2016 NHL Draft Preview: Less touted Sweden group still features solid talents led by Asplund

By Chapin Landvogt

Sebastian Aho - Skelleftea AIK - Champions Hockey League

Photo: Skelleftea defenseman and 2016 prospect Sebastian Aho has been passed over in the past two NHL Drafts, but had another strong season playing in the SHL (courtesy of Skelleftea AIK/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images)

 

6. Jacob Cederholm – D – 6’3”, 190 lbs. – HV71 (U20)
CSS Rank European Rank: #16
Jul. 30, 1998

 

Jacob Cederholm is a kid who oozes leadership qualities and likes to keep his teammates accountable while keeping opponents honest, particularly in his own zone. He believes in the mission and keeps everyone else on track. Perhaps one of the strongest and most physically active among defensemen in this draft, it is that combination of roughness and competitiveness that will have a lot of scouts looking at him as a good possibility, maybe even as of the second round. That he is also mobile enough in all four directions to read and react to attacking opponents in a consequent manner has many seeing a future shutdown defenseman in the making.

What one can’t or shouldn’t expect now is offensive production. Despite some sound puck-moving abilities and a readiness to bring pucks to the net from the blueline, Cederholm has generated little offense to date. He had one point for Sweden at the Ivan Hlinka before spending the winter captaining HV71’s U20 squad, for which he generated three goals and seven points in 38 contests. As unimpressive as those numbers may be, the SHL club did deem him ready for nine contests in which he collected a -5, showing that there is still a lot of growth to undergo.

Outlook: There’s a feeling that Cederholm may need a lot of time to garner himself a stay-at-home job in the NHL. He possesses everything you can expect of a shutdown defenseman at some point. Teams will bank on that and grab him somewhere between the 2nd and 4th rounds.

7. Jesper Bratt – F – Shoots: L – 5’10”, 170 lbs. – AIK Stockholm
CSS Rank European Rank: #17
Jul. 30, 1998

 

A kid who has shown himself to be quite an adept skater, Jesper Bratt is dangerous with the puck and shows great offensive awareness. Whether as a puck-carrier or a player darting to an open position, Bratt has those offensive instincts that aren’t necessarily taught. Bratt’s tendency to read plays, both with and without the puck, has stuck out, and a strong first step keeps him ahead of the competition. Able to find the net with aplomb, he unpacks quite a little laser, often without needing much time to get the shot off. He also possesses playmaking skills that have raised a few eyebrows at times.

All this said, Bratt is still a little tyke and needs to add some strength and weight – maybe considerably. It is only natural that a youngster his age and size has had his problems protecting the puck and winning the battles along the boards, especially considering he already spent this winter playing pro hockey. A bit of a disadvantage is that he played with Robin Kovacs, a New York Rangers‘ 2015 mid-rounder, who despite being of similar size was able to have a bigger offensive impact as a 17/18 year old than has Bratt.

After five points in five Ivan Hlinka games, Bratt proceeded to have a very respectable eight goals and 17 points for AIK Stockholm in the Allsvenskan, numbers pretty much the same as Filip Forsberg in the same league in his draft year. However, he then went without a point and had a -3 in 10 league qualification games.

Outlook: Not quite as enticing as friend and linemate Robin Kovacs, but Bratt has a lot of the same elements in his game and had a decent go of it in the pro ranks this season. Look for him to be seen as a good commodity as of pick 120.

8. Lucas Carlsson – D – 6’, 190 lbs. – Brynas (SHL)
CSS Rank European Rank: #15
Jul. 7, 1997

 

Lucas Carlsson is an overager who spent most of the 2014-15 season on the NHL scouting radar. That he wasn’t drafted whatsoever left a few wondering, considering that he got on the scoresheet at both the Ivan Hlinka and U18 tournaments, had a strong U20 season with Brynas and then finished off the 14-15 season with 16 SHL contests.

This snubbing obviously made Carlsson reevaluate what was going on in his career, because he made a much different impression this winter. Of almost below-average size for a defenseman, Carlsson rattled off 11 points, 53 penalty minutes and a +11 rating in 15 U20 league games to kick things off this past season, giving Brynas no choice but to continue giving him a shot at the SHL level. He proceeded to make the most of it for a while, before seeing his game sink a bit – like much of the team – as the season wound down. This didn’t stop him from putting in a top-4 performance in three playoff games, being responsible for two assists and a +5 rating. That came on the tails of four goals, nine points and a -4 in 35 regular season games.

