Top 20 Swedes for the 2006 NHL Entry Draft

By Johan Nilsson





Untitled Document


No. 1 – Bäckström pegged as the next big star out of Sweden

The top Swede of this year’s draft crop and the most talented player to come out of Sweden in a long
time, Nicklas Bäckström has had tremendous development during the last year. His goal was to become a regular on Brynäs’ SEL roster. Not only did he crack the roster, he quickly became the
No. 1 center and eventually the top player on the team alongside goaltender Johan Holmqvist. His performance in the SEL
won him the Rookie of the Award.

He was expected to be a key player for Sweden in the World Junior Championships, and he was. What was not expected was
making the Swedish senior team and competing in the World Championships in Latvia in May. Bäckström played the last four games and
though held scoreless, he was among the top Swedish players in those four games, getting great reviews from all experts.

Bäckström has constantly been compared to fellow
Swede Peter Forsberg. While Bäckström lacks the same aggressiveness and edge that Forsberg has, there are some obvious similarities. Both have excellent hockey sense and both are very skilled playmakers. Bäckström sees openings that few others can and his slick flip passes have become a trademark. He feels very comfortable in the role of setting up power plays and although his passes may seem quite risky at times, he is almost always successful. Another
similarity with Art Ross Trophy winner Forsberg is the way Bäckström protects the puck. He is, although not being the strongest of players, very tough to knock
off the puck. He protects it well, especially along the boards, and usually comes out with the puck while defensemen are hanging on his back.

When it comes to goal scoring, Bäckström
suffers from the same dilemma as most Swedish players — he would rather pass the puck than
shoot. It’s a shame, since he is a pretty decent goal scorer. However, his release needs improvement and could be more accurate, but more so powerful.
Two of Bäckström’s greatest strengths are his soft hands and fine technical skills. It really does look easy when he is moving the puck and he stickhandles very smoothly through traffic. He would be an even better puck carrier
if he were a better skater. Bäckström is not really slow on his skates, but he lacks that extra gear and his acceleration could use improvement.

Looking at his defensive game, he is already very solid in his own end. An excellent penalty killer that backchecks hard and helps out his
defensemen. As for his physical game, he is not a hitting machine, but has a small edge to his game. Once in a while he delivers a decent hit, but he is not the kind of player that is seeking
opportunities to play the body.

As for Bäckström’s future, he has a contract with Brynäs for the coming season and is expected to play one more SEL season before moving over the pond. However, many would agree that Bäckström is already NHL-ready giving his convincing play in SEL and World Championship this season. He is expected to be drafted top 5 in the NHL Entry Draft, possibly top 3, and the main focus for him next season is to improve his skating, his shot and in general to become
stronger.

No. 2 – Patrik Berglund – tall forward with great potential

Patrik Berglund is a tall forward
at 6’4 who had a good year and has been among the top players on the Swedish U18 team. During the past season,
Berglund spent half the time with Västerås’ juniors, while playing men’s hockey with Västerås in the second tier league for the remaining part. He was excellent at the end of the season, playing extremely well in the exhibition games prior to the U18 WJC held in Sweden. As the tournament started, Berglund continued his strong play, but during the
later games his play faded.

Berglund combines his size and great reach with good technical skills and decent scoring ability. He is tough to steal the puck from when he reaches full speed and protects the puck well. Berglund likes to drive the net and when he does not get a good shot opportunity, he is a good passer as well.
He should play more physically and work on his speed. Earlier considered a bit one-dimensional and not very hardworking, Berglund has improved significantly in both areas during
the last season. He is somewhat inconsistent in his play and a bit streaky though.

No. 3 – Dennis Persson is the top defenseman

Dennis Persson has come off a season playing both men’s and
junior hockey with Västerås. He scored an impressive 26 points in 28 games in the juniors and added two assists in 19 games in the Swedish second tier league. During the U18 WJC, Persson was the most consistent Swedish defenseman, scoring a goal and
five assists in six games.

Persson is a decent skater with good technical skills and puck movement. He has great hockey sense and reads the play very well. Persson usually solves situations with his smarts and does not
play very physically. Usually quite confident and consistent in his own end, at times he could choose the
simpler play.

In the offensive zone, Persson has a fairly good shot which he should probably use more often, as he tends to look for passing openings too much. He is a skilled playmaker and has a tremendous ability to keep the puck in the zone on the power play, while being pressured by
opposing penalty killers. Persson needs to improve his game overall, like most young players, but could also use more
muscle and upper body strength.

Persson is leaving second tier league team Västerås next season to play for SEL team Djurgården. It will not be very easy for him to crack the roster at age 18, but he still has a decent shot and will hopefully be sent on loan to a second tier league team if he is not ready for SEL action yet.

No. 4 – ..and the top goaltender is Jhonas Enroth

Jhonas Enroth is the top Swedish goaltender in this year’s draft. Enroth has come off a strong season with Södertälje’s junior team and was among the top goalies in April at the U18 WJC. He is by many considered the top goalie
prospect from Sweden since Henrik Lundqvist.

