Top 25 under 25, no 21: Fredrik Claesson
The steady blueline prospect holds steady.
Fredrik Claesson made our list this year at number 19, and drops just two spots this year to number 21. What's interesting is that there's a tight little cluster from positions 19-22, and with one exception, they saw nothing more than a minor reshuffling since last winter.
Speaking of last winter, here's what our esteemed Bobby Kelly had to say about Claesson:
Claesson was about as heralded a draft pick as one can find late in the draft, with well-touted defensive skills and a smart, simple game in his own end. There was some loose comparisons made to our former object of much affection, Anton Volchenkov. Both possess smart defensive play, shot-blocking and physicality, although Claesson may not be as capable of dropping the shoulder to the same degree of devastation as our beloved A-Train.
The Bobster, as he's referring to himself these days, went on to describe Claesson's expected development path as he transitioned from his Swedish team, Djurgården, to his North American one, Binghamton. Of course, what no one could have seen coming were injuries to Jared Cowen, Erik Karlsson, and Mike Lundin opening up the opportunity for important minutes for the youngster in his first season for Bingo.
That's exactly what happened, though, and much like fellow Swede Jakob Silfverberg, Claesson struggled pretty badly in his first few games as he adjusted to the new style he was being asked to play. However, he quickly found his game, and by the end of the year, had emerged as one of Binghamton's most steady defenders.
And steady is the best word to describe Claesson. He's not a fleet skater or offensive mastermind. He looks to make hits and then for the simple play, effectively limiting his liability in his own zone. Not only that, but his development has been steady as well. As he moved to Djurgården to Binghamton to Senators development camp this year, Claesson is consistently showing the improvement you want to see out of your prospects. The Senators noticed as well, picking him as the hardest working player in this year's development camp.
They can't all be instant heroes, but if Claesson's path continues along the same lines, he could find himself in the NHL sooner rather than later. With Chris Phillips' contract expiring at the end of this season, Claesson could be perfectly poised to be an inexpensive replacement for the veteran's $3M cap hit.
He may not ever wind up as a crucial centerpiece of the defensive corps, but watching Claesson play and improve gives you the sense that he could very well be a reasonably-priced--and more importantly, very competent--player for the Senators. Those guys will always be unheralded, but that doesn't diminish their importance to teams' successes. Claesson is going to get a shot someday, which is all you can really hope for out of a mid-round draft pick. There's plenty of reason to believe he'll stick once he gets his opportunity.
Until then, he'll just be what he's always been: Steady.