Swedish 2004 draft review

By Johan Nilsson

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The 2004 NHL Entry Draft was
an average draft year from a Swedish point of view. A total of 18 Swedish players were drafted which was one less than
in 2003. The big surprise was that no Swedish player was drafted in the first round. However, four players
were selected in the second round and an additional two in the third round which made the first day of the
2004 Draft better than usual.



Johannes Salmonsson | 31st overall | Pittsburgh Penguins
Left Wing | 1986-02-07 | 6‘2" | 187 lbs | Djurgården | Swedish Elite League

Speedy Djurgården winger Johannes Salmonsson became the first Swedish player drafted
in 2004 as the Pittsburgh Penguins selected him with the first pick of the second round. Salmonsson looked like a potential top 20 selection for a long time, but shoulder problems decreased his stock. The 6’2”
winger is already among the best skaters in the Swedish Elite League and has plenty of offensive upside which he will
hopefully be able to display next season with Djurgården.

Johan Fransson | 34st overall | Dallas Stars
Defenseman | 1985-02-18 | 6‘1" | 183 lbs | Luleå | Swedish Elite League

Fransson is a strong skating,
puck-moving defenseman who many thought would be a late first round selection. Fransson opted out of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft as his
2002-03 season was very much ruined because of injuries. This past season Fransson went from being an extra defenseman on Luleå’s SEL roster to being arguably the best defenseman on the team at the end of regular season. Fransson has a very high upside and his offensive skills
are like those of Flyers defenseman Kim Johnsson.

Carl Söderberg | 49th overall | St. Louis Blues
Center | 1985-10-12 | 6‘3" | 198 lbs | Malmö | Swedish Elite League

Söderberg started playing in the junior league with Malmö where he evidently was on a different level than the rest of the opposing
forwards. Halfway through the season he was called up to Malmö’s SEL
team where he also stayed for the remainder of the season. An exceptionally skilled offensive player with a nose for the net and good playmaking
ability, Söderberg is an explosive player, though not overly physical, who is very creative in the offensive zone while at the same time not
frightened of back checking.

Nicklas Grossman | 56th overall | Dallas Stars
Defenseman | 1985-01-22 | 6‘4" | 185 lbs | Södertälje | Swedish Elite League

When the Dallas Stars drafted Johan Fransson they got a defenseman that is at his best in the offensive zone,
but with Nicklas Grossman who the Stars picked 56th overall, they got just the opposite, more of a stay-at-home defenseman. Being of large stature and having a great reach, Grossman was among the best defenders in the Swedish Junior League this past season. He rarely goes on risky offensive adventures, but instead plays it as safe as possible. More added strength would make Grossman an even powerful defenseman, which could also be required next season when he is supposed to play for Södertälje in the Elite League.

Alexander Edler
| 91st overall | Vancouver Canucks
Defenseman | 1986-04-21 | 6‘3" | 194 lbs | MODO | Swedish Junior League

Swedish Canucks scout Gradin obviously liked what he saw of Alexander Edler this season playing in the 3rd-tier league with Jämtland. The tall defenseman was expected to get drafted, but no one would have guessed he would get picked already in the third round. Edler, who is an offensive minded defenseman with a fine passing game, is moving to Örnsköldsvik and the team of MODO where he will likely mostly play in the junior league. Perhaps this fairly unknown player could turn out to be a diamond in the rough?

Johan Franzén | 97th overall | Detroit Red Wings
Center/Wing | 1979-12-23 | 6‘2" | 207 lbs | Linköping | Swedish Elite League

Franzén was the first Swedish overager to get drafted.
He is ready to step in and play in the NHL already now, although some time adjusting in the AHL would make sense. He is a very strong center that can be put on the wing as well. Franzén has come off his big breakthrough season in Sweden not only establishing himself as a top player in the SEL but also performing very well with the Swedish national team. He is an all-round player with no major weaknesses and should fit in very nicely on a
third or fourth line in the NHL.

Fredrik Näslund
| 104th overall | Dallas Stars
Left Wing | 1986-02-11 | 6‘4" | 207 lbs | Västerås | Sweden 2nd-tier League

Näslund is a huge winger with plenty of offensive potential. He played part time in the Swedish 2nd-tier league and part time in the Swedish U18 League where he was really dominant scoring 12 goals and 15 assists in 14 games. Näslund has fine technical skills, he has a good scoring touch and although he is far from being the perfect skater he is tough to stop when he reaches full speed with his large frame. He should be a full time regular with Västerås in the 2nd-tier league this upcoming season.


