team: Brynäs (J20 SuperElit)
2010-11 Statline: 10 GP, 4-9-13, 6 PIM, -1
There really is a thing as having too much talent. Ask Victor Berglind. The 5’11, 181 lbs rearguard spent eleven games with the Brynäs senior team last season, collecting one assist. Berglind likely would have started the 2010-11 season there, too, if it weren’t for an organizational overload of skill- as many as five skaters under the age of 21 could have made the club’s opening-night roster but not for the limited number of jobs available.
Thus, Berglind and 2010 second round selections Ludvig Rensfeldt, Johan Larsson and Sebastian Wännström have been forced to share time, rotating up to the senior club for three game sets in between J20 play. The result has been predictable; 5-2-3 and averaging 4 GPG, Brynäs is a heavy favorite to challenge for the league crown.
Although the owner of perhaps the hardest shot in Sweden’s J20 ranks and almost unstoppable when he is able to skate into open ice to deploy a surgically precise outlet pass, Berglind is very much a work in progress. He is often out-matched physically, even against his peers, and can be guilty of having tunnel vision when it comes to advancing the puck. In addition, while his top-end speed is above-average, increased explosiveness would allow for him to get back to his end promptly if and when possession is lost.
12. C William Karlsson
2010-11 Team: Västerås (J20 SuperElit)
2010-11 Statline: 12 GP, 5-13-18, 2 PIM, +9
Currently locked in a three-way tie for J20 scoring leader, 6’0 163 lbs William Karlsson is two-thirds of that league’s best line to this point of the season. While a known offensive commodity at the J18 level, Karlsson struggled to produce in a six-game audition with the Västerås J20 squad in 2009-10, potting just one assist.
However, the team has found a magic combination in Karlsson and fellow ‘93-eligible Gustav Björklund. At just 5’8- and perhaps more around 5’6- Björklund is likely too small to be picked next summer unless he continues to average a goal per game and/or earns a promotion to the Elitserien. But Karlsson’s chances are far better. A keen puck distributor blessed with tremendous vision and a soft pair of mitts, Karlsson is lethal when penetrating the zone at full speed and is quick to remind one of Ales Hemsky. Not one to shy away from traffic, Karlsson may in fact be a little taller than his listed vitals and has plenty of room to add muscle.
13. D Rasmus Bengtsson
2010-11 Team: Rögle (HockeyAllsvenskan)
2010-11 Statline: 8 GP, 0-0-0, 0 PIM, -3
A wholly unimpressive- and in a good way- rearguard, 6’2, 190 lbs Rasmus Bengtsson harkens back to the 2008 Draft and the selection of Johan Motin. Although a capable professional player who has since improved his skating dramatically, spending more time in the Elitserien than he did in U18 hockey did not help in the development of Motin’s offensive game (although one can argue whether one existed at all in the first place).
Intelligent, poised and a better puckhandler at the same age, Bengtsson is nevertheless a similar kind of player. Physically mature and thus quite strong, Bengtsson is and will likely always be a steady defensive defenseman who possesses the mobility and hockey sense to get the puck up the ice and out of danger. Bengtsson is still a bit rough in terms of how much pressure he should apply to his man and how to best box out his opponent around the net, but in time, both skills should improve.
14. C/RW John Norman
2010-11 Team: Djurgården (Elitserien)
2010-11 Statline: 10 GP, 3-2-5, 2 PIM
Just what is the appeal of a 1991-born forward passed over for two straight drafts? Well, for one, 19-year-old John Norman is two years closer to being a finished product. Currently testing his mettle against men in the Elitserien, Norman is one of the prettiest skaters in the league, and his game is built on utilizing the big ice surface to its maximum advantage.
Playing with much-hyped Blackhawks draft pick Marcus Kruger at times throughout the year, Norman has shown a knack for getting the puck to the opposite wing with a soft pass before blazing by coverage on his side. The result is either a shot, or more commonly, an opportunity for him to sneak untouched into the slot to gather up a rebound.
Norman lacks an elite shot and his hockey sense may not be good enough to make him a consistent offensive threat on North American ice. However, a team lacking in prospect depth may find him appealing as he has the ability to slide into the bottom six relatively soon.
