Season review of Detroit Red Wings Swedish Prospects

By Zoran Manojlovic

Here is a look back at the best Red Wings prospects past season in
Sweden, it includes also a prospect ranking.

1. Henrik Zetterberg

Position: Center
Team: Timra
Born: 1980
Height: 6.0
Weight: 185
Drafted: 8th round in the 1999 draft (210 overall)
Rating: 8 / 10
Last season: 47 games 15 goals 31 assists 46 points 24 pim

This was a breakthrough season for the 20 year old Zetterberg. He had an
outstanding season in the Swedish Elite League, were he put up
impressive numbers. In Timra he played in every possible situation, in
most of the games he played on two lines and averaging about 20-25
minutes pro game. He was also voted as the player of the game most of
the time.

After the first 20 games he had a huge slow-down and registered only 2
points in 7 games. But he finished the season strongly with 7 points in
his last 3 games, and ended up with 46 points in 47 games, not bad for a
rookie.

He also played all year long for the national team (Three Crowns), were
he scored 4 goals and 4 assists in 24 games, including 1 goal and 3
assists in 7 games at the World Championships in Germany, were Sweden
took a bronze medal. He played really well when the coach gave him solid
ice time, he received a award as the player of the game in the first game
of the tournament, but towards the end of the tournament he saw less ice
time, and in the two final games he didn`t play at all, because of a late
arrival of Mats Sundin.

He is one of the best prospects in the world today, and
that he has a very bright future in the NHL. He has great skating
ability, impressive balance and agility. He is almost impossible to
knock of the puck (reminds a lot of Peter Forsberg), he has a fantastic
hockey sense and is very good at both ends of the ice.

A lot of scouts and people has doubts because of his size (6.0 , 185)
but he is still young and growing.

He could make the team next season but he would get limited ice time
which is not good for his development, it`s better for him to get tons
of ice time in Sweden and develop in his own pace.
But I`m sure that he will be in Detroit for the 2002-2003 season.

2. Niklas Kronwall

Position: Defence
Team: Djurgarden
Born: 1981
Height: 6.0
Weight: 180
Drafted: 1st round in the 2000 draft (29 overall)
Rating: 7 / 10
Last season: 31 games 1 goal 9 assists 10 points 32 pim

Kronwall had a solid season in Djurgarden, were he took his second
league championship in two years with the club. This season was crashed
by injuries in both the Elite League and the WJC. He missed 19 games to a
injury in the league and 2 games in the WJC. Even though he had trouble
with injuries he managed to grow a bit, when the season started he was
(5.11, 165) and now he is (6.0, 180).

He played very good offensively and was many times like a 4th forward
on the attacks. He made many terrific end to end rushes with and without
the puck.

Defensively he was average, but sometimes he really looked like a
junior at senior level, making a lot of bad passes, and being out of
position, but still this season was a step forward for the now 20 year
old defenceman. The best sign of that was the award he received as the
best junior player in the country. In the regular season he scored a bit
disappointing 1 goal and 9 assists in 31 games, and in the playoffs he
had only 1 assist in 19 games but he played fairly well even if he was
benched in some of the games.

In the WJC he was the captain of the team. Also here he had
disappointing numbers (1 assist in 5 games), but still he was the best
defenceman on the team.

During the season he also played for the Three Crowns in 7 games he had
1 goal and 1 assist.

Kronwall has also a bright future in the NHL. He is a superb skater,
amazing shot, great playmaker who could be a top two defenceman
in NHL. He is a great pointman on the power play, and solid penalty
killer.

He could play in the AHL as soon as next
season. He could play there for a year or two and then make the move to
NHL.

