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By Mikael Holm
With all the talk about the worth of this year’s draft picks this trade deadline, the upcoming draft class has almost become underrated. The way some people talk about this draft it sounds like you will not find any quality outside the top-15 or even in the top-15. I’m here to tell you that there is plenty of quality in this draft, even outside the top-15 or the first few rounds.
Sweden has plenty of players with deserved hype in this draft. You have William Eklund, Jesper Wallstedt, Fabian Lysell, and Simon Edvinsson who all could be the top pick this July. I want to talk about the players that are a little bit under the radar or players that people might be misinformed about. I want to talk about the sleepers.
Some might object that Strömgren is a ”sleeper” since he is so highly rated by many. What I want to do is to discuss why he isn’t as high on my board as he is on a lot of other boards. It isn’t a big difference from my board to a lot of other people but I have not seen this talked about that much so I want to talk about it. I need to start by saying that I love William Strömgren, he is a very fun player and I want players like him to succeed. I have just noticed some things that are alarming to me, especially if you are thinking of taking him in the first round.
Strömgren is a very skilled winger with a strong shot that he can use in a lot of situations. If he has the puck on his stick and some space, he can make his opponents look silly. However, I started noticing that he mostly gets that space to create chaos with his offensive skill at the lower levels. When playing against his own peers in the J20 league in Sweden, he has a lot of space, and there he can dominate because of a slower pace of play. The same goes for when he was playing in HockeyEttan, it is slower and he gets more space to operate. When he was playing for Modo in HockeyAllsvenskan, I saw a player that did not provide that much on the ice. He was constantly out of position with his body, so no teammate could pass him the puck because he had his back to where he was going. He was not opening up his body to receive the passes and that could put his teammates in danger because they would have a harder time getting out of their own zone.
I also had some issues with his work ethic and defensive play. I thought he didn’t provide anything of worth defensively to his team and he didn’t really move his feet that much without the puck. I also saw some issues with his power skating. He wasn’t bending his knees enough to create a more powerful stride when going in a straight line. When he started from a stand-still position he couldn’t get away from his opponents as easily and lost the puck, especially in HockeyAllsvenskan. I also saw some immaturity towards his opponents where he could take a bad penalty at weird times.
Then I watched his last three games with Modo in HockeyAllsvenskan and he looked like a completely different player. He was working towards removing these kinds of things in his game. He was forechecking and winning the puck because of that. He was active in the defensive zone. He was positioned correctly in the neutral zone and became a viable passing option for his teammates and you want Strömgren to have the puck on his stick. This rockets him up my board because there he got so much raw talent. Is he a first-round pick in my eyes, no. To me, he is somewhere in the second or third round. I am excited to see what he can do at the U18 World Championship with Sweden and I am also excited for his next season because the rumors are saying he will play for Rögle next year in the SHL.
Johansson is a player I really didn’t have a clue who he was until he was inserted into Timrå’s lineup towards the end of the HockeyAllsvenskan season. Timrå was by a large margin the best team in the league and had secured the victory of the regular season when they decided to rest their superstar, and San Jose Sharks prospect, Jonathan Dahlén during the last weekend of play. Instead, Oliver Johansson got the chance to replace him on the first line and on the power play. Johansson had a great weekend scoring three goals in two games while having 8 shots on goal over those two games.
Johansson is a winger with good poise and patience. He is very confident on the puck and doesn’t shy away from going straight to the net. His skating is good albeit not spectacular. He quick to get going but his top speed isn’t remarkable. He has a good motor and works hard all game long. I see some issues with his movement off the puck at times, he tends to stay in one spot in some shifts. It is something that comes out some shifts, not all of them, so he just needs to get more consistent. I would pick him if we were out of the fourth round or something along those lines. He has an intriguing toolset and he is quite young for the draft and has had an explosive second half of the season.
Sundin is an interesting winger that has shown that he can take over entire shifts when he has the puck on his stick. I look at him as a player I would take in the late rounds and then let him develop in Sweden for a while. He is quick and evasive with his skating and he has hands that he can use to create space for himself and his teammates. He can use both his shot and his passing to be dangerous in the offensive zone. I see a little bit of Jonathan Berggren in Sundin but he’s not on the same level as Berggren were during his draft year and Sundin doesn’t have the same ceiling. I do think there’s a player in Sundin and I think it might be worth taking a shot on him in the later rounds of the draft.
There’s one issue with Sundin and that issue is that we haven’t seen him play since November. He’s one of many Swedish J20 players that didn’t get the chance to play in HockeyEttan or HockeyAllsvenskan this year. He is in the Swedish U18 roster for their camp ahead of the U18 World Championships and if he plays in the tournament, people will have the chance to see what he can do now.
Ivan Björkly Nordström
Björkly Nordström is in a similar position as Sundin in that he hasn’t played since November but the difference between Björkly Nordström and Sundin as players are quite big. Björkly Nordström is a 6’7”, 216 lbs winger who if he was born five days earlier, he would’ve been eligible for last year’s draft. Now there is plenty of big interesting forwards coming out of Sweden the last few years. There is Elmer Söderblom who was drafted in the 6th round by the Detroit Red Wings in 2019. He impressed everyone with his performance in the World Juniors this year and he has continued to play well with Frölunda in the SHL after that. There is a player like William Bengtsson Söderlund who also is eligible this year.
My eyes were drawn to Björkly Nordström because he is similar to Elmer Söderblom in that he can really make defenders look stupid with his dangles. However, Björkly Nordström is an impressive skater. He can get up to a high speed quickly and he can beat his opponents with speed. His early birthday and the fact that he hasn’t played since November is against him but what I have seen from him makes me want to take a bet on his toolset. He can skate, he can pass, he can dangle and he isn’t afraid to use his body at times. At least he is a very fun bet to take a chance on in the 7th round!
You can follow Mikael @carlmikaelholm on Twitter!