Victor Söderström Gets Low
The 2019 NHL Entry Draft is not the most exciting one for us Swedes, and it suffers from being between a very good Swedish draft (2018) and a draft that could be the best one ever for Sweden (2020). But there are still a few very interesting Swedish prospects that will get drafted this week. In this text, I get the chance to present an overview of my top10 Swedish prospects for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Victor Söderström, D, Brynäs IF, 6’0, 183 lbs, DOB 02.26.01
Söderström has had an impressive season in the SHL and has been the only -01 born player to take a permanent roster spot in Sweden’s top league. Söderström is a smart two-way defenseman that has great skating abilities. His smooth strides enable him to navigate through traffic and to pivot to avoid incoming opponents as he transports the puck zone-to-zone. If an opponent challenges Söderström he can stickhandle his way past him, as Söderström has quite soft hands and great puck control. His decision-making with the puck is superb in all three zones; he solves pressure in the defensive zone with ease, makes excellent plays to start the transition game for his team and can find openings in the offensive zone to generate a scoring chance for a teammate. If given the chance Söderström can also put the puck into the net, as he has a decent slap shot and a competent wrist shot.
Söderström uses his mobility while playing in the offensive zone, although he could be much more consistent with it as he sometimes plays a bit too safe when he shifts positions. While defending Söderström makes great reads and anticipates the play very well, he actively uses his stick to cut off angles and to put pressure on the puck. He lacks size and strength and can struggle around the boards and while defending the crease, but he doesn’t shy away from physical contact and can throw a hit to stop an opponent. Söderström should be considered a very safe pick, as his game is already very polished for his age and his core game doesn’t have any major weaknesses.
Philip Broberg, D, AIK, 6’3, 201 lbs, DOB 06.25.01
Philip Broberg is probably the most talked about Swedish prospect for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, he started the season with a great performance at the Ivan Hlinka tournament and has been considered a top talent since then. Broberg is another Swedish defenseman with strong skating, he will be among the fastest player drafted in this year’s draft as his north-south skating is fantastic. There’s room for improving his agility, as it is a few steps behind his acceleration and top speed, and it would greatly benefit his puck-moving game.
Broberg has excellent offensive instincts and will be looking to make plays from all over the ice, either by carrying the puck himself or by sending a hard, crisp pass to a teammate. He plays a quite high-risk game and sometimes forgets the defensive consequences or his actions as he can cause quite a few turnovers. Broberg also has a decent shot, he prefers to use his wrist shot over his slapshot and if he gets a bit of time to aim, he can score from far out and through traffic as he has the ability to find open net to shoot at from the blue line. If he is a bit further into the zone Broberg is able to beat the goaltender with a well-placed wrister from up close as well.
The big knock on Broberg’s game is his hockey sense, as he is prone to make less than perfect decisions with the puck, rarely adapts to his surroundings and doesn’t seem to learn from past mistakes. He can also become a bit too one-sided when he moves the puck, and once his opponents learn his patterns, he rarely changes his game. Broberg is one of the prospects that fit the bill “high risk / high reward” in this year’s draft, there’s a ton of potential there but it’s far from set in stone that he will fully pan out.
Simon Holmström, RW, Hv71 J20, 6’1, 192 lbs, DOB 05.24.01
Simon Holmström has had an injury-riddled season, he missed most of the first half of the season due to a hip surgery he had in the off-season but managed to finish the season strong to keep his stock up for the draft. Holmström is an explosive skater, with good first steps, above-average acceleration and high top speed. He is also agile enough to make quick turns or to change direction as he moves the puck at high speed.
Holmström is a very effective player in the offensive zone, he works hard and tries to utilize his skating to create scoring chances for his team but he can also turn the pace down when he has the puck, to get more space while looking for passing lanes to open up. He has excellent vision and will find smart and creative ways to put his teammates in prime scoring positions, usually from his favorite position behind the net. He has quick soft hands and can surprise a defender with a dangle to get past on the inside at 1-on-1 situations and his puck control is clearly above average. While Holmström is a pass-first player he can still put the puck into the net, especially if he is given a chance close to the crease, his wrist shot has a deceptive release and he doesn’t need a lot of time and space to shoot a well-placed shot to beat the goaltender.
On the negative Holmström can sometimes play a bit too complicated and try to enter the offensive-zone by making an over the top dangle, which results in a turnover. He also isn’t a star in his own zone as he sometimes cheats defensively in order to try to generate offense. Holmström has many tools which could make him a good middle-six forward but there’s potential for more if he fully pans out.
Nils Höglander, LW, Rögle BK, 5’9, 188 lbs, DOB 12.20.00
Höglander had a quite rough start to the season, his first in the SHL, as he struggled with positional play and looked quite out of place. He got more comfortable as the season progressed and during the second half of the season he played very well and managed to show flashes of offensive brilliance in one of Europe’s toughest leagues.