3. Stefan Liv

Position: Goalie
Team: HV 71
Born: 1980
Height: 6.1
Weight: 180
Drafted: 4th round in the 2000 draft (102 overall)
Rating: 7 / 10
Last season: 46 games, 2.76 GAA, .901 SV%

A great talent who finally made impact. The 20-year-old netminder played
on a bottom team in the Swedish Elite League but still had impressive
numbers, he was ranked 5th in the save percentage with (.901), 6th in
GAA with (2.76), and 4th in shutouts with (3), he also played in most
games of all goalies in the league, (46). He was the MVP on the team, and
almost on his own took the team to the playoffs. During the season he
also got the chance to play for the National Team, and was very good, so
good that he also received a player of the game award in a pre-WC game
against Finland. He would be on the WC roster if it wasn`t for Edmonton
Oilers star, Tommy Salo. But even though he didn`t make the team he got
some important experience for the future.

Liv is a butterfly type of player, who reminds a lot of New York Rangers
star Mike Richter. He has a rapid glove, a very good positioning and
great leadership. The only weakness he has is his stick handling, but
with some training that shouldn`t be a big problem to fix.

He has just signed a two year contract with the HV 71, but the best
thing for him would be if he leaves the Swedish Elite League and starts
playing in the AHL and gets experience of North American hockey. He shows great signs for the future.

4. Par Backer

Position: Center
Team: Bofors
Born: 1982
Height: 6.0
Weight: 180
Drafted: 6th round in the 2000 draft (187 overall)
Rating: 6 / 10
Last season: 41 games 20 goals 15 assists 35 points 47 pim

This was a
outstanding season for this late rounder. He was picked in the 6th round,
187 overall, but showed promising play and played better then Boston
Bruins 1st round 27th overall selection, Martin Samuelsson. He had more
points in the same league (2nd-tier), and in the WJC. He played like a
star in the 2nd-tier league, after a slow but OK start he caught fire
during the playoffs were he noticed 11 goals and 5 assists in only 14
games and was the league leader. He ended the year with (20) goals, (15)
assists and (47) pim, in 41 games. Zetterberg had
20 + 14 in his first 42 games in the same league. Zetterberg was 19
years old and Backer is 18.

He was also a member of the swedish WJC team that was a big surprise and
made the semifinals. He and another Detroit prospect, Jari Tolsa, were
the point leaders. Backer had 3 goals and 1 assist and 4 pim in 7 games.

Backer is a very good all-around player, nice skater, natural goal scorer,
fine playmaker and a responsible defensive checker who plays a little
bit gritty game, he has a nice size (6.0 , 180) and is still growing.

After a impressive season in the 2nd-tier league he has signed a
contract with a top club in the Elite League Farjestad, and will as a 19
year look to make the team and get some points. So far so good.

5. Jari Tolsa

Position: Left Wing
Team: Frolunda
Born: 1981
Height: 6.1
Weight: 183
Drafted: 4th round in the 1999 draft (120 overall)
Ratings: 6 / 10
Last season: 42 games 2 goals 5 assists 7 points 18 pim

Jari Tolsa played on five different teams last season. He played 12
games on the junior team of Frolunda and was absolutely dominating, he
had 6 goals and 10 assists and 12 pim. He was the difference in the
semis and in the final, he scored 2 goals and 4 assists in those two
games.

Then he played 1 game in the 2nd-tier league with Molndal and picked up
2 assists. Then he played 42 games with Frolunda in the Elite League and
noticed 2 goals and 5 assists and 18 pim. He should have had more points
if he got more ice time, which he deserved. Next team for Tolsa was the
Junior national team of Sweden in the WJC, were he made a good
tournament, played good at both ends and scored 1 goal and 3 assists and
2 pim in 7 games.

And at last but not least he also got the chance to play for the
National team Three Crowns. He played 4 pre WC games and did it good.
This was a great moment for the young talented Tolsa.

Jari is a very good and flashy skater, outstanding playmaker, solid
finisher, very responsible defensively (reminds of a young Yannic
Perrault). He has also signed a new contract with Frolunda were he will
look to make some impact and get more ice time since Kristian Huselius
has left the club for NHL.