The 2014 NHL Draft has come and gone and as expected, a number of young talents who were both born and raised in Sweden, or are ranked as Swedish prospects because they’ve spent at least the last season in Sweden, have now become the property of an NHL team. All in all, it was a total of 31 players chosen, 28 of whom are Swedish-born. This ties the record number set at the 2011 NHL Draft.
There were few surprises amongst Hockey’s Future’s top five Swedish prospects as they all went in the first round and were taken in the same order they were ranked.
The very skilled William Nylander (picked by HF to go between spots 5-8) was the first Swede taken, eighth overall, to the Toronto Maple Leafs. A talkative and media-friendly kid, Nylander is now part of an organization that finds itself under a media microscope 365 days a year. He shouldn’t have any problem dealing with that aspect, but he’s now going to a team that has a great need for offensive contributions. The Maple Leafs also have quite the Swedish legacy, especially in light of recently retired captain Mats Sundin, who himself was a right-shooting skill player. Surely more than a few fans will be hoping that the immensely talented Nylander will be able to give them a new Swedish hero to cheer for.
Going shortly after Nylander was Swiss-born Kevin Fiala (picked by HF to go between spots 11-16), who is scheduled to play with HV71 in the SHL this winter. Having risen almost meteorically throughout the course of this past winter, the smaller magician heard his name called with the 11th pick by the Nashville Predators, a club that has been beefing up its forward prospect ranks considerably the past two seasons. With Fiala’s skill set and ability to make plays and surprisingly pinpoint passes, the Predators have definitely added an element not readily found within the organization.
Taken 13th overall by the Washington Capitals was Czech-born Jakub Vrana (picked by HF to go between spots 20-30), another player who, like Fiala, had an extremely busy winter and found himself playing a number of games for Linkoping in the SHL. A fixture in the Czech Republic’s junior program at all levels the past few years, Vrana is also expected to be suiting up in the SHL next winter. A gamer who picks things up when the money is on the line, the Capitals organization was excited to bring in an offensive player who can be dangerous from just about anywhere in the offensive zone.
The Boston Bruins got in on the action when they grabbed Czech-born forward David Pastrnak 25th overall (picked by HF to go between spots 25-35). A quick, tricky player who loves all things ‘offense’, Pastrnak just finished an entire season of pro hockey, ending up as one of the top scorers for Sodertalje in the pro Allsvenskan league. Like Vrana, he represented his country throughout the year and at the WJC and U18 tournaments. Likening his style to that of David Krejci, it seems like a logical choice for the Bruins as Pastrnak brings a right-handed shot, a similar size package, and a great deal of on-ice intelligence and creativity.
As the first round dwindled down, Adrian Kempe (picked by HF to go between spots 25-35) turned out to be the next Swedish-born player chosen, and no doubt quite excited at the fact he’d be joining the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. Going 29th overall, the speedy winger with lots of moxy just spent this past season putting up 11 points for MODO in 45 SHL contests. He also played for the organization’s U20 and U18 teams, having been dominant in the U18 playoffs. In addition, Kempe was a first-line player for the U18 team at the World Championship and put up seven points in seven games. Always taking pride in all-around forwards who can grind and contribute in a lot of ways, the Kings added another prototypical forward to the organization who should fit right in over the long run.
The second day of the draft would see 26 more Swedish hockey players chosen. Next on the list was HF’s sixth-ranked Swede, Marcus Pettersson (picked by HF to go between spots 27-35). The tall defenseman had seen his stock gaining momentum throughout the spring and the Anaheim Ducks – big Scandinavian prospect fans as Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen attest – didn’t hesitate to grab him 38th overall. Shortly thereafter, the Ottawa Senators grabbed Andreas Englund with the 40th pick. A Djurgarden product, Englund has been quietly but effectively making his way up the charts this past winter, ending the season with a pivotal role for the country’s U18 squad. The San Jose Sharks got in on the action when they grabbed defenseman Julius Bergman 46th overall. The all-around defenseman had a big season at the U20 level, having put up 13 goals and 34 points. He will be joining the OHL‘s London Knights for the 2014-15 season.
