Director of Amateur Scouting Jarmo Kekalainen has put his print on the St. Louis Blues drafting over the last couple of seasons. Kekalainen joined the Blues in September of 2002 and now is in his first season as the assistant general manager as well as coordinating the amateur scouting.
Having also signed a new European chief scout three seasons ago in Ville Siren has made the Blues very Euro-influenced. With two Europeans as high positioned people in the drafting chain, the Blues look for talent in Europe more than other teams.
In the 2002 draft, they chose five Europeans out of their 12 selections. The year after they ended up with six Europeans in a total eight picks, including the first three selections. In the last year’s draft, in which teams avoided Europeans due to the new CBA rules, they ended up with only one, Russian Nikolai Lemtyugov.
In this article we will take a look at the four Blues Swedish prospects’ development in the 2005-06 season.
Carl Söderberg, C, Malmö (SWE-2)
Söderberg has been underrated for quite some time and he still doesn’t get the international attention that he deserves. He is among the very best prospects in Sweden and probably the whole of Europe.
This season he has taken on a heavy load with Malmö as they fight their way back to the top league in Sweden. He has been centering the top line which also consists of two veteran stars, in Juha Rihijärrvi and David Moravec.
They have combined for a deadly line that is the second best producing line in the league. Söderberg has played a big role and is getting heavy minutes in all kinds of situations. He is the top center on the team and is playing like one as well.
Söderberg is a very solid two-way player who has good size and strong offensive instincts. He is a good skater with a fluid and powerful stride. Although he lacks top-notch footspeed, he still manages to out-skate his opponents and thereby win battles in the corners. This season he has improved his intensity and footspeed and is now even stronger in one-on-one battles.
Although solid in all departments, his hockey sense is a notch better. He sees the ice very well and seems to always find the tape of his linemates. He uses his hockey sense not only to create offense, but also to take care of his defensive responsibilities as a center.
Söderberg will probably play another year in Sweden before moving across the pond for a shot at the Blues lineup. He projects as a second line center or left winger.
David Fredriksson, LW, HV-71 (SWE)
Having been selected in the seventh round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Fredriksson knew that his way to the NHL would be a long and hard one. This season has been a small step in the right direction for the big winger, who has found a place on the third and fourth lines of the regular season champions HV-71.
Fredriksson has had a solid year with HV-71 in Elitserien. Although not being a regular yet, he has put up five goals and nine points in limited action through 37 games. He has improved his skating and work ethic and is now a more frequent physical presence.
Fredriksson has great size at 6’3, 220 Ibs and is now a solid skater as well. He has a quick first stride and is well balanced. He also possesses good top speed and is very agile with his big size. His second best attribute is his heavy wrister that he likes to unleash quickly and often.
He has a scorer’s mentality and is good around the net. This season he has also spent four games with the junior team, but that hasn’t proved to be very stiff competition as he has scored six goals in those games.
In order to take his game to the next level, he has to use his big body more effectively as he has the ability to run over every player in the league. His puckhandling skills aren’t overwhelming either, as he tends to lose the control of the puck at high speed.
Fredriksson is going slowly in the right direction and he might need another season in Elitserien before coming over for some serious seasoning in the AHL. He’ll need at least two years of AHL games under his belt before being able to compete for a third or fourth line role as a checker.
Robin Jonsson, D, Färjestad (SWE)
Jonsson was drafted back in the fourth round of the 2002 draft, 120th overall. Since then, his development curve has been up and down. Jonsson has faced some heavy adversity in his young life, having won a fight against cancer.
But now he’s back on track with a career year with powerhouse Färjestad. This season he has developed his game and plays a more mature two-way game. Although he’ll never be a big contributor to the offensive game, he’s had career numbers this season with four goals and 13 points in 49 games as well as 62 PIMs.
Jonsson has solid size and a great attitude. He likes to use his body and is a frequent physical presence. He is a solid skater who has a good stride and speed. He could use better footspeed and agility in small areas.
He’ll probably spend another year or two in the Elitserien as he’s just getting his feet wet in the Swedish elite hockey. After that he might be ready to move over the pond to try his luck in North America where he’ll most likely have to spend a few years in the minors before being considered for the NHL lineup.
His NHL potential is as a depth defenseman, but he’ll most likely spend his career as a very solid and dependable defenseman in Sweden.
Simon Skoog, D, Malmö (SWE-1)
Skoog was drafted back in 2001 in the ninth round, 283rd overall by the Blues. Since that time, he has had trouble finding his game, and more importantly finding a home where he can hone his game.
This season he has split time between three different teams in Sweden, starting the year with fellow Blues prospect Fredriksson on HV-71. Skoog only played two games before moving to Brynäs. With Brynäs he didn’t fill the role that the team needed and he was shipped to Malmö, who were experiencing some injury problems defensively.
With Malmö he has been up and down. He started very well and logged some big minutes in the first few games. He even some significant ice time on the power play. Over the course of last 10 games, he has seen a lot less ice time and is being used as a seventh defenseman.
He has scored one goal and seven points in 22 games so far this season. But his offensive totals aren’t the important ones as he is a defensive-minded defenseman who uses his body and plays a steady defensive game.
Skoog is big, strong and mobile. He also has solid hands and is capable of delivering a good first pass. He has above average hockey sense and is solid in his own end, using his size well. He is not a big hitter but he is using his size in front of the net and in the corners to move players.
He will probably not be signed by the Blues after this season which means that he’ll become an NHL free agent. But that doesn’t mean that he’ll be a hot commodity among NHL teams. He will probably stay in Sweden and try to make his living there.
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