If we take a look at the very best prospects coming out from Sweden right now
most of them are goalies or forwards. There are however some really gifted defensemen
in Sweden and I have therefore compiled a ranking of the top 5 defensemen in
the elite league this season. All of them have been more or less regulars on their
teams and they are all expected at one point play in the NHL.
The ranking is based on talent/potential as well as achievements this season.
1) Niklas Kronwall
Drafted by: 1/2000 (29th overall) by Detroit
Kronwall started the season kind of slow with Djurgården and people were
starting to call Red Wings first rounder a bust. But around Christmas Kronwall’s
game took a dramatic change and he started to produce those points that were
expected from him as well as displaying a flawless two-way game.
Kronwall’s game improved even more in the playoffs as he was possibly
Djurgården’s best player. Djurgården have been eliminated
now but the season is not over for Niklas. He has a very good shot at making
the Swedish WC-team that will be competing in Finland.
Kronwall’s strong play at both ends and excellent timing in his hits will
come much in handy.
NHL future: It’s believed that the Detroit Red Wings will sign at least
one of their Swedish prospects this summer. Kronwall is likely the one with
the best go at it and do not be surprised if you see him in a Detroit jersey
in the beginning of October.
2) Pierre Hedin
Drafted by: 9/1999 (239 overall) by Toronto
MoDo’s QB-defenseman has despite some minor injuries continued his development
this season. Hedin increased his point production and finished at 6th place
among defensemen with very respectable 22 points in 46 games.
Hedin is recognized for his fine offensive game and he enjoys moving the puck
into the offensive zone. He has a good release and is a very excellent defenseman
to have on the power play.
Just like Niklas Kronwall Hedin has a chance at earning a roster spot with team
Sweden in the World Championships, although the competition is hard.
NHL future: Hedin is not a kid any longer and should be able to grab a spot
with the Maple Leafs next season. The only question is how anxious he is to
get there. He seems to enjoy playing with MoDo in the elite league.
3) Tobias Enström
Drafted by: 2003 eligible
MoDo’s rookie sensation Tobias Enström has come from nowhere and
stunned everyone with his mature and very impressive play during his first season
in the SEL. Enström, who is not a big defenseman, is a fine skater and
a very smart defenseman. He sees openings that most players are not able to
see and that is also what makes him so special.
Expect this young defenseman to continue his progress next season and establish
himself as a top elite league defenseman.
NHL future: Enström is not yet drafted but some team will likely have
picked him after the third round of this year’s NHL Entry Draft. It is
to be expected for Enström to remain in Sweden for at least two more seasons.
4) Andreas Holmqvist
Drafted by: 2/2001 (61st overall) by Tampa Bay
A very underrated defenseman who has received very little attention this season,
playing with Linköping the team that ended at last place in the SEL. Holmqvist
belongs to the Tampa Bay Lightning and they are very high on their big offensive
This season was his first on the highest level of hockey in Sweden and he did
a good job scoring 13 points in 43 games. With an accurate shot and a fine passing
game Holmqvist will see some serious ice-time on the power play in the future.
If Holmqvist’s team that is currently competing in the promotion/relegation
rounds will not get relegated from the elite league we can expect him to score
around 20+ points next season as well as earning a spot with team Sweden.
NHL future: He is not NHL-ready yet and I think another year in Sweden is crucial
for his progress. Holmqvist will not remain in Sweden for a long time though
5) Lars Jonsson
Drafted by: 1/2000 (7th overall) by Boston
What is Lars doing here you are likely asking yourselves? Well, despite an awful
start and getting sent down to the 2nd-tier league, Jonsson bounced back at
the end of the season and played perhaps the best hockey of his life. He finally
became a regular with Leksand and while he didn’t produce any points we
all saw the great potential in him again.
Was this a turning point for Jonsson? I think so…
If this ranking was based purely on potential I would have ranked him first
but since he is still awaiting that big breakthrough he will comfortably have
to settle at being ranked fifth.
NHL future: Rumours where placing Lars with the Providence Bruins a while ago.
Some of you remember the Boston Bruins signing Martin Samuelsson last year in
order to get him adapted to the North American game. Lars will most certainly
remain with Leksand given that he just the other day extended his contract.
If everything goes according to plan for Lars he might already move over the
big ocean after next season, although it is perhaps more realistic that it will
take an additional season.
Honourable mentions: Adam Andersson, Staffan Kronwall, Pär