Mattias Tedenby, LW, 20, HV71 (SEL)
Acquired: 1st round, 25th overall, 2008 NHL Draft
Tedenby is by far and away the most dynamic and exhilarating prospect the Devils currently have in their system. After a bit of a slow start, Tedenby caught fire and rode a scorching second-half scoring binge en route to posting career best numbers for HV71 in the Swedish Elite League. Despite limited ice time, Tedenby managed to score 12 goals (many of which were of the highlight reel variety) and seven assists in 44 games, to go along with 30 PIM’s and a +7 rating. HV71 recently advanced to the semi-final round of the SEL playoffs after taking out Timra in the best of five series 3-1, a series in which Tedenby scored a goal and an assist. He also performed well for the bronze medal winning Swedish 2009-10 World Junior team, scoring three goals and three assists in just five games.
Tedenby offers an elite package of speed, stickhandling, and spectacular overall offensive skills that help him overcome his relatively small stature. For a player who only stands at 5’9, he also plays an intense and competitive game night in and night out, not shying away from physical play, and in fact often initiates it. While he won’t be counted on to be a defensive player at the next level, he still must improve his play away from the puck along with bulking up.
With an out clause of his contract with HV71 at the end of the SEL season, the Devils will likely try to sign Tedenby and bring him to North America to play in the AHL. This will help him hone his skills, get him adapted to the smaller ice surface and further improve his development as a prospect. He is a top-six sniper in the making, and is perhaps only two years away from reaching New Jersey.
Jacob Josefson, C, 18, Djurgardens (SEL)
Acquired: 1st round, 20th overall, 2009 NHL Draft
If not for the presence of Tedenby, Josefson, another silky-smooth Swedish prospect, would have no doubt earned the top spot in the Devils top 20 prospect rankings. While he may not be as exciting a player as Tedenby, he is an elite prospect in his own right.
Josefson took another impressive step forward in his development with Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite League, and for an 18-year-old, he is mature beyond his years. In his second full season in the SEL, he put up very strong numbers for a player of his age in one of the top leagues in the world. In 43 games, he produced eight goals and 12 assists to go along 20 PIM’s and a respectable +7 rating. He spent a good chunk of the season playing with another talented youngster in Markus Kruger (CHI), and also played with him for Team Sweden at the World Juniors, where he put up three goals and three assists in six games. Djurgardens just advanced to the second round of the SEL playoffs, after beating Brynas in a best-of-five series three games to one. Josefson contributed one assist in those five games.
While he won’t wow you or lift you out of your seat with a flashy or spectacular play, Josefson plays a quiet, steady, smart two-way game, and he excels at the defensive end of the rink. He has sublime playmaking skills and plays the game just the way the Devils like it to be played. He shows good creativity with the puck on his stick and is a slick playmaker. While Josefson has a good shot, he needs to learn to use it more often and become more selfish with the puck. He does not shy away from the physical aspect of the game, but he needs to continue to get stronger, and as he does, he will become even more effective in that aspect of his game.
After this season, Josefson will have already had two full years of development in the SEL at only the age of 19. While it definitely wouldn’t hurt for him to spend another season in Sweden, he may actually be mature enough to come to North America an turn pro and play in the AHL next year. Josefson’s all-around game will be a perfect fit in New Jersey once he’s ready for the jump, and eventually he should settle into the role of a top-two center.
Vili Sopanen, RW, 22, Lahti Pelicans (SM-Liiga)
Acquired: 6th round, 177th overall, 2007 NHL Draft
Not as well known or as highly touted as other prospects in the system, Sopanen has an intriguing blend of skills that he has put on display for the Pelicans in the SM-Liiga over the course of the past three seasons. He got off to a slow start offensively for the cellar-dwelling Pelicans, but finished strong and ended up with some career-best numbers. He finished second in goals on the team with 21 and tied for second in points with 37 in 52 games. While those were impressive numbers, more was expected of Sopanen in his third season in the SM-Liiga, as the team had hoped he would raise his game from that of a promising youngster to that of a more elite, core type of player. However, the poor play of the Pelicans did have somewhat of a negative impact on his season.
Standing at 6’3 and just a shade under 200 lbs, Sopanen has tremendous physical attributes. He a decent skater for his size and has good hands and finishing ability as evidenced by his goal-scoring ability he’s shown over his time with the Pelicans. However, there are a handful of things he must work on to become a better and more complete player. When he’s on his game, he is a very impressive and dangerous offensive player, but he wasn’t able to put together a consistent effort each game. Sub-par defensive play also often put him in the coaches’ doghouse.
If Sopanen can keep up the scoring touch he showed during the latter part of this season, plus improve his play without the puck, he can become a valuable scoring winger. However, he has reached the end of the promising young player path. He has the tools of becoming a scoring threat with average defensive abilities, but he often floats, doesn’t get involved physically and tries to be too fancy with the puck.
Sopanen’s career appears to have hit a crossroads. There is no denying the offensive talents he has, but it’s up to him to show a commitment to become more dedicated and become a more well-rounded player. Perhaps a change of scenery is what Sopanen needs and he may just get it. It is rumoured that he is set to move to Jyp Jyvaskyla, where he would get to play under Risto Dufva, a tough and demanding coach who might be able to get the best out of Sopanen. Time will tell, but the 22-year-old still has potential to turn into a scoring winger in the future.