Swedish prospects sign NHL contracts

By Zoran Manojlovic

Below is a look at the next season from a Swedish perspective. This year’s Stanley cup winning Carolina Hurricanes featured one Swede, Nicklas Wallin, who got his name on the cup. For the next season there will be 10 new Swedish names to keep an eye on.

Björn Melin, LW, ANA

Melin, who was originally drafted back in 1999 by the NY Islanders (round 6 #163 overall) has been honing his game for a long time in Sweden and is finally getting a chance to try his game in the North American ranks.

Last season was a personal best for the soon-to-be 25-year-old winger who played with HV-71 in the Swedish elitserien. He finished 13th overall in league scoring with 16 goals and 35 points in 49 games.

He has good size and solid speed, but will need to work on his strength and physical play. He has good attitude and could be a third or fourth liner in a year or two, but there is a good chance that he could end up back in Sweden in the not too distant future. He will most likely start with Portland and try to work his way up.

Jonas Nordquist, C, CHI

Nordquist is a very solid prospect who has taken the long way to the NHL, through the junior-A, second-tier, elitserien and finally the national teams.

This season he became the top center with Luleå and led his team in scoring with 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, a 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.

He could start the year on the farm, but will most likely be a solid third line center for years to come in Chicago.

Joel Lundqvist, C, DAL

Lundquist was drafted back in 2000 by Dallas (round 3 #68 overall) and has taken a long time to reach the NHL. But the road might be just a bit longer as he’s not a surefire pick to make the team out of camp.

This past season wasn’t his best from a statistical point, but was probably his best overall. His game has been steady for the past few years and he’s been showing signs of becoming a very solid third or fourth line checker.

He’ll most likely start the next season on the farm, but could end up getting a few call-ups if needed.

Stefan Liv, G, DET

Liv is yet another of the “middle-aged” Swedish prospects that are crossing the pond for the first time.

He has had some ups and downs since being drafted back in 2000 by Detroit (round 4 #102 overall) but overall has been a solid citizen. He has played on four World Championships, with bronze, silver and gold medals to his resume as well as a gold medal from the last Olympics.

Next year will be a crucial one for him as he has signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings and is in the make-or-break position. He has to show that he is NHL-caliber or his North American visit will be a short-lived one.

He’ll start on the farm, but will most likely get a few starts in the NHL as well, where his future will be decided.

Jonathan Ericsson, D, DET

Ericsson was a surprise signing for many, but not for the regular readers of Hockey’s Future. In an article back in February it was acknowledged that Ericsson would be on the top of the Red Wings signing list this year.

He has a great combination of size, mobility, puck skills and attitude, but he just hasn’t put it all together yet. He will probably need another two to three years on the farm before the final product is shown.

He’ll play his time on the farm and try to work his way up after signing a two-year deal with the Red Wings this off-season.

Jonas Almtorp, C, EDM

Almtorp is another of the lesser-known Swedish prospect to sign a deal. He spent the last season with Brynäs scoring 6 goals and 12 points in 50 games. Those numbers aren’t great, but hide a solid third line center in the mold of Anaheim center, Samuel Påhlsson.

He’s far from NHL ready but will spend his time on the farm improving his strength and translating his game to the smaller rinks.

He has the potential to be a solid checking line center in a year or two, but could also very well end his North American adventure rather soon.

Daniel Widing, RW, NSH

Widing was drafted back in 2000 by Nashville (round 2 #36 overall) as a promising youngster. Six years after the draft, he finally gets his shot at making it to the NHL after signing a deal with the Predators.

He has split his time between the Finnish SM-Liga and the Swedish elitserien, but hasn’t really been able to make that breakout performance yet. His last three years were spent with two different teams in the Finnish men’s league where he posted solid but unspectacular numbers.

Next season he will try to make his way onto the Predators roster, but will most likely spend most of his time with Milwaukee. He has some potential of becoming a checker in NHL but still his future in the big league is uncertain.

Johan Halvardsson, D, NYI

Halvardsson has been waiting a long time for his NHL contract to be done. He was drafted back in 1999 by the NY Islanders (round 4 #102 overall).

He has been a very solid performer in the Swedish elitserien for the last two years, playing with HV-71.

He’s a big, mobile defenseman who has solid hockey sense and is very defensive-minded. He takes the body well and is strong in his own end of the ice. His offensive tools aren’t very impressive as he mostly concentrates on shutting down the opposition.

He’ll probably spend his time with Bridgeport of the AHL as a depth defenseman in the Islanders organization.

Magnus Kahnberg, LW, STL

Kahnberg was originally drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes (round 7 #212 overall) in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. But since the Hurricanes didn’t have any future plans for him, he was dealt to the Blues (Jan. 30th, 2006) in the Doug Weight trade.

Since being drafted, Kahnberg has emerged as one of the best snipers in Sweden. He has scored 102 goals and 178 points in 295 games for Frölunda in the Swedish elitserien.

He’s a shifty skater who likes to handle the puck down low and create offense on his own. He has sniper ability as he loves to shoot the puck and is always dangerous.

Kahnberg could very well find a spot on the weak Blues roster for the next season. But he might also serve some time with Peoria before getting a regular role on the big team.

Carl Söderberg, C, STL

Söderberg has progressed well since being drafted in 2004 by St. Louis (round 2 #49 overall) and is on his way to a very promising NHL career.

Söderberg is a very solid two-way player who has good size and strong offensive instincts. He is a good skater with a fluid and powerful stride. Although he lacks top-notch foot speed, he still manages to out-skate his opponents and thereby win battles in the corners. This season he has improved his intensity and foot speed and is now even stronger in one-on-one battles.

Although solid in all departments, his hockey sense is a notch better. He sees the ice very well and seems to always find the tape of his linemates. He uses his hockey sense not only to create offense, but also to take care of his defensive responsibilities as a center.

He has a very good shot at making the weak Blues team out of camp, but if he fails he has an out-clause in his contract that allows him to return to Sweden for another year instead of playing on the farm.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.