Swedish prospects looking for NHL contracts

By Zoran Manojlovic

This offseason has been interesting for several Swedish prospects as they have been looking to ink an NHL contract. So far several of them have found a place in North America for the next season. Joel Lundquist (Dallas), Stefan Liv (Detroit), and Daniel Widing (Nashville) are just a few names that have signed NHL contracts and a few more will sign before the deadline passes June 1.

Here are a few names that will be in the mix for signing a contract on deadline day.

Tobias Enström, D, MODO, (Atlanta)

After finishing his fourth season with Modo in Elitserien, Enström could be a candidate to cross the pond.

This season he didn’t break out offensively, as was expected of the smallish, offensive-minded defenseman, as he only managed to put up four goals and 11 points in 47 games. He did log on a good amount of ice time and was a top 4 defenseman on his team.

His size and strength are still holding him back as he has trouble of handling the opposition in his own zone. He has to get stronger overall and improve his defensive positioning in order to take his game to the next level.

As it looks right now, the best thing for Enström would be to remain with Modo for another year and get two offseasons to bulk up before trying his luck on the other side of the pond.

Lars Jonsson, D, HV71 (Boston)

Jonsson has been a promising prospect for several years, but his play hasn’t been as good as expected after being drafted in the first round of the 2000 NHL Draft.

After a few sub-par seasons, Jonsson put on a very good show this season with HV-71 posting career numbers with 11 goals and 27 points in 50 games for the regular season champions.

His game has improved a lot since being drafted six years ago and he’s finally ready for prime time action in the NHL. He has good size, is a great skater with puck poise and offensive upside. He has all the tools to be a top 3 defenseman at the NHL level.

Jonsson must be signed by the Bruins before June 1 or he will become a free agent. Rumors are saying that Bruins are trying to deal him before the deadline, but that doesn’t seem to be working out well.

No matter what, Jonsson will play in North America next season, with or with the Bruins.

Jonas Nordqvist, C, Luleå (Chicago)

Nordquist has also been a highly-touted prospect for several years now and has finally rounded out his game. He has been a very good two-way forward with Luleå for the last two seasons and finally looks to be ready to make his way to North America.

This season he became the top center with Luleå and led his team in scoring with his career numbers, 19 goals and 41 points in 46 games. His improved two-way game led to a selection for the Swedish National team that won a gold medal in Riga, Latvia at the World Championships.

Nordquist has good size, is very smart, has good hockey sense, solid wrist shot and offensive instincts. He works hard and uses his body well. The only knock on him is his foot speed as he lacks power in his first few strides.

As it looks right now, Nordquist is on the verge of signing a deal with Chicago and will make his first pro year next season.

Richard Demén-Willaume, D, Frölunda (Colorado)

This underachieving defenseman could use a change of environment for the next season. But the question remains, is North America the answer?

He has spent the last two seasons playing a minor role with Frölunda in Elitserien, but it is evident now that he won’t be returning for a third year. After another disappointing season, he didn’t see a good development place in Frölunda anymore and will play somewhere else next season.

Demen has great size and is very mobile. He moves the puck pretty well and has started to develop his hockey sense, which was one of his biggest weaknesses previously. He also has a physical side to his game and can deliver the occasional big hit.

He’s a bit of a longshot for getting a contract right now. But with another season in Europe, he could be ready to start his quest for a spot in the NHL with play in the AHL two years down the road.

Johan Fransson, D, Luleå (Dallas)

Fransson has had a rough career so far in Elitserien and could also use a change of environment for the upcoming season. He has been a highly-touted prospect for quite some time, but still hasn’t broken out of his prospect shell.

This past season he went back instead of forward in his development with Luleå. As the season progressed Fransson got less ice time and didn’t have the confidence of the coach.

But he still has tremendous upside and is a very similar player to Red Wings young prodigy, Niklas Kronwall. He’s a sensational skater with above average puck skills, hockey sense and shooting arsenal. Plus, he doesn’t mind using his body to lay out his opponents.

On the downside, he has to work on his strength and defensive zone coverage in order to become an NHL d-man.

The Stars have expressed their interest in Fransson. “He’s a player that we’ll enter contract talks with,” Dallas Stars General Manager Doug Armstrong said in an interview with Hockey’s Future earlier this season. “He’s an offensive player that we think should get over and get accustomed to North American hockey.”

But as it looks right now, he’ll stay another year in Sweden. He has signed a contract with Frölunda and could use a full season in Elitserien before crossing the pond. This way he could step right into the NHL and contribute as a top 6 d-man.

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