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

By Chapin Landvogt

Linus Weissbach - Team Sweden

Photo: Frolunda forward and 2016 prospect Linus Weissbach has competed for Sweden internationally, including the World U17 Hockey Challenge and last year’s Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament (courtesy of Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)

 

Honorable Mentions

Some would say he is definitely among Sweden’s top 10 draft-eligible players, but even if not, mid-sized Linus Lindstrom turned some heads this winter with very solid three-zone play and a nifty ability to find his teammates with solid passes. Still lacking overall toughness and the speed usually looked for in a player his size (only 170 pounds), the two-way forward with the type of intelligence you want from a center put up 19 goals and 54 points in 46 junior circuit games for Skelleftea and also popped in a goal in four SHL games. A mainstay with the nation’s U18 squad all season long, Lindstrom had a decent four-point showing in seven U18 World Championship games, taking on primarily defensive duties. There is a very good chances he is gone by the end of the fourth round.

Likewise, tiny tot Linus Weissbach, who had two points at the Ivan Hlinka tournament and 50 points in 47 U20 league games for Frolunda, may have tickled the fancy of several teams, as he is a pleasure to watch and very creative on the ice.

Another player who has had scouts licking their chops is Mathias From, a Danish forward six foot in size, but lacking thickness and muscle to date. His feisty play at the WJC put him on the map and, despite a world of deficiencies in his overall game, his flair for the dramatic and constant creation of offensive opportunities will have some teams thinking he has some tools that simply can’t be taught. Despite a below-average 25 points in 43 junior circuit games for Rogle, he was tested at the SHL level, putting up two goals and four points in 16 games.

A player who is a bit of a combination of the two aforementioned honorable mentions, winger Tim Wahlgren of the MODO program, is a 6-foot, 180-pound whirlwind who does nothing really spectacular, but everything well. He has the look of a player who may one day end up being a very serviceable lower-line NHL forward and will likely play with MODO in the Allsvenskan next season after seeing 10 games of SHL play (two points) this past season. Six goals at the U18 showed that he can find the net, and his 45 points – and 59 penalty minutes – in 41 U20 circuit games in Sweden were above average.

Two other defensemen seem to be in the notebooks of scouts, and there is a lot to like about both. Kristian Rubins is a 6’4”, 214 pound Latvian who has represented his nation as a top-four defenseman at both the U20 and U18 levels. Three seasons in Sweden culminated in four Allsvenskan showings for Vasteras, although this was an overall disappointing season. At the U20 level, Rubins had 11 points in 21 games and was subject to a couple of nagging injuries. He was on the map at the beginning of the season, but may have to wait for a big 2016-17 season before he hears his name called at a draft.

Similarly, defensive defenseman Hugo Danielsson is 6’3”and is seen by some as a very safe project who already knows how to play responsibly. Not afraid of rough stuff, Danielsson collected two assists and 43 penalty minutes in helping Sweden gain a silver medal at the U18 tournament in April. With only four points in 47 U20 league games in Sweden, also with Skelleftea, Danielsson no doubt tickles the fancy of teams who see a nasty defensive beast who surely is a good five seasons away from being of NHL consideration. It is thought he will be given every opportunity to gain a third-pairing job for Skelleftea in the SHL next season.

The 6’5”, 195-pound Filip Lestan is from Slovakia, and he is not a likely pick this go-around either, but he did play for Slovakia at the U20 and got in 11 games of action with HV71 at the SHL level. With only seven points in 25 U20 league games, it is his 135 penalty minutes that really jump out. With a reputation of seeking rough stuff on the ice instead of the puck or the goal, there could be a team here or there looking for a ruffian who actually skates quite well for a player his size. There is plenty of room on Lestan’s frame for more weight.

Also well documented in the scouts’ notebooks are the names Linus Nassen (6-foot defenseman who played in 10 games with Lulea of the SHL), forward Oskar Stal Lyrenas, defenseman Nicklas Sjolund, and center Fredrik Karlstrom.

Going overage

There may be a real glut of overage Swedish defensemen taken in this draft. In addition to the aforementioned Carlsson, two other defenders of note could, and perhaps should, be taken this time around. The first of note is Sebastian Aho, who will be eligible for the third time. To date, the absolute only thing working against this extremely intelligent and wonderfully talented puck-distributor is his size. Some obviously just don’t see him as NHL-sturdy material, and at a small, almost frail 5’10” and 175 pounds, there is reason to understand that. But he has spent three years not only surviving, but also excelling in the SHL, having been part of three Skelleftea teams that have made the SHL finals, even having won one championship. This clever-as-can-be all-arounder put up a career-high of six goals, 23 points, and a +10 rating in 55 total games. Whether drafted this year or not, he should be part of an NHL team sooner rather than later.

Right behind him is Filip Berglund, a 6’3”, 209-pound monster who just exploded in Swedish juniors, ironically for the same Skelleftea program that Aho plays for. With 20 goals, 45 points, and a +13 rating, he very much arrived on the scene in a big way and even gathered a +2 rating in seven SHL matches, two of which were in the playoffs. Still lacking in footspeed areas and with his overall assertiveness, Bergland has a lot of tools and is destined for a solid pro career. An NHL team will likely look to steer it towards North America as soon as next fall.

Up front, Jonathan Davidsson is the name to watch. His brother Marcus is being looked at as a possible first rounder for the 2017 draft, but Jonathan will look to go as an overager this year after having seen 12 games of SHL duty and nine of Allsvenskan, going scoreless in the process. But while playing U20 hockey, the playmaker put up 13 goals and 46 points in 34 total games, adding a +20 in the process. Just 5’11” and 185 pounds, scouts are wary about his ability to produce at the next level.

On the goaltending side, there are some in Europe who feel 6’1”, 200-pound overager Daniel Marmenlind of Orebro is among the top three goaltending possibilities in Europe for this draft. Playing for five stations this season, the bulk of his action was in Sweden’s top junior circuit, where he collected a 2.93 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. Despite being on the scouts’ map for several years now, some agencies don’t even have him ranked for this draft. In light of his full winter and the penchant NHL teams show in taking Swedish goaltenders, there should be little surprise if he is taken in a later round.

Lastly, two Leksand overagers are of note. Danish defenseman Mathias Lassen spent the whole season playing a top-five role with the promoted Leksand team, putting up 11 points in 55 games and gaining some notice with his mature, heady all-around game. In the meantime, Filip Forsberg’s brother Fredrik Forsberg was on his way to a fine season with 11 points in 21 games before getting injured and missing the rest of the campaign. Both are expected to start next season in the SHL.

Follow Chapin Landvogt on Twitter via @Csomichapin

 

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