A two-way defenseman by trade, Carlsson likes to join the rush and has shown an above-average ability to get pucks to the net. His skating has improved considerably and is practiced with the air of a young man with confidence. Carlsson enjoys jumping in on the attack and doing his best to keep pucks in along the blueline. He is not yet a defensive monster in his own end, but it is an area he has been paying attention to and showing improvement in. There is still a ways to go in overall assertiveness and his physical game, but he did a lot in showing that he wasn’t too happy with going undrafted last summer.

Outlook: Despite being an overager, Carlsson has a lot of the qualities happily seen in two-way defensemen taken out of Sweden in recent years. In a year chock full of interesting overagers, he will be grabbed at some point in the draft, and don’t be surprised if it is before the end of the third round.

9. Oskar Steen – C/W – 5’9”, 190 lbs. – Farjestad (SHL)
CSS Rank European Rank: #18
Mar. 9, 1998

 

There are roughly a dozen-and-a-half Europeans ranked ahead of Steen right now, but that might not have been the case had Farjestad decided to call him up to the SHL a little bit earlier in the season. As things are, the tiny but very sturdy playmaking forward showed a fine hand for professional play once called up, chipping in six assists and a +8 rating in 17 SHL games. The playoffs proved to be a bit above his head as he simply went -4 in five games, but the fact that the club gave him ice time at this juncture went a long way in pointing out what trust he had earned after 32 points and a +12 in 33 U20 league games.

A hard worker who is absolutely relentless on both the forecheck and back-check, Steen showed he was ready to do whatever was necessary not only to survive, but to contribute as well. Possessing top-flight skating ability and wonderful prowess both in the corners and in traffic, Steen’s size didn’t reduce or slow down his contributions. He just has a nose for the game, and you have to wonder if there isn’t a lot of Viktor Arvidsson in this kid. He possesses instinctual offensive instincts and the readiness to be a responsible player in all three zones. He ended his season with a silver medal at the 2016 U18 World Championship, contributing three points and a -1 in seven games, usually on the line given the task of shutting down the opposition’s top players.

Outlook: There is a point in time at a draft where GMs stop worrying about size and just start grabbing kids with heart, a strong work ethic, and skills. Impressive SHL play at this age will likely mean Steen is gone by the fifth round.

10. David Bernhardt – D – 6’3” – 203 lbs. – Djurgarden (U20)
CSS Rank European Rank: #39
Dec. 1, 1997

 

This is where Hockey’s Future is going off the board to guesstimate that a couple of clubs have intensely placed their eyes on this offensive wonder from good hockey bloodlines who just did some real good things at the junior level this past winter.

Above-average in just about everything you want to see from an offensive defenseman, David Bernhardt is nice and tall with a frame ready for another 15-20 pounds. If you love defensemen who can hammer one-timers while also crafting tricky slap-passes, then Bernhardt is a kid you are going to enjoy seeing along a blueline. A power play quarterback, Bernhardt has great puck-moving ability and uses it in all three zones. He is basically a kid who has proven all that he needs to at the U20 level, where he had 13 goals, 44 points, and a +14 in 52 games.

What scouts didn’t get to see was any form of testing his mettle at the pro level. Djurgarden never called him up this season, and he has not once represented Sweden in international play. His defensive game is one that was sufficient enough in juniors, but will surely need practice and development at the pro level and even in juniors, he hasn’t proven to be too happy with being pressured physically or by forwards skating aggressively. What is clear is simply that the scouting world will know what his skillset is, and that a lot of the deficiencies are coachable.

Outlook: His brother Daniel was taken last summer and just finished the season as a Memorial Cup winner, even if he was only a minor contributor. A tick bigger and already as offensively-oriented in Sweden as his brother was despite being a defenseman, chances are very good that a team will take a flyer on Bernhardt before the weekend is over, and likely even ahead of kids like Linus Lindstrom (CSS rank #10) and Mathias From (CSS rank #26).

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