Welcome to the May edition of the SHL Report. This time, I’ll focus on the SHL Awards, NHL free agents, prospects who have signed their entry level contracts, and the upcoming 2018 NHL Entry Draft. If you want to read about SHL Playoffs, check out my April Report.
To the surprise of no one, Elias Pettersson (Canucks) stole the show at the SHL Awards where he won Rookie of the Year (shocking, I know), Best Forward, and Most Valuable Player awards. As I mentioned in the previous report, Pettersson also won the Playoff MVP award on top of winning the scoring race both during the regular season and playoffs. Pettersson also got to play at the World Championship tournament but he injured his thumb while playing there. His recovery time is expected to be just a few weeks, so there’s no reason to worry about the injury as it will have no effect on his summer training.
Pettersson also recently signed a three-year entry level contract with the Canucks but it includes a European Assignment Clause which gives him the option to return to Europe if the Canucks want to demote him. One player who recently got a similar clause in his contract was Eeli Tolvanen with the Predators, and I believe this becomes more common now because many European prospects don’t want to play in the AHL.
The Rangers signed undrafted free agent Michael Lindqvist to a one-year entry level contract. Lindqvist is an average-sized (5-11, 172) winger who turns 24 before the season begins and he’s had bad injury issues this past year but he’s also a very talented offensive player with a great release, so hopefully the Rangers give him a chance to play in the NHL. Despite the injuries, Lindqvist had a strong season in the SHL where he scored 20 goals and 34 points in just 33 games. Lindqvist is a good sleeper prospect but don’t reach for him too much because there’s lots of risk with him as well. Lindqvist also has a European Assignment Clause on his contract similar to Pettersson.
The Sabres signed 22-year-old defenseman Lawrence Pilut to a two-year entry level contract. Pilut won the Defenseman of the Year award at the SHL Awards after scoring eight goals and 38 points in 52 games. He was the obvious choice to win the award and there was no one else even close to him in my opinion. I have created his fantasy hockey profile here at DobberProspects, so just click on his name to know more about him. I believe Pilut is ready to play in the NHL right away and he’s a guy who can run a power play but I do wonder if there’s room for him in Buffalo since they’re also adding Dahlin in the summer and they need to find similar minutes for him as well. Pilut will likely start on the bottom-pair but I think he has top-four upside if he continues progressing as expected. He’s not big (5-11, 179) but his hockey smarts allow him to play a reliable game all over the ice. But he needs to get stronger this summer, and it shouldn’t shock anyone if he starts the season in the AHL.
The Oilers signed 24-year-old defenseman Joel Persson to a one-year entry level contract and at the same time they announced that he’ll return to the SHL for another year. Basically, the Oilers knew Persson isn’t ready to play in the NHL but they were willing to pay a signing bonus now to secure his NHL rights. He becomes a restricted free agent next summer and the Oilers can decide what to do with him then. Persson had a strong offensive season in the SHL where he scored six goals and 34 points in 51 games but a lot of those points came on the power play where he was feeding some 19-year-old kid named Pettersson. Persson has similar size as Pilut (5-11, 187) but his defensive game isn’t as good as Pilut’s. I wrote a bit about Persson in my February Report.
The Capitals signed 23-year-old winger Juuso Ikonen to a two-year entry level contract. Ikonen is an undersized (5-10, 172) offensive winger who had a decent season in the SHL where he scored 12 goals and 26 points in 49 games but I don’t see him becoming more than an AHL player. He has talent and I’d be happy if he proves me wrong but I just don’t see it.
The Maple Leafs signed 26-year-old center Pär Lindholm to a one-year entry level contract. Lindholm isn’t big (5-11, 187) but he’s pretty strong. Lindholm was one of the top players in the league and scored 18 goals and 47 points in 49 games. He’s also defensively responsible which allows him to play a bottom-six role in the NHL. He could jump right in and fill the fourth-line center role for the Leafs.
The Coyotes signed 29-year-old center David Ullström to a one-year, two-way contract with $650,000 cap hit. Ullström is a bit different from the others because he has previous NHL experience, and he’s also much bigger (6-2, 194) than the others – it seems like size is still causing talented players to go unnoticed by NHL teams. Ullström had a decent season in the SHL where he scored six goals and 30 points in 47 games. The Coyotes probably think he can fill a fourth-line role and it’s possible but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in Europe.
Entry Level Contracts
Wingers Jonathan Dahlén (Canucks) and Carl Grundström (Maple Leafs) had already signed their entry level contracts when I mentioned them in the April Report, and they both saw some AHL action as well. I think both will be pushing for an NHL job next fall but might be better off starting the season in the AHL. I like Dahlén’s offensive upside much more but Grundström is a very good complementary player who can play on almost any line, and he has a good nose for the net and isn’t afraid to drive to the net.
Goaltender Filip Gustavsson (Senators) and forward Victor Ejdsell (Blackhawks) also signed their entry level contracts a bit earlier and already played in the AHL. Gustavsson is Ottawa’s goalie of the future and will spend a couple of years in the AHL but he definitely has NHL starter upside. Ejdsell got some NHL games under his belt already and is a possibility for the Blackhawks next season. It still remains to be seen if the Blackhawks want him at wing or at center because he’s played all forward positions during his time in the AHL, and he did that in the SHL as well.
In addition to adding the above-mentioned Pilut, the Sabres also signed two of their draftees in center Rasmus Asplund and winger Victor Olofsson. The 20-year-old Asplund is mature beyond his years and plays a well-rounded game which allows him to make the jump to the NHL quickly but I’m hoping to see him in the AHL for some time so that he can continue developing his offensive tools. Olofsson, who turns 23 in July, is a volume-shooter who probably needs some time in the AHL to improve his play without the puck but could play in the NHL quickly if the Sabres are willing to offer him sheltered offensive minutes.
