Bergfors the top Swedish prospect
Last year Johannes Salmonsson and Carl Söderberg were the big names among
Swedish forwards for the 2004 Entry Draft. This year, Södertälje’s speedy forward Nicklas Bergfors is the player to watch. The technically skilled winger has had a good season,
scoring his first SEL goal ever and putting up respectable numbers in the top Swedish junior
league (34 points in 21 games). Bergfors also represented Team Sweden in U20 WJC as well as in the U18 WJC in April. In the latter tournament he was named to the tournament
All-Star team and broke the Swedish goal-scoring record netting six goals in seven games.
Bergfors is a fairly complete player, known for his great attitude and willingness to improve. He relies a lot on his speed, technical skills and hockey sense and is
a very gifted player offensively. On the downside he is, although strong, somewhat undersized and at times too
fancy, trying to put up some flashy offensive numbers instead of making the simple play. Bergfors is expected to establish himself as a regular SEL player next season along with the Slovenian top prospect Anze Kopitar who will also play with Södertälje’s senior team.
No clear cut No. 2
A year ago centermen Alexander Sundström and Tom Wandell were considered to be No. 1 and No. 2 behind Bergfors.
Since those two have barely played any games at all this season due to injuries, and are therefore not likely to opt in, there is no clear No. 2. Mattias Ritola is, however, an interesting two-way forward that is likely to be a first day draft pick. The 6’0, 192lbs winger scored 26 points in 27 games in the juniors this season splitting time between Frölunda’s and Leksand’s U20 junior teams. Some have questioned Ritola’s attitude, while others have stated the opposite. What is certain is that Ritola is a creative player with soft hands, good hockey sense and good penalty-killing skills. His scoring touch could use some improvement, though.
Three interesting physical defensemen
Three other players who could be drafted during the first day
are defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson, Alexander Hellström and Christopher From-Björk. Hjalmarsson is the offensively gifted defensemen who likes to join the rush and shoot the puck. He also controls the physical aspect of the game and does not hesitate to play the body when given the opportunity. At times Hjalmarsson overworks the puck and gets lost in his defensive coverage, which is a reason why Hellström and From-Björk could be safer picks.
Hellström made his senior debut with Björklöven in the Swedish second tier league and did not look out of place at all. At 6’2 and 198lbs Hellström has plenty of size and strength to go and for a big man he is quite mobile. Hellström usually plays it pretty safe in his own end, but also likes to be part of the offensive element of the game and he is a capable puck carrier.
From-Björk could be the safest pick of the three.
He is a physical, defensive-minded defenseman who has had a good season with Djurgården in the juniors. Although From-Björk’s strength as a player is his distinct defensive play, he is not lost offensively and can contribute. He proved this in the U18 WJC when he scored
three goals in seven games and was arguably the most consistent Swedish defenseman.
Flashy Pettersson and Tough Dahlberg likely mid-round picks
Excluding Nicklas Bergfors, the right shooting winger Fredrik Pettersson is the flashiest Swedish player that is eligible to get drafted. The undersized 5’10 winger combines excellent speed and technical skills in a very impressive way. Pettersson is strong while entering the offensive zone in full speed and has a very
good slap shot, which he does not hesitate to use. In addition to being a quite productive player point wise, he has also proven to be a good leader and willing to play physical. His stock has, however decreased as of late, after an average U18 WJC tourney where he ‘only’ scored a goal and
two assists in seven games.
6’2 winger Johan Dahlberg is the toughest and most physical Swedish forward eligible to get drafted. The hard-hitting MODO prospect is known for his hot temper and could be a successful agitator/role player in the making. Even though Dahlberg, who should be a rather safe pick and an outside candidate to be drafted during the first day of the draft, will likely never become an offensive star, he is a decent goal scorer and can chip in offensively though
is not the best of stickhandlers.
Take a chance on Hersley
Patrik Hersley, a 6’2 and 205 lbs
defenseman with an ’86 birthdate, a large
part of the 2003-04 season due to injuries. He has been healthy this season and performed convincingly in the juniors, as well as with the Swedish U19 team. Hersley amassed
eight goals and 14 assists in 31 junior league games and is a physical defenseman with fine offensive tools. He has a great shot from the point, soft hands and good hockey sense. Furthermore Hersley has good timing and power in his hits, but tends to overwork the puck in his own end at times. Overall
he is a very capable defenseman who is entertaining to watch, not only while joining the rush in full speed, but also when laying out opponents with big hits.
Smart center from Frölunda
Not overly flashy, or the most offensively skilled Swede available, Frölunda’s Sebastian Karlsson is a reliable center with great smarts and defensive skills. Karlsson is the younger brother of former LA Kings first rounder Jens Karlsson. He is a skilled playmaker, a capable skater and stickhandler and has
an admirable work ethic. Karlsson scored 29 points in 27 junior league games this season and is expected to see some ice time in the SEL next season.
Another player who could be drafted in the
mid-late rounds is defenseman Anton Strålman who opted out of the draft last year. At 6’0 and 176lbs Strålman is not a giant and needs to bulk up in order to be successful at highest level in Sweden,
where he is heading after a fine season in the Swedish second tier league. Strålman has a good point shot, plays a smart passing game and is fairly reliable defensively although not being the strongest of players. His physical game is somewhat inconsistent and
needs to work on improving the timing in his hits. His hockey sense, smarts and offensive skills makes Strålman, who is set to make his SEL debut with Timrå in September, an interesting prospect.
Top 10 Swedes for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft
Just outside the top 10
Most likely to opt out due to major injuries
Preliminary 2006 Draft Ranking
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