15. D Erik de la Rose
2010-11 Team: Leksand (J20 SuperElit)
2010-11 Statline: 12 GP, 3-3-6, 14 PIM, +3
5’11, 165 lbs Erik de la Rose is the perfect example of the New NHL’s two-way defenseman. Although undersized and not exactly a commanding skater, de la Rose boasts a wide array of tools that should allow him to progress up the ranks fairly quickly. A highly intelligent player who radiates cool under pressure, de la Rose is an adept puck-mover who understands the fine line between rushing the puck and leaving your partner short-handed. Offensively, in addition to being a hard shooter who runs the point efficiently, he is a strong puckhandler and can make dazzling moves when pressured on the point. A tough customer, with added size and mass, he will be an even more well-rounded threat.
16. D Mattias Bäckman
2010-11 Team: Linköping (J20 SuperElit)
2010-11 Statline: 10 GP, 0-6-6, 14 PIM, +9
At 6’2 and 170 lbs, gritty defender Mattias Bäckman has the size and potential NHL clubs crave when looking for a later-round home run shot. Dressing for two games with Linköping’s Elitserien squad earlier in the year, Bäckman spent his time as part of the fourth defensive pairing, but may very well play a more prominent role with the club during his next call-up. A workhorse who moves with a long, powerful stride, Bäckman is especially fluid when transitioning from forwards to backwards skating. In addition to his mobility, the Linköping home-grown product owns a long reach and excellent strength, making him a difficult opponent to beat one-on-one.
17. G Gustaf Johansson
2010-11 Team: Brynäs (J18 Elit)
2010-11 Statline: 2 GP, 2.42 GAA, 0.926 Sv%
In just two games, Gustaf Johansson has likely made an impression Brynäs management won’t soon forget. Biding his time with the organization’s J20 club while waiting for the J18 season to kick off, Johansson only out-shone the team’s regular starter and backup in a two-game stint that saw him allow just five goals on 64 total shots. At 6’2, and 176 lbs, Johansson is raw, but his sheer athleticism, quickness and strong technical ability will likely have him out of the J18 ranks before long- and possibly on loan to another organization.
A similar situation faced a similarly-named goalie last season; shuttled between teams and leagues on a regular basis in 2009-10, Minnesota Wild sixth rounder Johan Gustafsson is currently tearing up the Allsvenskan and looks to be another Swedish steal in net. Johansson has all the tools to follow.
18. C Sam Marklund
2010-11 Team: Skellefteå (J20 SuperElit)
2010-11 Statline: 11 GP, 3-8-11, 10 PIM, +6
Playing his first season against J20 competition, 6’0 185 lbs pivot Sam Marklund has been a major reason why Skellefteå’s junior eam is currently undefeated in regulation through eleven games. A tireless worker who possesses good vision, a typical Marklund shift sees the youngster intercept a pass with his speed and anticipation. Once in the offensive zone, Marklund can either choose to finish the play with his quick snapshot, or send the puck off to a teammate thanks to a no-telegraph pass that is as accurate forehand as it is backhand.
Marklund is the complete package- save for faceoffs, which he must improve on- and should be a mid-round pick come June.
19. LW Sebastian Harila
2010-11 Team: Bodens HF (Division 1)
2010-11 Statline: 8 GP, 2-3-5, 35 PIM, -5
Power winger Sebastian Harila has always had the style of play to intimidate opponents. Now, he has the size. Formerly measuring in around the 6’1 mark, Harila has enjoyed an extended growth spurt and now stands at a strapping 6’3. An intense competitor who battles for time and space- especially in front- Harila is at his most effective in the blue paint, but possesses a deceptively quick pair of hands that have earned him respect and room from defensemen who’ve fallen victim to his smooth stickhandling and long reach.
Harila’s biggest problem at this point is defensive play; although improved speed and endurance will help him away from the puck, he is often the last forward to leave the zone and the furthest from his own net. In addition, Harila will need to show further restraint to avoid stick-swinging incidents like the one that landed him a game misconduct during a recent contest.
20. G Emil Rasmussen
2010-11 Team: Västerås (J20 SuperElit)
2010-11 Statline: 3 GP, 2.34 GAA, 0.922 Sv%
One of those big, agile goalies Sweden has become famous for over the last decade, 6’3 172 lbs Emil Rasmussen is currently starring for Västerås, Nick Lidstrom’s old club. Positionally sound despite little playing time the last two years as a back-up for other teams, Rasmussen has had the last laugh and is quickly developing into an intriguing prospect. First item on the list: muscle. Unflappable and unbeatable in short spurts, Rasmussen’s lack of stamina and game experience will likely start to wear on him as the games continue, and is already having an effect from period to period. Still, few possess his size, technique or glovehand, and in the hands of an organization known for developing their goaltenders- Minnesota, Montreal, anyone?- Rasmussen could be something special.