Rising Star: A Look at Joel Lundqvist

By Geoffrey Ussery

Way back in 2000, the Dallas Stars selected from Frolünda in Sweden center Joel Lundqvist with the 68th overall pick in the third round of the Entry Draft. That year, Lundqvist had performed quietly well for Frolünda’s 18-and-under Junior team collecting 2 goals and 4 assists in 4 games. Even so, Lundqvist spent most of his year with Frolünda’s 20-and-under Junior team, where he did not generate the same level of hype — posting a more moderate 9 goals and 15 assists in 34 games. Despite this, Lundqvist’s stock was raised a little before the draft by his performance at the Under-18 World Junior Championships, where he tallied 3 goals and an assist in 6 games. Lundqvist was dubbed a “sleeper pick” from the draft as scouts still believed he had good work ethic with a great deal of potential offensive upside, but he was a considerable development project.

In the following year, the Stars decision began to look a little wiser as Lundqvist began to quietly grow his reputation and develop as a player. Spending the 2000-2001 season with the 20-and-under Junior team of Frolünda, he played very well putting up 4 goals and 10 assists in just 9 games (a definite improvement over the year before). His excellent play earned him a promotion to Mölndal of the second-tier league in Sweden. Even though the level of play was higher, Lundqvist had little trouble adjusting potting 5 goals and an assist in his 6 games there. Lundqvist’s superb play had not gone unnoticed as he was called up to finish the season with Frolünda. .

Because of his nice progression during the year before, a little more was expected of Lundqvist during this year, the 2001-2002 season. From the drop of the puck, Lundqvist earned himself a more significant role on the team, and he played very well for a rookie in the Swedish Elite League. In fact, Lundqvist collected 12 goals and 14 assists in 46 games, good enough to finish second in rookie scoring behind former NHLer Nils Eckman. Despite the seeming inconsistency in his offensive numbers, Lundqvist gave the same effort night in and night out for the entire season, earning him a great deal of respect in Sweden. And in Frolünda’s 10 game playoff run, Lundqvist managed to record a goal and 3 assists, a little less than the production expected from his regular season numbers. During the season, Lundqvist was selected to represent Sweden at the Under-21 World Junior Championships along with Stars prospect Yared Hagos. In the seven games at the tournament, Lundqvist posted a goal and an assist.

As he has progressed, it has become more apparent why Lundqvist was viewed as a sleeper pick at the 2000 Entry Draft. As it stands now, Lundqvist’s biggest asset is his mental game; he is an extremely mature player with an exceptionally good attitude who plays, works, and trains hard. Lundqvist also reads the game well, making Lundqvist a player who makes intelligent, responsible plays. At the time of the draft, Lundqvist was not a very large player, but he still did not shy away from the physical part of the game. Since the draft however, Lundqvist has grown two inches and has added 15 pounds, so he is now a well-proportioned 6’1”, 195-pound player. In the offensive zone, Lundqvist is an effective player as he is a strong fore checker who drives hard to the net. At present, Lundqvist has a nice skill set, possessing a good shot, nice vision on the ice, and crisp, accurate passing. While not dazzling, Lundqvist’s stickhandling is certainly above average. Physically, Lundqvist could stand to add a little more muscle to his frame (though so could most players his age). With about ten more pounds of muscle, he may be able to become an even more dynamic player than he is now. Lundqvist also possesses a nice skating stride with good speed, balance, and maneuverability. There are no glaring weaknesses to Lundqvist’s game, but his skills are still raw and need to be developed for him to be able to make the jump to the next level. If Lundqvist continues to develop his offensive skills however, look no further than Florida Panthers’ forward Kristian Huselius as an example of Lundqvist’s offensive potential in the NHL.

Many times, Lundqvist has been referred to a more physical version of Huselius, yet while similar, there are some differences to their games. Huselius tends to avoid physical play to a degree while Lundqvist enjoys playing a physical, gritty game. Huselius also seems to possess more natural offensive ability than Lundqvist, who still has good hands, but Lundqvist’s hard-nosed, hard-working, straight to the net play may be able to compensate this difference in abilities.

While Lundqvist has developed considerably since his draft year, he is still a very raw talent with a lot of untapped potential. To jump to the top, he needs to refine his skills, especially his shooting. Should he be able to improve his offense, Lundqvist could become a very good NHLer in the future, at least a solid second line player. Even were he to not improve much, he could still become an effective third liner with some offensive pop. He is still at least a year away from being a potential NHLer, but more realistically, it will probably be a few more years until he comes to North America. With continued development, Lundqvist could soon be a Dallas Star.

Note: A good deal of thanks for this article goes to Johan Nilsson, editor of Elite Prospects (http://www.eliteprospects.com), a very useful and informative website about the Swedish Elite League and its prospects. His help was invaluable in getting the information about Lundqvist, which, of course, this article could not exist without. Thank you very much, Mr. Nilsson!