With the 61st pick overall, the third round was kicked off with the selection of goalie Jonas Johansson (picked by HF to go between spots 90-120), a 6’4” giant who was the second-ranked goalie in Europe and HF’s eighth-ranked prospect among Swedish-based prospects. With Johansson, the Buffalo Sabres hope to have found part of the long-term answer to their current goaltending woes. The next Swede didn’t hear his name called until the 87th pick when Anton Karlsson (brother to Carolina pick Erik Karlsson) was selected by the Arizona Coyotes. Karlsson came into the season looking like a probable first rounder, but had quite a tough winter with some injuries and setbacks, including an unspectacular U18 tournament appearance. Still, he was the only underage skater for Sweden at the U20 WJC and has the body and speed to pick things up over time.
The fourth round proved to be a doozy with four of the first eight picks hailing from Sweden. Defenseman William Lagesson (picked by HF to go between spots 60-75) was taken 91st by the Edmonton Oilers, followed by goalie Linus Soderstrom who was taken 95th by the New York Islanders. Forwards Lucas Wallmark, taken 97th by the Carolina Hurricanes, and Frederik Olofsson, chosen 98th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks, rounded out the quartet of Swedes chosen early in the fourth round.
The Detroit Red Wings made their annual dip into the Swedish talent pool by taking Christoffer Ehn 106th overall with the Nashville Predators then grabbing overage forward and mega-talent Victor Arvidsson 112th overall. This would have to be considered one of the most interesting picks to keep an eye on because, at 5’9”, NHL teams haven’t been willing to take him into serious consideration up until this draft. But Arvidsson has represented his nation since the U16 level and has become one of the Skelleftea SHL team’s top offensive weapons. This past season, he put up 16 goals and 40 points in 50 games before adding another four goals and 16 points in 14 playoff games, leading his team to the SHL championship. Few players of any age or size can boast that kind of efficiency.
The remaining Swedish picks were as follows:
160 Pontus Sjalin, D – Minnesota Wild
163 David Westlund, D – Arizona Coyotes
165 John Nyberg, F – Dallas Stars
175 Adam Ollas Mattsson, D – Calgary Flames (picked by HF to go between spots 45-60)
181 Victor Olofsson, F – Buffalo Sabres
182 Hugo Fagerblom, G – Florida Panthers
188 Pierre Engvall, F – Toronto Maple Leafs
194 Kevin Elgestal, F – Washington Capitals
196 Axel Holmstrom, F – Detroit Red Wings
198 Jesper Pettersson, D – Philadelphia Flyers
206 Emil Johansson, D – Boston Bruins
For Swedish ice hockey, this draft further attested to its strength and developmental system. Players were taken from all around the country, but a few clubs are proving to be quite the talent factories. One club that can be particularly proud of last month’s draft performance is the Frolunda Indians. Eight of their young players were taken, which comes on top of the fact that they already have one of the youngest SHL clubs, one that recently featured several NHL prospects including Fredrik Bergvik (19, SJS), Sebastian Collberg (20, NYI), Max Gortz (21, NSH), Erik Gustafsson (22, EDM), Andreas Johnson (19, TOR), Erik Karlsson (19, CAR), John Klingberg (21, DAL), Tom Nilsson (20, TOR), Alexander Wennberg (19, CBJ), and Mikael Wikstrand (20, OTT).
The Frolunda organization players taken at the 2014 NHL were:
2nd round (#46) – Julius Bergman, D, San Jose Sharks
3rd round (#87) – Anton Karlsson, RW, Arizona Coyotes
4th round (#91) – William Lagesson, D, Edmonton Oilers
4th round (#106) – Christoffer Ehn, C, Detroit Red Wings
6th round (#165) – John Nyberg, D, Dallas Stars
7th round (#182) – Hugo Fagerblom, G, Florida Panthers
7th round (#188) – Pierre Engvall, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs
7th round (#194) – Kevin Elgestal, RW, Washington Capitals
Of great surprise to some in the community was that Skelleftea defenseman Sebastian Aho didn’t hear his name called by any of the 30 NHL teams. His size is the biggest question at the moment as he only comes in at 5’9” and 170 pounds, but he did have a season to remember, spending 34 games taking a fairly regular shift with SHL champion Skelleftea after having been dominant in the U20 junior circuit. If his development continues in the manner it did this past season, then there’ll be no way of getting around him next summer, when one of Finland’s top ranked youngsters, also named Sebastian Aho, will first be draft-eligible.
Of the 31 players selected out of the Swedish ranks, three were goalies, 12 were defensemen, and 16 were forwards.
AHL = American Hockey League
CSS = Central Scouting Service
SEL = Svensk Elitliga (Swedish Elite League)
SHL = Svensk Hockeyliga (Swedish Hockey League)
Allsvenskan = 2nd highest level of men’s professional hockey in Sweden
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