Another group of youngsters who signed their entry level contracts includes defenseman Lucas Carlsson (Blackhawks), and wingers Jonathan Davidsson (Blue Jackets), Axel Jonsson-Fjällby (Capitals), Pierre Engvall (Maple Leafs) and David Kase (Flyers). All these players are ready to play an important role in the AHL, and I also wouldn’t be shocked if Carlsson, Davidsson and Jonsson-Fjällby got some NHL games next season depending on how well they adjust to the smaller rink and how many injuries their NHL club sees during the season. Jonsson-Fjällby has the least amount of offensive upside from that group but they all could be worth owning if your league is deep enough.
Forward Lukas Vejdemo (Canadiens) also signed his entry level contract but he’s expected to return to Sweden for another year. Vejdemo is already 22 years old and hasn’t shown much, so my expectations are pretty low. And finally, defenseman Gustav Lindström (Red Wings) also signed his entry level contract but he’s expected to need at least a year or two in Sweden before he can cross the pond. He spent last season playing at the second highest level in Allsvenskan, and he should be playing in the SHL next season. He was a surprising early second round selection last summer, and I still don’t know why.
NHL Entry Draft
The NHL Entry Draft is coming soon, so I figured I’d let you know my personal ranking of the Swedish players who played in Sweden this past season. I’ve split the rankings into tiers, and I’ll also explain where each tier fits in the grand scheme of things. Please notice that this is a real life ranking but I’ll also mention what type of changed I’d make for fantasy drafts.
1. Rasmus Dahlin, D
2. Adam Boqvist, D
3. Isac Lundeström, C
4. Jacob Olofsson, C
5. Jonatan Berggren, RW
6. Filip Hållander, LW
7. Nils Lundkvist, D
8. David Gustafsson, C
9. Filip Johansson, D
10. Adam Ginning, D
11. Albin Eriksson, LW
12. Oscar Bäck, C
13. Axel Andersson, D
14. Olof Lindbom, G
15. David Lilja, C
16. Marcus Westfält, C
17. Lukas Wernblom, LW
Rasmus Dahlin is going to be the first overall pick and I have absolutely no doubt about that. I’ve already written a lot about him in previous SHL Reports (April Report especially), so check them out if you want to know more about him. I think he can jump to the NHL right away and could push for 40 points depending on the role he gets during his rookie year. His upside is tremendous but I’m preaching patience with expectations for his first couple of years.
Adam Boqvist’s offensive upside is actually pretty close to Dahlin’s but there’s significantly more risk with him because his defensive game still needs improvements and he hasn’t managed to do much at the pro level. I don’t see dropping out of the top 10 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go in the top 5. If you want to swing for high upside, I recommend targeting him very early in your fantasy hockey draft. If it wasn’t for Dahlin in this draft, we’d be talking a lot more about Boqvist – sort of similar to what happened last year with Cale Makar.
After Dahlin and Boqvist, I have a tier that includes six players: Isac Lundeström, Jacob Olofsson, Jonatan Berggren, Filip Hållander, Nils Lundkvist and David Gustafsson. I wouldn’t draft them in the top 20 but I have them all in my top 40. I prefer centers over wingers for real life purposes which is why Lundeström and Olofsson are leading this tier. But for fantasy hockey purposes, I would slide the centers down a bit from here because they’re all two-way players with limited upside which has value in the NHL but not so much in fantasy hockey.
My next tier includes Filip Johansson, Adam Ginning and Albin Eriksson. These are players I would draft with picks ranging from 50th to 70th, so late second or early third round. Johansson and Ginning are two-way defensemen with defense-first mentality, so they don’t have much value in fantasy hockey leagues. Ginning is a physical player with good size (6-3, 196), so he could eventually provide a healthy dose of hits and blocked shots, and that could make him worth a late round pick in deep multi-cat leagues. You can read more about him from my April Report. For fantasy hockey purposes, the only player who really interests me here is Eriksson. There’s lots of risk with him but there’s also some real upside. He’s not a traditional power forward but more like a modern age power forward who uses his size (6-4, 205) and strength to protect the puck. He has some offensive talent, his skating is good, and he has a history of undisciplined actions that have led to high penalty minute numbers.
Next up, I have Oscar Bäck, Axel Andersson and Olof Lindbom. These are players I would be willing to draft in the third and fourth round. Andersson is a puck-moving defenseman and worth consideration in deep fantasy hockey leagues but Bäck is a defensive center who probably isn’t worth drafting. Lindbom is one of the better goalie prospects in this draft class but goalies take forever to develop.
My final tier includes David Lilja, Marcus Westfält and Lukas Wernblom. I wouldn’t draft them until the fifth round or even later than that, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they went undrafted. In most fantasy hockey leagues, late round picks like them aren’t worth consideration.
There are a few more prospects I’ve seen in some rankings but I haven’t had the chance to see enough of them to put them in my ranking. If you feel like I’ve overlooked someone, let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
Many of these prospects will be profiled in Dobber’s 2018 Fantasy Hockey Prospects Report which is out on June 1st, so go buy that now if you haven’t already. This is my first year contributing to the report, and spoiler alert: only the top two prospects from this list cracked my top 50 ranking that includes draft eligible players along with all other prospects with zero NHL games played.
And that’s all for now. Feel free to add comments below – all kind of feedback is welcomed. You can also find me on Twitter @JokkeNevalainen.
All images used on the main collage courtesy of SHL.se