2015-16 SHL Preview, Pt. 2: Linkoping the best of the middle of the pack

By Chapin Landvogt
Adam Ollas Mattsson and Andreas Englund - Djurgarden Stockholm - Champions Hockey League

Photo: Calgary Flames prospect Adam Ollas Mattsson (L) and Ottawa Senators prospect Andreas Englund (R) will be a part of a Djurgarden defense that includes many players with NHL potential (courtesy of Djurgarden Stockholm/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images)

 

 

In part one of this 2015-16 Swedish Hockey League (SHL) preview, Hockey’s Future looked at the teams ranked 11 thru 14. In part two of this preview, we will now take a look at the teams in the middle of the rankings, in slots 6 thru 10. Part three will look at the top five teams in the SHL.

10. Djurgarden

It is Stockholm’s team and it is one of the most tradition-filled clubs in Sweden. Last season the team made the pre-playoffs after moving up from the Allsvenskan and almost won in the process. It was a huge step considering the team made regular use of so many younger players, many of whom were NHL draft picks. This makes Djurgarden one of the most interesting teams in Europe for fans in North America to take note of.

With that whiff of success having the whole town believing in more, Hans Sarkijarvi has been provided with a few more high profile players to work with and can also start working in a number of top young talents, many of whom will start the season with the junior club – one of Sweden’s best – or an Allsvenskan team. Things are looking bright and many pundits around see this team finishing anywhere from 5th to 10th. The fact is, though, that if their go-to players continue to produce, then there is plenty of depth and young exuberance to have this team competing well into the spring.

What’s good

Every addition is an immediate improvement over what the team lost and generally had. Particularly the return of Norwegian and ex-Flyer/Oiler Patrick Thoresen means the world for a team that just didn’t have that player who could put up a guaranteed 45+ points. The defense continues to be young and beaming with NHL draftees while the goaltending duo of Mikael Tellqvist, who kept this team alive for the first three months of last season, and Lithuanian Mantas Armalis, who models in the offseason, can compete with anyone.

What isn’t

The team needs to continue doing what it did last season and have the new players bolster that trend and work ethic. Should the team forget its identity and try reworking its direction, there is a good chance it will lose its current positive energy. In essence, the team has everything it needs to compete, but needs everyone to do their job and the additions must produce.

Biggest impact player

Patrick Thoresen. With 54 points (17 in the playoffs) in the KHL last season, the former Djurgarden star is still the guy who makes the music. Only 31, it feels like he has been around forever.

Names you’ll recognize

G Mikael Tellqvist, D Daniel Fernholm, F Alexander Fallstrom, F Matt Anderson, F Patrick Thoresen

Current NHL draft picks

G Linus Soderstrom (NYI) is a technically sound and improving WJC goaltender who will be playing at the Allsvenskan level, but is technically the third-stringer for Djurgarden and may see time there this season.

D Andreas Englund (OTT), with a whole SHL season under his belt, is ready for more responsibility, and he will be given just that.

D Robin Press (CHI) posted 17 goals and 37 points from the blueline in the Allsvenskan last season. The 20-year-old was a hot commodity on the SHL market – can that performance translate to the big show?

D Robin Norell (CHI), like Englund, has a full season of SHL hockey under his belt. Unlike Englund, it was already as a top-four defender. He will be a go-to guy this season.

D Adam Ollas Mattsson (CGY) is, at 6’4″ and 216 pounds, a kid folks are just waiting to see mature. With 35 SHL games under his belt from last season, and Daniel Fernholm on the IR to kick things off, he looks primed to be amongst the top six this fall.

F Lukas Vejdemo (MTL) is an incredibly clever and complete all-around forward who the team has kept around to begin the season. Many feel he’d have been even higher than a third round pick last season had he not spent so much time injured. Vejdemo is possibly ready to contribute right off the bat.

F Daniel Bernhardt (NYR) is a talented power forward who will play for Almtuna in the Allsvenskan, but the 6’3″, 192-pound all-arounder is just a few injuries away from the SHL. He led all juniors with 65 points last season.

Best Swede who never had an NHL shot

Defenseman Linus Hultstrom, 22, arrived on the scene in a big way for Leksand last season. With 13 goals and 37 points in 55 games, the right-shooting defender was one of the league’s revelations. Another season like that could help draw some attention from North American scouts.

Best player who was never drafted

Finn Tomi Sallinen is a silky smooth center who makes things happen more often than not. His 24 goals and 42 points last season were a career best.

Older players you may still see in the NHL one day

31-year-old Patrick Thoresen, 26-year-old Tomi Sallinen, and 22-year-old Linus Hultstrom, all touched on above.

Alexander Fallstrom, 25, who is returning to Sweden after many years in North America spent with Shattuck St. Mary’s, Harvard, and in a brief outing in the AHL. The former Minnesota Wild draft pick still hasn’t evolved as an offensive player but plays an intelligent game.

Daniel Brodin, 25, is a former Toronto Maple Leafs pick who has etched out a regular third-line role at the SHL level and often provided offense that showed glimpses of much more capability. Still inconsistent in many aspects, putting it all together would not only be welcome to Djurgarden, but perhaps North America as well.

Former Ottawa Senators draft pick Marcus Sorensen, 23, led the team with 18 goals and 33 points in 52 games last season, but many of those goals were game-changers. In addition, he may be the fastest player in the league and pretty much looks like a future NHL player in waiting.

Nicklas Heinero, 23, is an average-sized winger who ended the season by making things happen for the offensively starved Djurgarden team and has shown that there is a lot more where that came from. Everyone is just waiting for him to explode.

Philip Holm, 23, followed two nice Allsvenskan seasons with a nine point showing in the SHL last season. Far from complete, he has some nice tools and continues to improve. Holm will be top-four this season.

David Rundqvist, 22, looked like a scorer in the Allsvenskan, then had 11 points in the SHL last season while taking on mainly defensive duties. Of average size, he will get more responsibility this season.

Emil Lundberg, 21, has put up 10 and then 17 goals at the Allsvenskan level. He had three points in his 12 SHL games last season, his first experience in the league. Did we mention that he is 6’4″ and 209 pounds?

Scouts are watching closely

Jonathan Davidsson, 18, lined up with Vejdemo and Bernhardt for the junior team, but wasn’t drafted despite a decent U18 World Championship showing. He will now see time in the Allsvenskan and possibly even some time in the SHL.

Prognosis

The additions of Thoresen, Sallinen, Hultstrom, Press and American Matt Anderson bode well for the Stockholm club, seeing as how the team is chock full of youngsters ready to take the next step after somewhat overachieving last season. As long as Tellqvist continues to stop shots and Sorensen continues his offensive ascension, and the extremely young defense chock full of draftees doesn’t crack, then Djurgarden is a shoe-in for at least the pre-playoffs.

9. Malmo

The Malmo Redhawks are back in the show. After too many years in hiatus, the team finally made its way back into the SHL after a number of runs and many disappointments. Already able to call the most modern arena in Sweden their home, the Redhawks are coming from the country’s third largest city and is host to a market that has allowed it to stock up on players nicely, with many feeling that last season’s Allsvenskan club was already SHL-mature.

Not far from Vaxjo, there will be ‘derbies’ involved in the fun and the town has feverishly been getting ready for this season and a future opportunity to be part of the Champions Hockey League. Coach Bjorn Hellkvist has his work cut out for him, but the makings are there for a real big first season back in the SHL.

What’s good

In Oscar Alsenfelt, they have a goalie who knows all about being a wall for a league newcomer and can be almost unbeatable when the team clears rebounds in a sound manner. There is euphoria and several new shiny names in town. On paper, there is a whole lot to be excited about in Malmo and the team has good reason to believe it has what is necessary for a playoff spot. The team’s first line could be as good as any in the league.

What isn’t

A whole lot of players have to prove that they can not only weather SHL play, but also compete on a nightly basis. Many of those coming up do have SHL experience from some point in their careers. In essence, things are fairly uncertain on the third and fourth lines and although the foreigners are pretty big names for the league, the new forwards are coming off 2014-15 seasons to forget. Rebounds are in order.

Biggest impact player

Peter Mueller. The former Arizona Coyotes first round pick continues to possess loads of talent, even if his NHL career seems to be over for now. After a big 2013-14 season for the Kloten Flyers in Switzerland, he slumped terribly last season.

Names you’ll recognize

D Stefan Warg, D Derek Meech, F Kent McDonell, F Joey Tenute, F Andreas Thuresson, F TJ Galiardi, F Peter Mueller, F Eric Himmelfarb

Current NHL draft picks

None

Best Swede who never had an NHL shot

Goalie Oscar Alsenfelt, 28, who has continued to mature as a solid SHL goalie with some ups and downs along the way.

Best player who was never drafted

Defenseman Jens Olsson, the team’s heart and soul and a fairly high-scoring blueliner.

Older players you may still see in the NHL one day

28-year-old Oscar Alsenfelt, along with 27-year-olds Peter Mueller and T.J. Galiardi.

Danish forward Frederik Storm, 26, has been a long-time member of his country’s national team and continues to get better with age. A scorer at the Allsvenskan level, we will see just how good he is at the next level.

Defender Nils Andersson, 23, has had two straight strong offensive seasons in a row in the Allsvenskan and will be expected to continue in that thread this year. He put up 18 goals and 37 points last season.

Scouts are watching closely

Forward Kim Rosdahl, 19, is 6’2” and 187 pounds, and has been spending the preseason giving coach Hellkvist every reason to keep him in the lineup. He hasn’t yet shown a tendency to produce, but did play 19 Allsvenskan games last season.

Prognosis

The team and this city, Sweden’s third largest, belong in this league. Malmo features the most modern arena in Sweden and has picked up some of the top import players of any club in the league. Southern Sweden is as excited as can be, and this team is already built to avoid any time in a qualification round. Even if only the established veterans and SHL players do their thing, the team will likely slip into the pre-playoffs. We feel Malmo will get things rolling at some point and safely wrap up that pre-playoff spot by March.

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