Top Swedish prospects for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft

By Johan Nilsson

Sweden has a decent crop of players coming up in 2008. In general, those born 1990 are considered to be very talented, but many of the very best were born late during the year and will thus not be eligible until 2009 — a draft year that is expected to be one of Sweden’s best ever.

As for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, there are four players who stand out. Speedy puck magician Mattias Tedenby is among the most skilled players in the draft offensively, Erik Karlsson is right up there with the most skilled offensive defensemen, Jacob Markström is among the top goaltenders and two-way center Anton Gustafsson has most qualities you would like to have in a leading team player.

1. Mattias Tedenby, LW

Tedenby is the most flashy and offensively skilled Swedish player eligible for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He is a smallish forward (5’10, 176) with amazing speed, technical skills and drive. Despite his size, he is still a tough competitor who gets involved physically and will do anything to win. He showed already last season that he has the tools to handle playing in a men’s league and is expected to be a full-time SEL regular next season. He controls many aspects of the game well, but needs to improve his defensive game and add more muscle to become even tougher to stop.

2. Erik Karlsson, D

An offensively very skilled defenseman, Karlsson is known for his great hockey sense and extreme coolness with the puck. A power-play specialist, he has the ability to get the puck on net and deliver very precise passes. He’ll score plenty of points from the blue line in the future, but must work quite a bit on the defensive part of his game. Karlsson does not play simply enough in his own end and although he plays with some grit and likes to deliver a good hit once in a while, he must add plenty of strength and muscle to be able to handle big opposing forwards.

3. Jacob Markstrom, G

The tall and lanky goaltender has come off a very successful season where he, quite unexpectedly, became the starter in SEL team Brynäs. He is a skilled goaltender with plenty of raw qualities. Markström is big in net and has incredible mental strength. As a butterfly goaltender, he sometimes goes down too early and is not quick enough to get up on his feet again. His rebound control could use some improvement as well, but overall he has the fundamental skills and attitude to become a very capable NHL goaltender. It remains to be seen if he can live up to the hype of following Henrik Lundqvist’s path and become a No. 1 in the NHL.

4. Anton Gustafsson, C

Son of former NHLer Bengt-Åke Gustafsson, Anton is a true team player. He’s a very skilled two-way center who combines size, speed, puck handling and impressive hockey sense. A smart player who can deliver very distinct passes and takes care of his defensive responsibilities, he has also a good release and loves to play the body when given the opportunity. He’s the most well-rounded Swedish player eligible for the draft.

5. Kristofer Berglund, D

Twice overlooked in the draft, but after a magnificent season in the Swedish second tier league with Björklöven and a very strong U20 WJC performance, Berglund is bound to finally be selected. He is a very strong-skating defenseman with exceptional hockey sense and smarts. Not overly physical, he solves tricky situations with his coolness.  He’s usually in the right place at the right moment. Berglund is a skilled passer and although a two-way defenseman, is perhaps more noticeable in the offensive end and a valuable member of the power-play unit.

6. David Ullstrom, C/LW

Huge center Ullström was overlooked in last year’s NHL draft, but has now come off a very fine season in the Swedish junior league and will enter the Swedish second tier league in the fall. This is a player who combines great size and strength with good speed, technical skills and scoring ability. Ullström does not shy away from the rough stuff and is known to be able to throw big hits from time to time. Defensively there is room for improvement, as he usually likes to think too much about scoring than making the safe play.

7. Johan Motin, D

Motin was early on the favorite to be the first Swede selected in the draft, but his stock decreased after a poor showing in the U20 WJC and overall a season that was not much better than his previous one. He is likely to develop into a stay-at-home defenseman. Motin is not very speedy, does not have excellent puck handling skills or hockey sense, but is very valuable when he is playing physical and safe defense. He is as strong as they come at 6’1, 202 lbs and has the qualities to develop into a physical and mean defenseman, but needs to work on his consistency and also improve some of his basic skills.

8. Andre Petersson, LW

Petersson is a one-dimensional goal scorer with first-class technical skills. The 5’9.5, 169-pounder is flashy and can score highlight-reel goals. He has a quick release and although sometimes a bit selfish with the puck, he has the hockey sense and skills to deliver excellent passes. Petersson’s major concern is his work ethic and defensive play. He does not look inspired at all times and has a somewhat negative body language, as he often hangs his head. When on top of his game, he is arguably the most offensively-skilled Swedish forward eligible for this year’s draft.

