Forsling, Hansson the top defensive NHL properties competing in Sweden in 2015-16

By Chapin Landvogt

Mikael Wikstrand - Farjestad Karlstad - Champions Hockey League

Photo: Farjestad defenseman and Ottawa Senators prospect Mikael Wikstrand totaled 12 points in 22 games for Farjestad in the 2015-16 season (courtesy of Faerjestad Karlstad/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images)

 

9. Mikael Wikstrand – 2012 6th round, Ottawa Senators

The 6’2”, 195-pound Mikael Wikstrand is already signed by the Ottawa Senators and has been on loan to SHL clubs for two successive seasons. 22 years of age, he already has 107 SHL games under his belt and is seen as an offensive defenseman when all is said and done. His 2015-16 season was hampered by injuries, but his production was where it needed to be, having finished with a goal, 12 points and a +3 rating in 22 total games. This had Wikstrand ahead of his pace in the previous season (25 points and a +1 in 57 games). He is now scheduled to start his North American career with the Binghamton Senators of the AHL next season, unless he impresses in the NHL camp.

10. Marcus Pettersson – 2014 2nd round, Anaheim Ducks

The incredibly tall, 6’4” Marcus Pettersson has yet to put on the kind of weight that many picture his frame being in need of, but as long as it comes within the next three years, all will be fine. His season has been an average one with slow progression. Surely, the fact that Pettersson spent all season at the SHL level with the league’s top club and was part of the WJC squad that finished fourth after being the tournament’s top squad in the preliminary round does speak of a very good year for a player Anaheim has no reason to rush. Still fine-tuning much of his game, the most promising statistic has been Pettersson’s +17 rating in 46 regular season games. This came with 10 penalty minutes and seven points, two of which were goals. His role was limited in the playoffs, where he only suited up for eight contests and put up a -3 rating. Upon conclusion of the season, Pettersson headed over to San Diego of the AHL on a PTO.

Honorable mention

Like Skelleftea teammate Pettersson, Colorado’s Anton Lindholm just wrapped up the postseason in the SHL final with Skelleftea, for which he suited up for 16 contests (+6). He has also been named to Sweden’s preliminary team for the upcoming IIHF World Championship in Russia. There was much more support last season, in which he had 12 points and a +22 rating, but he has dealt with being in and out of the lineup on a team that finished first with a ton of youth on the blueline. He has only collected four assists this season in 38 total games.

Also still at it in the playoffs is Slovakia’s WJC captain Christian Jaros, an Ottawa Senators fifth rounder, who spent most of the season with Asploven in the Allsvenskan. There, the burly defenseman had five points and 53 penalty minutes in 22 games. However, he obviously learned quite a bit there, as he also suited up for Lulea 33 times, contributing eight assists, 65 penalty minutes and a +9 rating.

It was a tough year for Adam Ollas Mattsson, who started off very solidly, even making the WJC squad, before getting injured in Sweden’s fifth game of the tournament. It was just about a lost season after that, spent primarily recovering from the setback. A Calgary Flames prospect, the 6’4”, 210-pound defensive beast chipped in four points and a +3 rating in 23 SHL games as well as two points and a +3 rating at the WJC. Aside from the injury, Mattsson is actually ahead of course and it shouldn’t be a surprise if he is playing in the AHL next season.

As for Toronto Maple Leafs‘ 2015 fourth rounder Jesper Lindgren, whose style reminds many of Erik Karlsson, the season saw him put up three points and a -8 rating for a disappointing MODO in 26 contests, but this wasn’t necessarily the progress that was expected of the offensive defenseman. He still managed 14 points in 22 games at the U20 level as well as a pair of assists for Bjorkloven in four Allsvenskan contests, but Lindgren will have to pick up things considerably next season in order to come into more serious consideration for the future.

After strong offensive numbers in the Allsvenskan, the last pick of the 2013 draft, Robin Press (CHI), had a tough first season in the SHL where he simply couldn’t get things going. When the dust cleared, his three points and -9 rating in 58 games were anything but promising. He clearly still has much to learn. Looking more promising was the season of Minnesota’s 2014 sixth rounder Pontus Sjalin, who unexpectedly managed to get into 25 games of action with Lulea (0 points, -2 rating) and finished the season off with Asploven in the Allsvenskan, where he received important minutes and impressed with five points in 31 games, albeit while sporting a -7 rating. The season was nonetheless telling for both Press and Sjalin.

Each of David Westlund (ARI), Wilhelm Westlund (COL), and John Nyberg (DAL) took valuable steps in their development, although David Westlund’s promising season with Karlskrona was cut short by injury. He managed one goal in nine games. Wilhelm, however, got into 11 games of action with Djurgarden in the SHL, but spent most of the season playing a top-four role for Vita Hasten in the Allsvenskan, collecting 14 points and just a -1 rating in what was a big year of growth. Nyberg is another Frolunda product and got into six games with the big club. He spent most of the season getting regular minutes for Oskarshamn of the Allsvenskan, collecting nine points and 36 penalty minutes in 51 games. For those wondering, David and Wilhelm are not related.

Follow Chapin Landvogt on Twitter via @Csomichapin

 

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