By Victor Nuno
It’s early in the 2022-23 season, but top prospects in Sweden have played roughly 20 games already so there is a decent enough sample size to make some initial observations about their progress. Here are some thoughts on some of the top players in Sweden, according to their age and draft year.
Emil Andrae (Philadelphia Flyers)
Philadelphia Flyers 2nd round pick from 2020 has been developing quite nicely in Sweden. His club, HV71, got relegated two seasons ago to the HockeyAllsvenskan, through no fault of his. Last season in the HockeyAllsvenskan, he posted 33 points in 41 games during the regular season and then 11 in 10 playoff games helping them get promoted back to the SHL.
So for this season, he is clicking at just under a half point per game with nine in 19. Unsurprisingly, for a just promoted team, HV71 find themselves at the bottom of the table, 13th out of 14 spots. He is currently third on the team in time on ice and driving play reasonably well at a 50% Corsi. Last season in the HockeyAllsvenskan, he was at a 64% Corsi in a much easier league.
The knock on Andrae has been and always will be his size. At 5-9, he is severely undersized for the NHL. Only a few defenders that height have succeeded for a considerable length of time, Torey Krug and Jared Spurgeon are two examples. While it remains to be seen if he can defend well enough at the NHL level like those two, he does pretty well in a prominent role in the SHL. His compete level is generally the best on the ice at any given moment, which usually makes up for his lack of size. He does struggle to defend the rush and as an undersized defender, that’s a tough sell for the NHL. He should at least get a look by the Flyers in another year or two. If he can defend well enough, he could still be a strong offensive defenseman. Even if he ends up in a less prominent role, his roughly a hit and block per game to go along with 2.5 shots on goal should give him a solid peripheral floor.
Calle Clang (Anaheim Ducks)
Calle Clang was selected in the third round by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was traded last season to the Anaheim Ducks in the deal that sent Rickard Rakell to the Penguins. I was really hoping we’d see Clang in North America, but he was loaned back to Sweden and he’s been playing in the SHL for Rogle BK.
So far, his numbers in the nine games he’s played aren’t great. He has two wins and five loses with a 2.80 goals against average and .903 save percentage. As a team, Rogle BK is underperforming, they were expected to compete for a championship and they currently sit 11th out of 14 teams. Per InStat, Clang is saving 0.93 expected goals per goal conceded (xGPGc). Any number under one means he is saving fewer than expected, which is the case this season, but was 1.19 last year on a similarly good Rogle team.
No doubt Clang is behind Lukas Dostal on the depth chart and currently John Gibson and Anthony Stolarz as well. Stolarz is an unrestricted free agent after this season so he may not be back. Rumors abound about the future of Gibson in Anaheim as well as his play has been trending downward for the past four seasons now. Gibson’s contract ends in the 2026-27 season so who knows what will happen with him.
Clang’s 27 SHL games to date as a 20-year-old is solid experience. With another year or two of professional experience and perhaps at least one as the main starter, he should be ready to compete for an NHL job. It’s difficult to say what the crease will look like in Anaheim at that time, but Clang should be in the conversation to stake a strong claim to it.
Marco Kasper (Detroit Red Wings)
Marco Kasper was selected by the Detroit Red Wings eighth overall in 2022. Some might have felt that Steve Yzerman reached with Kasper, but you need only look at his other first-round “reaches” Simon Edvinsson, Lucas Raymond, and Moritz Seider to realize Kasper has a good chance of exceeding expectations. While the latter two have become NHL regulars, Edvinsson is knocking on the door and already has nine points in 13 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL this season.
Kasper is on the cusp of eclipsing his point total from last season with 10 points in 19 games for Rogle BK, he had 11 all of last season in 46 games. As described above, Rogle BK is not doing as well as expected. Not only are they 11th in the standings, but they are also 11th in goals for in the SHL so there isn’t as much scoring to go around. Nonetheless, Kasper is not the problem, he has been good.
So far this season, Kasper is rocking a 60% Corsi for, up from 48% last season. That number is tops on the team this season for all skaters who have played more than four games. Remarkable stuff for the 18-year-old who won’t be 19 until April eighth. While Kasper might not be the most skilled forward, he will out-hustle just about anyone and with the right complement of wingers, he could be a strong fantasy asset. He’s currently hitting over once per game and getting nearly a half block a game to go with his two shots. That is a great floor to complement his point scoring upside. The Red Wings have several good young wingers to offer him when he’s ready to make the jump.
Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Liam Öhgren, Noah Östlund, and Calle Odelius
Unfortunately for this quartet, their team Djurgardens IF was relegated from the SHL to the HockeyAllsvenskan. You’d think as highly touted prospects, they would be tearing up the second division in Sweden, but it’s not quite working out that way now. Though Djurgardens IF is currently third in the league so as a whole, things aren’t going too badly overall.
Of the three forwards, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, selected 15th overall by the Vancouver Canucks, seems to be struggling the most with just five points in 20 games. He scored seven goals in the SHL last season in 26 games and has just one goal in 20 games this season. Much of his damage came in the J20 Nationell league and so far, that offense doesn’t seem to be translating this season. He’s getting a hit every other game, but it is concerning that his shots are down from 3.5 to 2.3 from last season. He will have to figure out other ways to be effective and round out his game if he wants to someday cross the pond.
Liam Öhgren, selected 19th overall by the Minnesota Wild in 2022 has looked much better than Lekkerimaki. Despite only having seven points in 21 games, he is driving play exceptionally well, 60% Corsi for, which is third best on the team amongst forwards over one game played. He’s getting a hit per game, but his shots are down from 2.5 to 1.5 per game so he needs to up his shots. While the points haven’t come yet, he is creating a fair amount of offense that should translate to more points.
Noah Östlund, selected 16th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2022 is having the best season of these forwards. He is clicking at just over a half point per game with 11 points in 19 games. Though most of his points are assists, he has twice as many primary assists as he does secondary assists, which is good. Secondary assists tend to be more random and difficult to repeat. Östlund offers the least of these forwards in terms of peripheral coverage, a hit every four games and under two shots per game with negligible blocks. In addition to his points, Ostlund is driving play at 63% Corsi for, which is second on the team behind 31-year-old Stefan Elliott. He seems on track to be a middle six pivot in the NHL.
Calle Odelius, who was selected 65th overall by the New York Islanders has been extremely impressive for an 18-year-old. He is driving play well and while he doesn’t project as a big scorer in the NHL, he is trending more and more like he could make it. Fantasy poolies would like to see more than a hit every 10 games and a block every other game. He is also failing to register at least a shot on goal per game, so that is disappointing.
Dennis Hildeby(Toronto Maple Leafs)
Drafted as an overager in the fourth round by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2022, goalie Dennis Hildeby has appeared in six games for fourth place Färjestad BK in the SHL. 6-6 and 134 pounds, Hildeby has NHL-size. In his limited action for a strong club, he has been very good. In his 10 appearances this season, Hildeby has 1.75 xGPGc, an incredible number. It’s worth noting that he has yet to have a season where that mark is under 1.22.
Goalies are hard to predict, but Hildeby’s trajectory and SHL experience demonstrates he will probably get a chance in North America at some point. It’s possible the Maple Leafs found a gem here. If he is not rostered in your deep dynasties, he might be worth rostering. At the very least, you can trade him to your friendly Maple Leafs fan when the hype train starts.
Leo Carlsson is the highest ranked Swedish prospect for the 2023 draft. Currently ranked fourth overall by DobberProspects, the 6-3 forward played 35 games in the SHL last year as a 16- and 17-year-old where he registered just nine points. This season, he already has 13 points in 20 games, which gives him 0.65 points per game. That mark has only been bested by Daniel Sedin, Peter Forsberg, and Henrik Sedin, who played 50, 23, and 49 games in their draft season.
While Carlsson may or may not belong with those generational Swedes, Carlsson seems like a difference maker that should be a top of the lineup player in the NHL. Carlsson is a very creative offensive driver of play. We will see if he can continue this pace of scoring over the course of the season. If he does, he could be in the conversation to be a top five pick in 2023. If you have or can acquire a 2023 first round pick, Carlsson should be on your radar, no matter where he ends up being drafted.
Otto Stenberg is currently ranked 20th by Dobber Prospects. He’s a 5-11 forward splitting time between the J18 and J20 leagues in Sweden, along with a handful of SHL games. He was Sweden’s captain at the Hlinka-Gretzky with nine points in five games.
It’s still early obviously, but he is looking like either a middle six or top five forwards with good upside for points. Might be more of just a strong play-driver destined for the middle six. Keep an eye on him and how he progresses. Especially in his SHL time where he currently has zero points for Frölunda HC, a contender for the championship, which might mean he gets little opportunity.
For more insights, listen to the latest episode of the Fantasy Hockey Life podcast, part of the Dobber Hockey podcast network.
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