The biggest exporter of National Hockey League players from Europe is once again very notable, as the young Swedish prospects prepare to take on the next hurdle before the NHL.
Just 24 hours is all thats left before the National Hockey League Entry Draft starts in Vancouver and already its very clear that the Swedes are going to be dominating the European scene by the end of it. There is a lot of high-end talent, and its likely we’ll see at least seven or eight drafted before the second round is finished. And for that reason, I was struggling to narrow this list down to four. And the fact that players like Simon Holmström and Tobias Björnfot didn’t make this list should be all the proof that is needed to showcase just how deep and strong this Swedish draft class is.
Philip Broberg – AIK – Defender
He might be one of the most talked about prospects at the draft, and the feels are very mixed on him. When you look at his stats for the year, its not something that looks like a top-10 pick. Whereas many of the other top Europeans plays in the top division and dominate, Broberg has struggled to really find the production in the second tier of Swedish hockey.
Only nine points in 42 games for a defender that has a lot of offensive strengths isn’t something that’s going to wow people. However, he is only 17 and is one of the youngest in the draft class (he turns 18 on June 25), and his size is already were it needs to be at 6’3″ and 200 lbs. And internationally he has been great against competition the same age with almost a point a game.
His major strength is his speed. One of the best skaters on the blue line that you will ever see and his ability to keep calm as he moves the puck up ice is amazing. Especially for someone his size. Where he needs to develop his game is in the defensive department, where despite a good frame, can get beaten and his lack of awareness has let him down on a few occasions this season. But if those problems can be ironed out he has all the tools to be a genuine top player in the league. And that potential is why I see him going within the first 10 picks. While it might change on a dime before tomorrow I would look for him to go to the Edmonton Oilers with the eighth selection.
Nils Höglander – Rögle BK – Winger
His first full year in the SHL and while it wasn’t great on a team level or even production level, Höglander did gain a lot from the year, especially in terms of experience. Playing 50 games for Rögle is fantastic for a youngster and he managed to get some solid minutes as well. With 14 points to show for it and the chance to showcase his creative nature was something that he took full advantage of. With the Juniors team he had a nice showing with seven points in eight games, despite not being a part of the team that went to Vancouver.
One of the things that impressed me the most as a watched some games with him, was his sheer tenacity and grit despite not being the tallest guy on the ice. He plays a much bigger game than what his body type would have you believe and while his hands are silky smooth, he works harder than most on the backcheck and defensive zone. And if someone was in the middle of scrums or in the net front battles for Rögle it was typically Höglander who was a key part of it. He is like a terrier that will fight for everything, and that is something I could see taking him far in today’s game, when combined with his hands and creative and fast playing style.
His downside is that despite his hands and offensive talents, he lacks something to make him a true force to be playing against. He doesn’t have the greatest shot, nor the best vision and he is sometimes lacking that last bit of power and physicality in his net battles to really get the right position. However, if he can get something like that, he is someone that could easily become a great player and valuable piece to any franchise and is no doubt going in the first round.
Victor Söderström – Brynäs IF – Defender
The second defender from Sweden that is no doubt going in the first round and it’s very likely that he is the best of the two. A great two-way player who has so much awareness and calm to his game. And where Broberg played in the second tier, Söderström played 40 games in the SHL. He had seven points for Brynäs in those games and while those stats aren’t overly great, it’s not smart to be fooled by them.
What Söderström brings isn’t points but reliability. He will always find the right pass, and breakout and his understanding of the game in terms of pure hockey IQ is potentially the best in the entire class. And if the other team has the puck he uses his skills and knowledge to get into the right areas to block a shot or find a way to win the puck battle despite his lacking size.
His weakness is his shot, and while its not awful by any means, he again tends to use his knowledge to get the puck through and to the net. But despite a lot of time on the power play, he never really got the points rolling, like his vision should allow him too.
While he is a two-way player, he is better on the defensive end and his lack of speed does mean he is more than likely relying on reading the play well and find the open pass, rather than bring the puck up ice himself. However, despite that his understanding of the game and fantastic vision combined with defensive abilities more than makes up for it and he is a sure top-20 in my eyes.
Samuel Fagemo – Frölunda HC – Winger
Champion of Europe and Sweden at the age of 18. Not too shabby for the Swedish forward who had an excellent year for the Swedish champions. He was fantastic in scoring 25 points in 42 regular season games, 10 points in 11 CHL games and 10 playoff points on Frölundas path to glory. No matter how you look at it, he was a star this season and while he might be one of the older players at the draft, he has shown all his talents this year to all of Sweden and Europe. But, he failed to really showcase it at the juniors where he was one of the bigger letdowns for a disappointing year for the Swedes. He was expected to be their goal scorer and he failed, and it clearly hurt his draft stock.
I was fortunate enough to get to see him live as Frölunda took on Aalborg Pirates in the CHL and I was left speechless by his game. Fast, strong on the puck and with one of the best shots I have seen live. His release and wrist shot is upper-class and he was sensational. He didn’t score in that game, but I’m pretty sure the crossbar will never be the same, as he hit it at least twice with unrivaled power.
He is a pure goal scorer but sadly it means that his weakness is his backchecking and defensive abilities. In that area he lacks a lot and if he is having an off day offensively, he won’t be amazing defensively. If he can get that little bit better in that end of the ice, he might be a steal for someone who seems to drop much further than his talents should allow him to.
Statistics provided by EliteProspects
Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals