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2022 NHL Draft Profiles: Swedish skaters

Exploring seven draft-eligible forwards and defenders currently playing in Sweden who might fit the Sens’ mould

Ottawa Senators v Philadelphia Flyers
Will the Sens pick out of left field again? They might’ve proved us wrong with the selection of Viktor Lodin back in 2019.
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

It’s time to go overseas as we explore the best draft-eligible prospects playing in Sweden who are projected outside of the first two rounds of the 2022 NHL Draft.

After some time away from 2016 to 2018, the Senators have selected at least one player from Sweden in the last three draft classes, often with a mid- or later-round pick. Viktor Lodin was a surprise fourth-round selection in 2019, the unsigned Eric Engstrand was taken in the fifth-round in 2020, and my favourite, Oliver Johansson, was taken 74th overall last year.

While Sweden lacks an elite standout prospect à la Lucas Raymond and William Eklund in prior years, you’ve already heard about some of the talent expected to be taken at the start of the first-round. We expect Filip Bystedt, Noah Östlund, Liam Öhgren, Alexander Suzdalev, Mattias Hävelid, Calle Odelius, Lian Bichsel, and Elias Salomonsson to join them, so they won’t be profiled today.


Swedish skaters

Name Position Team League Height Weight Date of Birth
Name Position Team League Height Weight Date of Birth
Ludwig Persson C/LW Frölunda SHL/J20 Nationell 6'0" 179 lbs 10/08/2003
Joel Jonsson RW Mora IK J18/J20 Nationell 5'9" 152 lbs 03/09/2004
Sandis Vilmanis LW/RW Luleå J20 Nationell 6'1" 194 lbs 01/23/2004
Martin Johnsen LW/RW Färjestad BK J20 Nationell/SHL 5'10" 168 lbs 03/07/2004
Simon Forsmark LD Örebro HK SHL/J20 Nationell 6'2" 194 lbs 10/17/2003
Elias Pettersson LD Örebro HK J20 Nationell/SHL 6'2" 185 lbs 02/16/2004
Hugo Fransson LD HV71 J20 Nationell 5'11" 174 lbs 08/03/2004

Forwards

  • The youngest player to ever debut for Frölunda back in 2019-20, Ludwig Persson is caught in the middle of being too good for Sweden’s U20 league but hasn’t been able to show enough to lock down regular SHL minutes — playing 13 games last season and only 10 this season with an average of just 2:11 per game. Point production isn’t a problem for Persson. He finished second in scoring in the J20 Nationell (41GP: 25G, 36A), with a healthy proportion of his points (~33%) on the powerplay, where he was trusted on to get puts to the net for his teammates to bang away at from his spot on the left half-wall. Persson blends quick first steps and lateral crossovers to build speed quickly — often trusted as the lead on zone entries at the U20 level. He isn’t scared of challenging opponents and can make both simple passes or more layered ones off the rush as he aims to generate a high-danger opportunity. Regarded as a potential first-round pick coming into the draft, Persson was an “early bloomer” as an October birthday and scouts were hoping to see him add more dynamic skill to supplement his skating; there are times where he can struggle to find space on the rush and is forced to the wall because he’s not the one driving to the net himself and despite his strong understanding of positioning and space — especially offensively — he could apply that skillset more readily defensively, perhaps leading to reduced ice-time at the pro level. Persson will be loaned to BIK Karlskoga in the Allsvenskan next season, where he’ll aim to add separation and deception, plus physiciality, to try and prove himself as a player worthy of NHL minutes. A likely third-round pick.
  • A smart winger who’s flying under the radar, the best praise I can give Joel Jonsson is that it always looks like the puck is slowing down for him because of how well he can anticipate play and use space to create advantageous situations from seemingly nothing. All of Jonsson’s other tools are average at best, and part of why he’s likely unranked by most sources is that a 5-foot-9 winger usually needs elite feet to make it at the NHL level. However, Jonsson’s effort has been described as “relentless” and I see him as a late-round pick that would have a chance to outwork similarly projected players to win out an NHL spot. Jonsson showcases confidence when transporting the puck and is always trying to bait defenders to create space for his teammates, either with quick hands or a quick lateral shift sideways with his skating before making the pass. This skillset is what helped Jonsson move up from the U18 level — where he ranked third in points-per-game among draft-eligible skaters — to the U20 level, and record 34 points in 30 games. If Jonsson is able to lengthen his stride and add strength to his lower body while keeping his lateral mobility, he could project as a shifty, fluid winger who could provide value on a team’s checking line while playing top minutes as F2 on the penalty kill, a tantalizing combination for a late-round pick.
  • A tools-y winger from Latvia who moved to Sweden for junior hockey, Sandis Vilmanis blends confidence with skill to pull out the unexpected, especially in-tight around the net. Vilmanis has crafty hands, continuously scanning to see how he can exploit opponents in the offensive zone off the cycle or off the right-circle on the powerplay. He often tries to skate through players — which can be a good thing and a bad thing! — utilizing a powerful first step to explode through an opponent as he tries to drive the middle or to steal a puck on the forecheck. Like many, Vilmanis has room to work on defensively, but there’s hope that he can apply his offensive habits to the neutral and defensive zones. Like most players from non-powerhouse countries, Vilmanis is used to playing above his age group — flirting between the U18 and U20 levels in Sweden, the MHL, and internationally with Latvia over the past two seasons. He’s the type of player who will continue to receive opportunity and ice-time, making him an interesting late-round gamble.
  • Here are Martin Johnsen’s statistics as a 15-year-old playing in Norway in 2019-20: at the U18 level, 42 points, including 24 goals, in 13 games; at the U21 level, 43 points, including 21 goals, in 23 games. In both cases, his production is three or four times better than players his age, so it’s no wonder he moved over to Ole-Kristian Tollefsen’s Färjestad the following year. He put up a respectable point-per-game across 14 games in a shortened season at the U18 level, a tier behind his top-ranked Swedish peers as he got used to a new country and systems. This year, he only lasted three games at the U18 level before playing 29 at the U20 (23P) and 11 with the SHL squad — nearly unheard of for a player ranked 64th among European-ranked skaters with Central Scouting and a likely late-round pick. Johnsen excites me for many reasons. When he’s against lower-ranked opposition, like he was at the international division I U18s, he destroys the field; this year, he broke Marko Dano’s tournament points record with 14 points in 5 games as Norway’s top pivot. Like most who have had to claw their way up from unfavourable positions, Johnsen processes the game at another level. He loves bringing players into his orbit before orchestrating his next move — a soft pass to a now-open teammate, a quick shot, or a deke around the opposition. He appears calm and in control, not always making the first play if he thinks a better one will open up, and is often relied on by his team(s) to create space on controlled zone entries. I didn’t find any reports noting a glaring weakness, so like Joel Jonsson, I imagine the fact that he doesn’t possess an elite tool — outside of his brain — when combined with his smaller stature has been enough to scare teams away. For me? Johnsen is the type of player I like to aim for with later-round selections.