Oscar Hedman | 132nd overall | Washington Capitals
Defenseman | 1986-04-21 | 6‘0" | 207 lbs | MODO | Swedish Elite League

Oscar Hedman was by most projected to be drafted in the second or the third round, so
falling to the fifth is indeed a surprise. In Hedman the Washington Capitals have a two-way defenseman with great hockey sense. Not the fastest skater around and not the biggest defenseman you will find, but his smarts and playmaking ability is
very good. Hedman has already seen a good amount of ice time in the SEL with MODO and unless MODO signs
three or four NHL defensemen before next season, he should continue progressing in the Elite League.

Magnus Åkerlund | 137th overall | Carolina Hurricanes
Goaltender | 1986-04-25 | 6‘1" | 183 lbs | HV 71 | Swedish Junior League

The most talented Swedish goaltender since Henrik
Lundqvist, Åkerlund was a top goalie in the junior league this season and also represented the Swedish national team in the U20 WJC as well as in the U18 WJC in April. He has a very good right glove and quick reflexes. As for his chances of playing in the SEL it could still take some time seeing as Red Wings prospect Stefan Liv has decided to stay in Sweden and HV 71 for an additional season. Åkerlund is currently the third goalie on HV 71’s depth chart.

Richard Demén-Willaume | 154th overall | Colorado Avalanche
Defenseman | 1986-01-28 | 6‘3" | 198 lbs | Frölunda | Swedish Junior League

The Colorado Avalanche selected this interesting two-way defenseman with their 154th overall selection. Demén-Willaume was at the start of last season ranked as a top 3 Swedish prospect, but his stock decreased as the season progressed. He started out playing really convincingly with Frölunda in the juniors, but did not continue displaying his offensive game in the later part of his campaign. Demén-Willaume is a mobile defenseman and has good positioning on the ice. He is a strong passer and can be quite effective when he joins the rush. He has a youth contract with Frölunda which means that he will likely get a few shifts in the SEL next season.


Fred Wikner | 182nd overall | Calgary Flames
Right Wing | 1986-01-01 | 6‘1" | 185 lbs | Frölunda | Swedish Junior League

Among the toughest and meanest Swedish players that were
drafted, Wikner is a hardworking and strong skating winger with a real mean streak. He does not hesitate to use his body and although he is hardly a giant, Wikner is really strong and not easy to push around. Offensively he can put the puck in the net with his accurate wrist shot and set up plays as well. Still, Wikner is more likely to become a checking line type of player in the future. He was among the best Swedish players in the U18 WJC and apparently impressed team Sweden’s U20 coach, Torgny Bendelin, who selected him to play with the U20 National Team in the tourney in Grand Forks, in August.

Anton Axelsson | 192nd overall | Detroit Red Wings
Left Wing | 1986-01-16 | 6‘0" | 183 lbs | Frölunda | Swedish Junior League

Detroit ’s Swedish scout Håkan Andersson is very high on Anton Axelsson, the younger brother of Bruins winger Per-Johan Axelsson. Axelsson is a two-way forward with very impressive defensive skills. He is an excellent penalty killer and uses his fine skating technique to his advantage. Furthermore Axelsson has admirable
work ethic and does his job until the end of the shift. He will continue to play in the junior league next season as there is no room for him on Frölunda’s SEL roster.

Emil Axelsson
| 210th overall | NY Islanders
Defenseman | 1986-03-19 | 6‘3" | 198 lbs | Linköping | Swedish Junior League

Axelsson had a sensational rookie season in the 2nd-tier league stepping up from a lower tier junior league to being a regular with Örebro playing against men. He is a tough and physical defenseman that can contribute in both zones. While he is expected to become a more defensive minded defenseman using his physical game to a maximum, he does not hesitate to join the rush and is not afraid to use his slapper from the blue. Next season Axelsson’s ice time will increase as he has decided to move to SEL club Linköping where he will mainly play in the junior league.

David Fredriksson | 211th overall | St. Louis Blues
Right Wing | 1985-10-04 | 6‘2" | 216 lbs | HV 71 | Swedish Elite League

Fredriksson is a big and strong winger that could become a fine role player in the future. Having not been a star offensively in the junior league Fredriksson has however been recognized for his hard work and strength along the boards and around the net. He is not easy to move and he is not afraid to throw a good hit when given the opportunity. Fredriksson has signed a SEL contract with the Swedish SEL Champions HV 71 and should get some ice time on the fourth line next season.


