2009 prospects: Simon Bertilsson

By Holly Gunning

In another draft year, when Sweden wasn’t so loaded, more draft pundits might be talking about Simon Bertilsson. But this year, the 6’0, 183 lb defender is sliding just under the radar.

The biggest exposure he got was at the U18 championships in April of this year, playing on the top pairing with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who is expected to go top-10. It would be convenient to assume that the reason Bertilsson and Ekman-Larsson were paired together is because Bertilsson is a stay-at-homer anchoring Ekman-Larsson’s offensive forays. But the truth is that these two have been together so many years on the national team and are such good friends that their pairing is just natural like an old glove. And Bertilsson isn’t a stranger to the offensive zone himself. He scored a point a game in junior this year and could be seen pinching many times at the U18 championships, sometimes all the way to the net.

Bertilsson is a team player though. He said he likes to score on his home team, "but [with the national team] I must take the defense because he’s the offense," referring to Ekman-Larsson.

"He plays very mature," Team Sweden U18 coach Stephan Lundh said of Bertilsson. "He’s played well all season for us and his home team too. He can play every part of the game. But on our team he’s an important stay-at-home defenseman."

Bertilsson was on Brynas’ Eliteserien roster for 21 games, but only played in five of them. The rest he sat on the bench. So he didn’t get much ice time, but said he learned by being there and watching his elders.

"I must think a lot and play easier," he said. "Do it all faster."

In his five games actually played in the SEL, he had one assist. With the junior team, he had 31 points in 30 games, along with 54 penalty minutes. Brynas J20 went on to be SuperElit champions this year. In the U18 championships with Team Sweden, he had one assist and was +5.

Quite a good passer, Bertilsson is also reliable at keeping the puck in the zone. He correctly plays the man and not the puck defensively, and this combined with good decision-making is what makes him so solid at his position. Bertilsson has good size and said he likes to be physical and hit people as well. With no history of any major injuries in his career, he uses his body confidently.

Bertilsson was among the 106 prospects invited to the NHL combine, which confirms that he’s being considered for the top three rounds of the draft. Early in the season he talked to the NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs one-on-one. These teams told him things to work on, specifically that he needed to follow the forwards into the offensive zone more, and to work on getting bigger.

Bertilsson is ranked as the 17th European skater by Central Scouting, right behind Finnish defender Sami Vatanen. ISS has Bertilsson 71st overall, just behind American defender William Wrenn. Comparing against those two defenders underscores what a good blend of skill Bertilsson is, without giving up size.

Having turned 18 in April, and with another year of high school to go, Bertilsson will remain in Sweden for another year at least. He intends in that time to work on his English.

"It’s not good," he laughed.