Höglander is a very quick forward, he has good first steps both while accelerating and when he makes sharps turns or shifts directions. He has decent top speed to go with it, but it isn’t elite. Höglander has good offensive instincts, both with and without the puck, he looks for openings as the play turns to create odd-man rushes and is good at anticipating plays to put him in 1-on-1 situations with defenders. He is among the best stickhandlers in this year’s draft class and can make incredible dangles both at open ice and around the net, which can catch defenders off-guard.
Even though he lacks size and strength Höglander still has a hard-working mindset and likes to fight for the puck around the net or along the boards. He has a great offensive motor and rarely gives up on a play, instead he continues to look for options to create a play with the puck and he likes to carry it around the offensive zone. Höglander’s shot isn’t the most impressive part of his game, his wrist shot has a quick release but there’s room for big improvement when it comes to velocity, he isn’t a player that typical scores from outside the circles, instead he relies on his hands, speed, work rate and smartness to find or create scoring chances close to the net. He needs to improve his defensive game, as his positional play and awareness still need quite a bit of polishing.
Tobias Björnfot, D, Djurgårdens IF J20, 6’0, 203 lbs, DOB 04.06.01
Björnfot has been a consistent contributor and leader for Djurgården’s J20 team this season and got to make his debut in the SHL as well. He is a good skater, even though he doesn’t have the highest top speed. Björnfot’s first steps are good, so is his acceleration, and his balance is superb – once he has set his mind to get the puck from point A to point B he is incredibly hard to knock off the puck.
Björnfot isn’t an incredible playmaker but he has a very strong first pass to start the transition game for his team, and he can spot passing lanes from the blue line in the offensive zone as well. He has a heavy shot from the point but he is more dangerous when he carries the puck down from the blue line and goes towards the slot or around his forward before challenging the net, as he has a quite decent wrist shot and a surprisingly good backhand shot. So, once he gets close to the net, he can be hard to read for the goaltender as he is able to finish in a variety of ways.
Defensively Björnfot is rock solid, he makes few mistakes in his own zone and has improved his positional play a ton this season. He consistently makes good reads and intercept passes before turning the play and is very strong along the boards. Björnfot’s leadership abilities are apparent when he is on the ice and he makes everyone around him better, and he seems to always be the one to step up and make the decisive play when his team needs it the most. He’ll block the last shot of the game if it is needed and he can step up to score a late goal to give his team the win all by himself. He isn’t as creative and offensive minded as some of the other top defensemen, but he has a high floor and should be considered a quite safe pick but with a slightly lower offensive ceiling than the top defensemen.
Albin Grewe, C/RW, Djurgårdens IF J20, 6’0, 190 lbs, DOB 03.22.01
Grewe has been one of J20 SuperElit’s best players this past season. He is like a wrecking ball when he has the puck, but it isn’t due to his skating as it isn’t his strongest offensive weapon. He has decent first steps and his acceleration and top speed is slightly above average for his age. He does, however, have great balance and lower body strength and is very hard to knock off the puck.
What jumps the page about Grewe is his strength, determination, competitiveness and aggressiveness. He is a tough player, that competes well in every shift he takes and is a pain to play against, especially for players that do not thrive when they get physically challenged or put under heavy pressure as Grewe is a smart forechecker that doesn’t give up on the play and finishes his checks. Even though Grewe is quite a typical power forward he combines it with interesting playmaking abilities. He sees the ice well and can spot less than obvious passing lanes and with his physical play he opens up plays that otherwise wouldn’t be there. Grewe’s shot good but not great but due to his other attributes he can put himself in situations from where he can score anyway, you don’t typically see him score from outside the circles. He is a player that can fit any role on a team and is very useful all over the ice. On the negative, he can be prone to take dumb penalties at times, as he cannot always control his temper.
Albert Johansson, D, Färjestad BK J20, 6’0, 168 lbs, DOB 01.04.01
Johansson has taken huge leaps in his development this season, mainly during its second half. Much of his game revolves around his outstanding skating and smartness. Johansson is a smooth skater, that is very mobile and has very good speed for a defenseman. He is a strong backwards skater and has good agility as well, even while skating at high speed. He likes to carry the puck, he will take it from his own zone all the way to the opposing net or circle around in the offensive zone, it’s a part of his game that Johansson could be more consistent with but he has the right abilities to be a fantastic puck-mover at higher levels.
He makes smart decisions with the puck all over the ice, he solves defensive situations with ease and has a strong breakout pass as well. In the offensive zone, he can make complicated passes and he quickly spots passing lanes from his position on the blue line. There’s room for improvement when it comes to Johansson’s shot, it is quite powerful but lacks accuracy and often goes straight to the goaltender or completely misses the net.