9. Henrik Eriksson, C

Eriksson is captain material and an excellent team player. A two-way center with decent hockey sense, he stands out more because of his extreme winner’s instinct and fantastic attitude. He always does his very best and is every coach’s dream with his hardworking play. Has some offensive skills, including decent hands and ability to set up plays, but is perhaps likely to develop into a third or fourth line player who will be used frequently in shorthanded situations and always put up strong performances.

10. Nicklas Lasu, LW

A player who has come off breakthrough season in the Swedish junior league, Lasu put up good numbers with Frölunda in the junior league. Not very big at 5’11, 176 lbs, Lasu is a mean player who likes to play physical and with plenty of energy. One of Lasu’s major trademarks is that he always brings his game and is a consistent player. He might not always put up points on the board, but he will always give his best and do anything for the team. Lasu has also leadership qualities and can be used in most game situations. His hockey sense, technical skills and speed are satisfying, although it is his attitude and physical play that makes him stand out.

11. Dennis Bozic, D
A fast-skating defenseman with good hockey sense, Bozic is not very big, but fairly aggressive and physical. Great attitude.

12. Emil Bejmo, C
Bejmo is a speedy two-way center of average size. Good hockey sense and playmaking ability.

13. Johan Erkgards, F

An all-around forward with quick wheels, technical skills and hockey sense. Can be used on a scoring line as well as an energy line.

14. Mattias Ekholm, D
A big two-way defenseman with decent mobility and overall skills. Usually makes easy and simple plays, should improve his physical game.

15. Martin Lundberg, C
A very hardworking checking line player with an extreme winner’s instinct.  A team player who gets involved in the rough stuff, but will never put up big numbers.

16. Daniel Despotovic, F
Despotovic is a hardworking forward who put up big numbers in the juniors. He has good size, great work ethic and decent puck skills.

17. Joacim Eriksson, G
Ranked as the second best goaltender born 1990 in Sweden, after the more hyped Jacob Markström. A skilled goaltender with decent size, quick reflexes and good mental strength.

18. Sebastian Erixon, D

A rather smallish defenseman with noticeable hockey sense and mobility. Fairly well-rounded and consistent.

19. Jens Westin, D
An unspectacular, but very solid defenseman with good defensive skills and respectable hockey sense. Played very convincingly in the SEL.

20. Gustaf Nyquist, F
A very speedy forward with impressive technical skills and scoring ability. Very flashy and has committed to Univ. of Maine.

Preliminary Top 20 Ranking for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft

Next year’s NHL Entry Draft is expected to be sensational for Sweden. There are multiple first-class prospects, many of each already have played men’s hockey, and the question is how many of these will crack the first round of the draft. The No. 1 ranked player is of course the already much hyped Victor Hedman, but behind the defensive giant there are a bunch of skilled forwards and defensemen with enormous potential.

1. Victor Hedman, D, MODO
2. Magnus Pääjärvi Svensson, F, Timrå
3. Jacob Josefson, F, Djurgården
4. Anton Lander, F, Timrå
5. Tim Erixon, D, Skellefteå
6. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Leksand
7. Henrik Björklund, F, Färjestad
8. Anton Mylläri, D, Västerås
9. David Rundblad, D, Skellefteå
10. William Wallén, F, Djurgården

11. Marcus Johansson, F, Färjestad
12. Patric Cehlin, F, Djurgården
13. Carl Klingberg, F, Frölunda
14. Simon Bertilsson, D, Brynäs
15. Casper Carning, F, Frölunda
16. Ludwig Karlsson, F, Linköping
17. Mattias Lindström, F, Skellefteå
18. Jakob Silfverberg, F, Brynäs
19. Adam Almquist, D, HV71
20. John Norman, F, Djurgården

Preliminary Top 20 Ranking for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft

It is still very early to tell how good 2010 will be for Sweden, but there are some top prospects that already have raised the eyebrows of the scouts. Slick forward Adam Pettersson is one of them and in fact he became the highest scoring Swedish U16 national team player ever as he during the 2007-08 season put up 21 points in 11 international games. Several of the very best Swedish players born 1992 are born late and not eligible until 2011.

1. Adam Pettersson, F, Skellefteå
2. Victor Öhman, F, Malmö
3. Johan Gustafsson, G, Färjestad
4. Fredric Weigel, F, Djurgården
5. Johan Larsson, F, Brynäs
6. Ricard Blidstrand, D, Djurgården
7. Felix Eriksson, F, Brynäs
8. Jonathan Zaar, D, MODO
9. Roger Olsson, F, Malmö
10. Markus Kinisjärvi, F, Västerås