Enroth is a somewhat undersized butterfly goalie, but very quick and agile. He is very consistent and rarely has an off game.
His reflexes are top notch and he has a very quick and impressive glove. He
moves well from side to side and has a winner’s instinct. Enroth recently signed a senior contract with Södertälje and is expected to share the goaltending job in the Swedish junior league. He is very likely to make the Swedish WJC roster next winter, when the tournament is held in Leksand and Mora, Sweden.

No. 5 – Flashy Figren has exciting skills

Robin Figren has had a decent season with Frölunda’s junior team which he followed up with a good U18 WJC tournament. The flashy forward scored 10 goals and 28 points for Frölunda in the junior league. A decent production, although he was expected to have
more goals in the scoring column.

Figren is the most flashy Swedish
player eligible for the NHL Entry Draft. An excellent skater with superb
endurance, he checks very hard and is a good two-way player. Figren has also some great offensive tools, including a good goal-scoring ability, nice technical skills and a killer shot, which is especially valuable on the
power play. He does not have any major flaws, but his size is not intimidating and at times Figren can appear to be a tad selfish with the puck.

It remains to be seen if Figren will stay in Frölunda or possibly move elsewhere. He will have a difficult time getting any ice time on Frölunda’s SEL roster, which has led to some speculating about him possibly signing for another team. Playing CHL hockey in North America could be an option.

No. 6 – Lagerström the leader

Since the Swedish 88’s started playing internationally with Team
Sweden two years ago, Tony Lagerström has been among the top players on the team and in the age group.
He’s a natural leader who has been quite consistent and always valuable for the teams he has played with.

An all-round forward with very good leadership
skills, he plays with a lot of authority and expresses a great attitude and winner’s instinct. Lagerström skates hard, but could still use some extra speed, and has decent technical skills and hockey sense. He has scored some pretty important goals in the past and is a valuable player to have on the ice in heated situations.
He is defensively very responsible and a good penalty killer.

Lagerström signed a senior contract with Södertälje a few weeks back and is expected to be a third or fourth line player in the Swedish second tier league next season. The team likes his potential and he will hopefully have a good development before possibly moving over the Atlantic.

No. 7 –
All-over-the-map on Ahnelöv

Big and strong defenseman Jonas Ahnelöv is among the more talked-about Swedish prospects eligible for the draft. Some say he is a late first rounder, while others see him as a late-round pick. He was among the top defensemen in the Swedish juniors this past season scoring 15 points in 29 games for Frölunda. He also made his SEL debut, but was held scoreless in 15 registered games.

What makes many so intrigued by Ahnelöv is the way he combines speed, passing skills with a pretty nasty physical game. He likes to play
the body and has good timing on his hits. Ahnelöv is offensive minded and like to follow the rush. Usually he is very effective and difficult to stop when he reaches full speed, as he is a very capable skater. His passing game is above average and overall his offensive skills are quite exciting. On the downside, he makes quite a
few mistakes defensively. He overcommits and tries to be everywhere, which has a negative affect on his defensive game.

Ahnelöv has a SEL contract with one of the top teams in the league, Frölunda, next season. At best, he will be the
seventh or eighth defenseman on that roster. That could hurt his development unless he is sent on loan to the second tier league, something Frölunda has been reluctant to do in the past with their prospects. The big goal for him next season is to make the Swedish WJC team, something that will be difficult to achieve since the Swedish U20 national team coach has not been impressed with Ahnelöv’s play in the past. Recently a 34-man pre WJC roster was named and Ahnelöv was not among the 12 defensemen selected, which speaks
to his chances.

No. 8 – Breakthrough of the year by Jonas Junland

Jonas Junland is a highly-skilled offensive defenseman who had an incredible development this past season, being the highest scoring defenseman in the Swedish juniors. His numbers, 40 points including 17 goals in 32 games, are quite remarkable for a defenseman. He added about 16 pounds of
muscle before this past season and it had a very good effect on his play.

Junland is a good skater and has fine hands.
His hockey sense is good and his strength is the way he gets the puck on the target. Junland has a good shot that is very accurate. Looking at the parts of his game that Junland should improve, his defensive awareness could still use some fine tuning. He could also play more determined and more physical at times. Also, sometimes Junland tends to overwork easy situations.

Junland signed a SEL contract with Linköping this spring and will try to translate his game next season, playing at least partially against men. He looked good as he was tested with the Swedish U19 team in Germany during
the spring and should have a good chance at making next winter’s WJC roster.

No. 9 – Stay-at-home defenseman Andersén a likely mid- to late-round pick

Leksand’s defenseman Niclas Andersén is the top Swedish stay-at-home defenseman eligible for the draft. Andersén was registered for
eight SEL games last season, but mostly spent his time playing junior hockey. He
had five goals, six assists and 214 PIM in 36 games in the juniors. In April, Andersén competed in his second U18 WJC tournament in a row and played on the top two pairings,
posting a goal and an assist in six games.

He is defensive-minded and
plays a really aggressive and physical game. Andersén was considered to be among the top Swedish 88’s a year ago, but did not stand out as much this season.
He is very strong and pretty mobile as well. He plays the body when he has the chance to, but tends to take far too many holding and hooking penalties. 
Andersén has looked decent at senior level, but gets
sometimes over-confident in his passing game at junior level. He’ll never produce a lot of points, but has the potential to become a strong stay-at-home defenseman in the future.

