Ottawa Senators Top 25 Under 25, #22: Viktor Lodin

After receiving one of the coldest welcomes into the Senators organization, he’s gained something of a cult following within the fanbase.

#22: Viktor Lodin (Last Year: NR, Reader Rank: 23)

“If this fourth-round pick doesn’t pan out, fire the scout responsible”.

That’s not verbatim, but I remember seeing many a sentiment along those lines when the Ottawa Senators selected Viktor Lodin with the 94th pick of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. To this day, I don’t understand what made that pick so special. It’s not like it was acquired from another team as the last remaining asset from a trade for Erik Karlsson or Mark Stone, and we were counting down the days leading up to the draft, debating between 5-10 quality players the scouting department could’ve added at that spot.

Well, for whatever reason, expectations were sky-high, and the pressure was on, but no biggie. Lodin’s well on his way to meeting the standards for a successful fourth-round selection, by skating in one NHL game, which is better than roughly 62.7% of fourth-round picks from 2010 to 2019.

Here’s Chief European Scout Mikko Ruutu on the 6’3 left-winger:

He was a point-per-game player on Örebro HK’s U20 team prior to the 2019 draft, but he was also an overager, who first became eligible in 2017. When you compare that to 2021 third-round pick Oliver Johansson, who had 41 points in 33 games in the same league and was a year younger at the time, you can see why Lodin was viewed as a weaker pick at that point. But again, it’s a fourth-round pick. Draft analysts typically evaluate a team’s draft by comparing where players were taken and where they were ranked on their own lists. Of course, factoring in the value of draft picks, reaching by, say, 10 spots in the first round should be a lot more egregious than using a fourth-rounder on a player projected to be undrafted, right?

At the time, there was very little known about Lodin, and the following season didn’t do too much to influence his stock. After scoring just 4 assists in 22 games in the SHL with Örebro HK, he transferred to a different club — Timrå IK, which was playing in the HockeyAllsvenskan, a league below the SHL. The way these two leagues work is different than what we see in North America. 14 teams play in each league, and whichever team wins the HockeyAllsvenskan gets promoted to the SHL. The two worst regular-season SHL teams play a best-of-seven series, with the loser being relegated to the HockeyAllsvenskan. Lodin would feature in both of these events in the following two years.

It’s around this point where we begin to see the same things Ottawa’s scouts probably saw when they made the selection.

Only some of the most impressive stickwork I’ve seen from a Sens prospect in recent memory, and causing the opposing defenders to tumble over each other in a hilarious fashion.

It helps that Timrå IK was an absolute powerhouse in the 2020-21 season, with three forwards at above a point-per-game pace, including former Sens prospect and current unrestricted free agent Jonathan Dahlen, who led the league in scoring that year with 71 points in 45 games. Lodin finished 4th in team scoring with 40 points in 47 games and earned a two-year entry-level deal with the Senators organization. This past season, he played on loan in Sweden, this time joining Timrå in the SHL following their league victory.

You may have guessed this already, but Timrå struggled to win games in the much tougher league. They posted a 19-29-4 record, finishing dead-last, but they managed to sweep the second-last place Djurgardens IF 4-0 to win the play-out series, earning the right to remain in the SHL for another year.

Amidst the tougher competition, Lodin’s production dropped, but he still was one of Timrå’s top players, once again finishing 4th in team scoring, with 12 goals, 15 assists, and a -5 rating in 44 games. The following clip is not included in those totals, but it’s still a joy to watch nonetheless.

Following the conclusion of the 2021-22 SHL season, Lodin joined the Belleville Senators, and adjusted very well to North American ice, tallying 5 goals and 3 assists in 10 games.

While not necessarily a shoot-first player, Lodin found himself with a decent number of grade-A chances — including his first professional goal which came off a penalty shot.

All of this was enough to get the call-up to play in the NHL in the team’s final game of the season.

See, that’s why we avoid making bold statements about the late rounds of the draft. If you’re right, there’s nothing to gain since most don’t pan out anyway, and if you’re wrong, you become a meme.

Here you’ll see a compilation from @SensProspects of some of Lodin’s best highlights from Sweden. One of my favourites is at the 1:00 mark, in which he shifts past a defender before starting a sequence consisting of two one-touch passes, setting up his teammate to finish a high-danger chance.

Most of the goals you see here are primarily created from his puck-handling ability and agility. He excels at keeping the puck on his stick and finding ways to beat defenders and, he seems more likely than others to finish on the backhand. Whatever stopped him from producing like that earlier seems to have been taken care of, though it’s hard to project what he’ll be in the AHL or NHL with a sample size of 10 games.

That’s why it’ll be interesting to see what he can do in a full AHL season next year — the entire team will significantly improve with the addition of Angus Crookshank, Philippe Daoust, and perhaps Ridly Greig unless he continues his reign of terror to force the Senators to give him an NHL roster spot. I wouldn’t say Lodin is a likely bet to be an impact NHLer at this point, but I do think he’ll be a key contributor in the AHL, who could step into a niche role on the fourth line of an NHL team, with some additional utility on the second-power-play unit and in the shootout — similar to what Tyler Ennis was as a Senator.

So the next time your favorite hockey team drafts a player you know absolutely nothing about, just remember that a completely unknown player is not the same as a player you know you won’t be excited about.

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