2021 NHL Draft: 5 Swedish players to watch
You should expect Sweden to make some noise in the 2021 NHL Draft.
The nation that consistently provides top talent to the NHL in the draft will once again be supplying so tremendous prospects to NHL teams in June. From an elite goaltender, a trio of excellent forwards, and one of the best defenders in this class – from any nation – Sweden is poised to make a big impact on the first round of the upcoming draft.
With FCHockey gearing up for the season, our scouts agreed on five 2021 NHL Draft-eligible players from Sweden that you’ll need to see this season. Not only could these five players go in the first round, but they could all be gone in the top half of the round.
Here are FCHockey’s five Swedish prospects to watch this season:
Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda HC
The defensemen at the top of this draft class are truly something and Sweden’s Simon Edvinsson is very much in the middle of that discussion. The six-foot-four, 185-pound rearguard has already been pushing for top-10 consideration – potentially even higher. The smooth-skating defender could be a player that teams covet in the 2021 NHL Draft.
In 2018-19, he mainly played for the Frolunda U16 club in the U16 Elite, collecting 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 16 games. Edvinsson played another eight games in the U16 SM, adding a league-leading 11 assists to two goals for 13 points. He helped the team to the league championship as well. the defender also played 15 games with the J18 group, split between the J18 Elit and J18 Allsvenskan leagues.
Last season, he stuck with the J18 club, playing nine games in the J18 Elit, scoring one goal and adding nine assists for 10 points. In the J18 Allsvenskan, he went a point-per-game with three goals and seven assists. He even saw time with the J20 club, getting six assists in eight games. He also impressed at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, getting five assists in as many games.
“Edvinsson is a big defenceman with decent agility and lateral movement,” said Swedish scout Viktor Bergman. “One thing he really has improved this season is his acceleration, during this whole game it looked like he reaches top speed much faster than he did last season… has really good vision and he reads the game well, there were plenty of times in this game where he finds openings to either make a pass or receive a pass.”
As the current season goes on, expect Edvinsson to get his first taste of SHL action and continue to rise up draft boards.
William Eklund, C/LW, Djurgardens IF
An older player in this draft class, William Eklund already has SHL experience under his belt with Djurgardens IF and he looks like he’ll stick there in 2020-21. That should only help his draft stock as he plays in one of the best leagues in the world. At this point, he looks to be one of the best Swedish prospects in the 2021 NHL Draft.
The 2019-20 season saw the impressive forward get his first 20 games in the SHL, collecting two assists in a minimum role. He spent most of the season with the J20 club, putting up 36 points (12 goals, 24 assists) in 31 games. He also played five games in the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup for Team Sweden, adding another goal and four assists to his stat line and winning a bronze medal.
The season prior, Eklund split his time surprisingly evenly, playing 13 games in each the J18 Elit, J18 Allsvenskan, and the J20 SuperElit. He was the alternate captain on the J18 groups, collecting 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in his time with them. He had a goal and two assists with the J20 club, but then had six points (two goals, four assists) in eight playoff games.
“Eklund is a player that handles most aspects of the game,” said Swedish scout Fredrik Haak. “Huge hockey-IQ and offensive awareness combined with a great work ethic makes him a player that every team needs in their roster.”
Eklund has the benefit of an extra year of development over some of his draft class peers, but he’s put that to good use and looks to continue that in 2020-21.
Fabian Lysell, LW, Frolunda HC
Leading the forward group from Sweden right now is another Frolunda HC product, Fabian Lysell. The creative left winger may just be one of the most dynamic forwards in this entire class and has commanded attention early in his career. He very much looks like a top-10 prospect at this point.
He showed off that offensive prowess in 2019-20 in the J18 Elit with Frolunda’s J18 squad. In just 14 games, the forward put up 13 goals, 21 assists, and 34 points. Lysell also played in 11 games at the J20 level, adding another goal and five assists in 11 games. Building on this impressive campaign, he joined Edvinsson at the World Under-17 Hockey Championship for Team Sweden. In five games, he potted five goals and two assists for seven points.
In 2018-19, Lysell was one of the most dominant players in the U16 Elit and U16 SM, putting up 39 points (22 goals, 17 assists) in 14 games and 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) in seven games, respectfully. He was named the MVP of the U16 SM, helping the club to a gold medal. He also won a J18 SM gold medal after scoring seven goals and four assists for 11 points in seven games.
“Lysell has some extremely technical skills that are a weapon for him and his team every shift,” said Haak. “He controls the puck really well and often succeeds to get through tight defences with smartness and creativity.”
Starting off the 2020-21 season in the J20 Nationell for Frolunda, Lysell has picked up with his offensive abilities. If he continues with this, he may just continue to rise in rankings.
Isak Rosen, LW, Leksands IF
While he doesn’t seem to get the attention of the other players on this list, Isak Rosen is very much one of the top players to watch in Swedish hockey for the 2021 NHL Draft. He’ll be getting it this season though, as he’s already seeing some time in the SHL.
Back in 2018-19, Rosen split his time with the U16 and J18 groups. In 14 games in the U16 Elit, he potted 14 goals, adding 11 assists for 25 points. He shined in the J18 Allsvenskan though, getting league-leading 15 goals, seven assists, and 22 points in 16 games. His point totals also led the league. HE added another seven points (three goals, four assists) in 12 J18 Elit games.
The 2019-20 season saw him mainly in the J20 SuperElit, playing 38 games. He recorded 21 goals, 14 assists, and 35 points. More impressively though the young prospect played his first career SHL game in his draft-1 season. While he didn’t record any points, it’s a remarkable feat.
“Rosen is a fantastic offensive player with great hands,” said Haak. “He sees the ice really well and can create scoring opportunities on his own. Extremely high potential.”
Rosen may spend most of the 2020-21 season in the J20 Nationell league, but he’ll get some looks at the SHL level. He’s a very intriguing prospect ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft.
Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea HF
Finally, we come to the one and only goaltender on this list, Jesper Wallstedt. Playing in the Lulea system, he has been making headlines for years already and is currently the undisputed No. 1 netminder of this draft. He’s in a tier with Yaroslav Askarov (2020 NHL Draft) and Spencer Knight (2019 NHL Draft) as the future wave of elite goalies in the NHL.
Wallstedt has been breaking records throughout his career, with the most impressive milestone coming in 2019-20. Playing one game in the SHL, he became the youngest goalie to even start a game in the league. Even more impressive? He won the game, recording a 1.55 goals against average (GAA) and a .944 save percentage (SV%). He spent the rest of the season with the J20 SuperElit where he went 16-11-0 with a 2.53 GAA and a .923 SV%.
The netminder has already made two Hlinka Gretzky Cup appearances, in 2018 and 2019, winning a silver and then a bronze medal. He also played two games in the World Under-18 Hockey Championship in 2019, winning both games and recording a 1.50 GAA and .936 SV%. Wallstedt played in the J20 SuperElit for the majority of this season as well, going 12-8-0, with a 2.65 GAA and a .901 SV%.
“He is not one who will make precipitated or uncalculated moves – in fact, it’s the total opposite – as he’s more of an analytic and cerebral goalkeeper,” said goaltending scout Simon Rouillard. “He first plays with his head, then his body. The goaltender is cool as ice in the blue paint and his calming demeanour is a securing presence for his teammates.”
Wallstedt looks like he’ll spend the majority of his draft year in the SHL, an extremely impressive feat for a first-year, draft-eligible netminder. Even as the backup, he’ll look to hold on to his top goaltender ranking this season.