No. 10 – Team player Kim Johansson making strides

Malmö player Kim Johansson is among the lesser-known Swedish prospects eligible for the draft. Johansson had a decent, although not spectacular, season with Malmö in the juniors.
Fifteen points in 39 regular season games is not really impressive, but on the other hand, Johansson is more of a
hard-working team player than a finesse scorer. His play with the Swedish junior team has been quite good and he was very consistent in the U18 WJC.

Johansson is a real two-way player
who checks hard in both zones. A speedy skater that accelerates well, Johansson also likes to play physical, despite lacking some strength. He has good timing in his hits and is surprisingly successful
at it with his modest 172 lb  frame. Furthermore, Johansson is a highly-skilled penalty killer. Offensively, he has decent tools including a good passing game, but should be thought of more as a future role and team player.

Top 20
Swedish prospects for the 2006 draft

#Player
Pos
HtWt
L/R
BornTeam
Nicklas Bäckström
F
6’0183
L
1987-11-23Brynäs
Patrik Berglund
F
6’4187
L
1988-06-02Västerås
Dennis Persson
D
6’1181
L
1988-06-02Djurgården
Jhonas Enroth
G
5’10174
L
1988-06-25Södertälje
Robin Figren
F
5’11176
R
1988-03-07Frölunda
Tony Lagerström
F
6’1190
L
1988-07-19Södertälje
Jonas Ahnelöv
D
6’2183
L
1987-12-11Frölunda
Jonas Junland
D
6’2198
L
1987-11-15Linköping
Niclas Andersén
D
6’1207
L
1988-04-28Leksand
10 Kim Johansson
F
6’1172
L
1988-01-21Malmö
  
 
  
  
11 Thomas Larsson
F
6’0185
L
1988-01-16Skellefteå
12 Erik Andersson
F
6’0185
L
1986-09-18HV71
13 Andreas Thuresson
F
6’2192
R
1987-11-18Malmö
14 Patrik Carlsson
F
5’11172
L
1987-11-03Frölunda
15 Andreas Engqvist
F
6’3196
R
1987-12-23Djurgården
16 Joel Gistedt
G
5’11176
L
1987-12-07Frölunda
17 Alexander Ribbenstrand
D
6’0187
L
1987-01-09Djurgården
18 Stefan Ridderwall
G
6’2190
L
1988-03-05Djurgården
19 Alexander Hellström
D
6’3205
L
1987-04-17Björklöven
20 Magnus Svanberg
D
6’2194
L
1988-03-03MODO

Other notables

Player
Pos
HtWt
L/R
BornTeam
Kristoffer Berglund
D
5’10170
L
1988-08-12Björklöven
Patrik Nevalainen
D
5’10174
R
1987-01-27Björklöven
Daniel Rahimi
D
6’3214
L
1987-04-28Björklöven
Johan Alcén
F
6’2187
L
1988-03-11Brynäs
Jonathan Carlsson
D
6’0187
R
1988-08-05Brynäs
Mikael Ahlén
F
6’0196
R
1988-04-14Djurgården
Jimmy Jensen
F
5’11194
L
1988-01-24Djurgården
Patrik Lundh
F
5’10163
L
1988-06-12Djurgården
Jonas Wallgren
D
6’0176
L
1988-07-09Djurgården
Niclas Levein
F
5’11172
L
1988-03-03Färjestad
Mikael Owilli
D
6’4194
L
1988-09-14Hammarby
Eddie Läck
G
6’2168
L
1988-01-05Leksand
Magnus Isaksson
F
5’10181
L
1987-01-16Luleå
Robin Lindqvist
F
6’2192
L
1987-08-16Luleå
Linus Omark
F
5’9165
L
1987-02-05Luleå
Tobias Nilsson-Roos
F
5’9172
R
1988-03-27Malmö
Sebastian Ström
D
6’0170
L
1988-01-31Malmö
Tobias Forsberg
F
6’0168
R
1988-04-05MODO
Andreas Molinder
F
6’0168
L
1987-02-23MODO
Anders Danielsson
D
6’0183
R
1988-03-24Mora
Mattias Sjögren
F
6’2196
L
1987-11-27Rögle
Patrik Zackrisson
F
5’11187
L
1987-03-27Rögle
Martin Johansson
F
5’11183
L
1987-10-24Skåre
Fredric Andersson
F
5’10179
L
1988-10-13Södertälje
Carl Hagelin
F
5’10163
L
1988-08-23Södertälje
Christopher Erixon
F
5’11185
L
1988-04-12Timrå
Oskar Johansson
F
6’0172
L
1988-05-11Timrå
Eric Moe
D
5’11183
R
1988-03-06Timrå
Mathias Sjöberg
D
5’11192
L
1988-09-15Tyringe
David Lidström
D
5’11172
L
1988-02-16Västerås
Viktor Sjödin
F
6’0207
R
1988-04-21Västerås

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