Johansson is an effective defensive player as well, he has strong positional play and makes good reads to intercept passes. He has an active stick and uses it in a smart way to put pressure on the puck and to take away passing lanes. Johansson needs to add more strength and weight as he sometimes can have issues and lose the inside around his own need against stronger opponents, it would also improve his game along the boards.
Karl Henriksson, C, Frölunda HC J20, 5’9, 174 lbs, DOB 02.05.01
Karl Henriksson has been one of J20 SuperElit’s best offensive players this past season. He is far from the best pure skaters in this year’s draft, as he lacks elite top speed and acceleration, but his first steps are above average and give him an initial burst of speed forward or to the sides. Although his skating technique is a bit lacking, he is still quite agile and can be quite hard to catch as he pivots and quickly changes direction when he has the puck and he has quite good balance as well.
Hockey sense and is Henriksson’s most notable offensive weapon, he makes quick good decisions with the puck in the offensive zone and can thread the needle to give a teammate a prime scoring chance. He is excellent at anticipating plays and to spot passing lanes and if he is given a bit too much time or space with the puck, he will make a great set up. He has soft hands and uses his stickhandling to avoid pressure and to gain space, but he isn’t overly creative in the sense that he will consistently try to dangle his way past opponents. Henriksson can also put the puck into the net himself, his wrist shot is very accurate but could see an increase in sheer power. He often scores from or close to the slot as he works hard around the crease and efficiently uses his smarts to find open scoring chances and with his quick hands, he can often be the first to touch the puck.
Henriksson is also a decent defensive player but there’s room for improvement when it comes to consistency in his effort level and he needs to bulk up and become stronger as it would benefit his play in all three zones.
Mattias Norlinder, D, Modo Hockey, 6’0, 187 lbs, DOB 04.12.00
Norlinder, who was passed upon in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, will be among the best pure skaters in this year’s draft class. He is a very elegant skater, that takes long light strides to gather speed. He has very good acceleration and above average top speed but it also agile enough to make use of his speed as he can make wiggles or turns to avoid opponents that are trying to stop him when he transports the puck up the ice. He uses his skating well to create odd-man rushes for his team or to join as the second wave of an attack and he is quick to make the jump once the play turns from his own zone.
Norlinder is also a decent stickhandler and has good puck control, but he isn’t a very creative player and he could make better use of his puck skills to become an even better 1-on-1-player. He has a good shot from the point and can fire off a quick wrist shot or a heavy slap shot depending on how much time he has with the puck, and he is often able to get his shot through traffic. With his accurate wrist shot Norlinder is also able to score from far out, even when there’s no traffic in front of the goalkeeper. Norlinder’s passing abilities are his main offensive weapon, he makes smart thoughtful plays and can make quick decisions to take advantage of a opponents mistake but also handle the puck to open up a passing lane. From his own end, Norlinder has a strong first pass and can create odd-man rushes or breakaways with precise breakout passes.
Defensively Norlinder is a solid piece, he plays a smart game, has top-notch awareness and makes good reads but can also step up and play physical when it is needed, and he is able to throw a hit to get a stoppage in the play.
Samuel Fagemo, LW/RW, Frölunda HC, 5’11, 194 lbs, DOB 03.14.00
Fagemo has been one of the most talked about overaged players eligible for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He is an offensive-minded forward that has his strengths around the opposing net. He has significantly improved his skating from last season, and he got much more power in his strides now than before, but there’s still work needed to be done when it comes to his overall skating technique. He still manages to have decent acceleration and his first steps are slightly above average, but he lacks high-end top speed. He is agile and a quite good stickhandler but lacks the puck skills to be able to consistently make good use of his moves and intentions as he doesn’t always have full control of the puck.
Fagemo puts in a lot of effort and has a high work-rate in the offensive zone, mainly around the net, and he reads the game well in the sense that he always seems to be at the right spot to find a rebound or loose puck in scoring areas. He has a strong powerful wrist shot, with a quick release but he does get stressed when he doesn’t have a lot of time to shoot, which lowers the quality of his shooting. If he has the time to aim, he is able to beat the goaltender from quite far out, even while skating at quite high speed. Fagemo’s one-time slapshot on the powerplay is among the absolute best in this year’s draft, it’s a tool he should look to include more in his offensive game.
Besides the goalscoring and offensive work rate, there are many flaws to Fagemo’s game, he is a quite average playmaker with poor decision making with the puck and his defensive work is often sub-par as he lacks awareness, doesn’t have the highest compete-level while defending and lets his offensive instincts take over too often.
By Christoffer Hedlund