Anton Hedman | 255th overall | Boston Bruins
Left Wing | 1986-05-15 | 6‘3" | 187 lbs | Djurgården | Swedish Junior League

Boston’s Swedish scout Svenåke Svensson has found a player that no one else really has noticed this season. This 6’3” winger played junior B hockey with Stocksund this past season scoring 10 points in 14 games. Respectable numbers but far from
spectacular, Hedman who is said to be a good skater will get to prove himself next season as he is moving to Djurgården’s organization and the much more competitive U20 League. The fact that Svenåke Svensson wasted a pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft on 6’6” Swedish tower Andreas Lindström, now playing a mediocre role in the Swedish 3rd-tier league, is not a good omen.


Björn Bjurling | 274th overall | Edmonton Oilers
Goaltender | 1979-08-21 | 6‘0" | 205 lbs | Djurgården | Swedish Elite League

Bjurling was a top candidate to win the Rookie of the Year award in the SEL this season and should have a fine future in the SEL ahead of him. But, no one would have probably guessed that he would get picked in the NHL Entry Draft. After a very good regular season Bjurling really choke in the playoffs with Djurgården. To his advantage it should be mentioned that the rest of the team did not bring their A game either. Unless the Edmonton Oilers decide to bring Bjurling over he will be the starting goaltender in Djurgården next season as well.

John Wikner | 284th overall | Ottawa Senators
Left Wing | 1986-01-01 | 6‘1" | 181 lbs | Frölunda | Swedish Junior League

John’s twin brother Fred was drafted in the sixth round by the Calgary Flames but John being drafted at all was a minor surprise. Unlike his twin brother John has not played much with the Swedish national team and not performed as well as his brother in the junior league. He plays a game that is very similar to his brother’s, which means that he likes to play physical, skates well and can be a real pest for the opposing players. Wikner has a tendency to lose his cool at times and go a bit crazy which is something he should work on.

Nils Bäckström | 290th overall | Detroit Red Wings
Defense | 1986-06-29 | 6‘1" | 183 lbs | Djurgården | Swedish Junior League

Just like Boston’s eighth round selection, Anton Hedman, Nils Bäckström spent this season playing junior B hockey with Stocksund. Little is known about Bäckström, but he is a strong passer and a physical competitor. The fact that he does not hesitate to play physical comes as no surprise as that was pretty much the quality all players in Stocksund, the big underdog, had in the junior league this season. Bäckström will join his team mate Hedman and move to Stockholm and Djurgården next season.

Round 5 | 137 overall | Carolina | Magnus Åkerlund
Round 9 | 274 overall | Edmonton | Björn Bjurling

Round 2 | 34 overall | Dallas | Johan Fransson
Round 2 | 56 overall | Dallas | Nicklas Grossman
Round 3 | 91 overall | Vancouver | Alexander Edler
Round 5 | 132 overall | Washington | Oscar Hedman
Round 5 | 154 overall | Colorado | Richard Demén-Willaume
Round 7 | 210 overall | NY Islanders | Emil Axelsson
Round 9 | 290 overall | Detroit | Nils Bäckström

Round 2 | 49 overall | St. Louis | Carl Söderberg
Round 3 | 97 overall | Detroit | Johan Franzén

Right wingers
Round 6 | 182 overall | Calgary | Fred Wikner
Round 7 | 211 overall | St. Louis | David Fredriksson 

Left Wingers
Round 2 | 31 overall | Pittsburgh | Johannes Salmonsson
Round 4 | 104 overall | Dallas | Fredrik Näslund
Round 6 | 192 overall | Detroit | Anton Axelsson
Round 8 | 255 overall | Boston | Anton Hedman
Round 9 | 284 overall | Ottawa | John Wikner

Players drafted by
2003-04 league
Swedish Elite League: 6
Swedish 2nd-tier League: 2
Swedish 3rd-tier League: 1
Swedish U20 Junior League: 7
Swedish U18 Junior League: 2

The major surprises

  • Alexander Edler going as early as in the third round
  • No Swedish player in the first round
  • Oscar Hedman falling to the fifth round
  • Mattias Hellström not being drafted
  • Overaged goalie Björn Bjurling being drafted
  • Stocksund-duo Anton Hedman and Nils Bäckström being drafted

Notable prospects
who were not drafted
Mattias Hellström
Johan Harju
Alexander Bergström
Tom Linder
Tommy Enström
Martin Gudmundsson
Alexander Täng

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without written permission of the editorial staff.