Not since the early 1990′s have the Detroit Red Wings had a top offensive prospect in their system. With Fedorov, Shanahan, Yzerman, and Larionov all over the age of 30, the only young offensive star on the team is Slava Kozlov. And until the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, the Red Wings had no legitimate offensive prospects in their system, which has been cluttered with big defenseman and role playing forwards.
However, with their selection of Timra’s Henrik Zetterberg at 210th overall in the 1999 draft, the Red Wings appear to be doing their homework. This season, Zetterberg has emerged as one of Sweden’s brightest young offensive stars.
Known as “Z” to Timra followers, Zetterberg was not highly ranked entering the 1999 draft, and his low selection was partly due to his size. At 5’11″ and 180 lbs., many now feel Zetterberg’s size is no longer a concern. The young prospect has tremendous balance and agility, which makes him very difficult to knock off the puck. Zetterberg’s straight ahead speed is only slightly above average, but he possesses great quickness and is very shifty with the puck. He is an intelligent offensive player with good instincts and playmaking ability. Zetterberg also has great hands, and his wrist shot has improved tremendously since his draft year. He plays a spirited game, working very hard, and he is alert defensively. Zetterberg plays a comparable game to current Red Wing Slava Kozlov.
Zetterberg is not the first offensive star to come out of Timra. Mats Naslund, a scoring star for the Montreal Canadiens in the 1980′s, also hails from the Swedish city. Naslund, a former NHL all-star, was a phenomenal offensive force, leading the Habs in scoring four times. Naslund played hockey as a youngster in Timra before moving to the Elite League with Brynas IF at the age of 19. Following his first season in the Elite League, Naslund was drafted by the Habs at the age of 20.
Zetterberg’s size is the primary concern. Nevertheless, it can’t be overlooked that Naslund was a mere 5’7″ and only 160 lbs playing for the Habs, twenty pounds lighter and four inches shorter then “Z”. Zetterberg is still young, and at 19, he is still growing.
A more recent product of Timra is Tampa Bay Lightning winger Fredrik Modin. Modin has established himself as a solid top nine forward with the Lightning this season, and at 25, may still develop into a 30 goal scorer. Zetterberg’s career has followed a similar path to Modin’s. At 18, Modin scored 5 goals and 12 points in 30 games with Timra, and at the same age, Zetterberg notched 13 goals and 25 points in only 24 games.
At 19, Modin scored 16 goals and 31 points in 30 games, and was drafted by the Maple Leafs. Already drafted by the Red Wings, Zetterberg has recorded 15 goals and 23 points in 28 games as a 19 year old, establishing himself as one of the top offensive players in Sweden’s second division.
However, this is not to compare the two players in style. Zetterberg is more then five inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter then Modin. Zetterberg is a skilled and dynamic offensive player; Modin is a grinding power forward.
Both Naslund and Modin moved to Brynas IF of the Swedish Elite League after leaving Timra. The same club attempted to coax Zetterberg to join them following his 98/99 season in Timra. However, military obligations kept Zetterberg with Timra in Sweden’s second division. Even throughout this season, Elite league teams have been trying to sign the young center. Timra is a top candidate to join the Elite league in 2000, and if so, Zetterberg will remain in Timra. Otherwise, Zetterberg will be signed in a heartbeat by another Elite league team, possibly Brynas.
Seen as one of the best young offensive talents in Sweden, Zetterberg sits in the shadow of the Sedin twins. Some Timra observers feel Zetterberg is not far behind. Daniel and Henrik Sedin were the top two rated Europeans by CSB going into the 1999 draft, 40 positions ahead of Zetterberg. The gap is no longer that large.
Led by the twins, Sweden is considered the favourite entering the 2000 World Junior Hockey Championship, and Zetterberg will play a crucial role. Although in the shadow of the Sedin twins, Zetterberg will key the attack on Sweden’s second line. His contribution is crucial given the tight checking the Sedin’s are bound to face.
Moving into the next millenium, it has become increasingly apparent that the aging Red Wings need a new young offensive star. In Henrik Zetterberg, they may have struck gold.