Honourable Mentions: Tim Almgren [a smooth-skating puck carrier, he can play with pace but needs to add other tools; potentially worth a flyer as a July-born centre], Joel Ratkovic Berndtsson [a hardworking winger with strong physicality and the power-game to match in the offensive zone, he could be an interesting add if he can figure out his way defensively], Fabian Wagner [has interesting tools and got SHL time, but needs to improve his skating to have success].

Defenders

  • Simon Forsmark is going to be an NHLer, the question is just about whether he can reach a top-four ceiling or if he’ll settle into the lineup as a bottom-pair player. Why am I so certain? Forsmark played 41 SHL games this season with Örebro and possesses every defensive tool in the world: he defends the rush with excellent gap, angling his stick with a long reach, and strong body positioning; he forces turnovers often, shutting down plays in the defensive zone with great anticipation, applying pressure at the right moment, and quickly turning the puck up the ice; and he’s a strong decision maker, patiently making simple plays that limit opposing scoring chances against. Offensively, in 23 games at the U20 level, he led all draft-eligible defenders in points-per-game (27P) — many of them assists on the breakout or through strong positioning in the offensive zone. He doesn’t possess a lot of flash offensively, either with his shot, hands, or activation, and that’s in part due to a trait that scouts are divided on — his skating. Some see it as a limitation, where he’s unable to get much power on his stride despite being mobile, limiting his ability to activate in transition or in the offensive zone without jeopardizing his defensive record. Regardless, players like Forsmark generally hit, and while I’d be hesitant to use a second-rounder on him — though teams might because of his pedigree — the defensive value alone might be worth a third- or fourth-round pick.
  • This Elias Pettersson has one thing in common with the other Elias Pettersson — his shot. Starting the season in the U18 league, Pettersson recorded four goals and 13 points in nine games before moving up to the U20 level, where he recorded another 10 goals in 37 games. His play warranted a 17 game stretch with Örebro in the SHL, where he averaged 6:23 per game as the sixth or seventh defender. Importantly, he built on that cup of coffee with the pros, as when he returned to the U20 level for the playoffs, he recorded 10 points in six games. Ultimately, while his offensive game is growing, defence is his calling card. Pettersson utilizes his pro-ready 6-foot-2 frame to play his opponents hard, closing gaps with physicality and showcasing good lateral movement in combination with his body positioning to retrieve the puck and start breakouts. Most of his goals come from sound activation in the offensive zone, where he’s unafraid to jump into open lanes to either pick a spot with his wrist shot or to take the puck on a one-timer. Pettersson’s a likely mid-round pick that could surpass his projection if his passing improves — especially at medium to long range — and he’s able to add more puck-carrying tools to his exits.
  • Being born in August hasn’t stopped Hugo Fransson from playing opponents beyond his age group, a great sign for a defender who has a lot more trust to earn from a coach compared to a forward who can be protected more easily. Combine that with Fransson’s burgeoning offensive game and you have a blueliner that could pay dividends with a later-round pick. Fransson graduated from the U18 level as a pure 16-year-old last season, only playing 21 games total — 12 at the U20 level and three in the SHL (!) — due to COVID-19 impacts on hockey in Sweden. This past season, with HV71 demoted to the second-tier Allsvenskan, Fransson played all but six games with the U20 club, recording 26 points in 48 games to rank seventh among draft-eligible defenders with a minimum of 20 games played. A mobile defender who’s always looking to move the puck quickly, Fransson shows strong tendencies on the breakout with his calmness, scanning, and tendency to keep his feet moving so he can carry the puck himself. He plays hard defensively, closing gaps quickly with his body more often than his stick to render his man ineffective. Reports indicate that they’d like Fransson to show better stick positioning in all three zones to display himself as an option more, and to add power to his skating to allow him to separate from the opposition at higher levels of play.

Who do you think is the next Sens pick out of Sweden? Do one of these players interest you? Are you hoping it’s someone else? Let us know in the comments!