2022 NHL DRAFT: Swedish Players to Watch
The Swedish class of 2022 is without that superstar talent like Rasmus Dahlin, Alexander Holtz, Lucas Raymond or William Eklund.
But it’s still deep.
There are two or three Swedish players included in first-round discussions at this stage of the process, with another two or three players knocking at the door. But there is a good chance that there are plenty of Swedes set to still have a memorable day.
With both the J20 Nationell and SHL kicking, there is a bunch of Swedish players worth keeping an eye on.
Here are five Swedish prospects to watch this season (in alphabetical order):
Mattias Havelid, D, Linkopings HC (J20 Nationell)
Another right-handed defenseman that looks very interesting is Mattias Havelid. An offensive skilled defender who can move the puck, and he is a potential first round pick.
Hävelid had a fantastic season in 2019-20. He was the backbone for Ostergotland in the classic Swedish U16-tournament TV-pucken and was the main reason, together with his twin-brother goaltender Hugo Havelid, that they made it to the final. Thanks to this, he was selected to play for the Swedish U16 national team, and he made an impact there as well with six points in six games.
Last season, Havelid played 12 games with Linköping in J20 Nationell, amassing six assists. He also had a solid performance at the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship last spring as an underaged player.
“Havelid is a smooth-skating two-way defenseman who shows a nice first pass, decent offensive awareness, and a strong understanding of gap control and man defense,” FCHockey scout Joseph Aleong said. “His skating allows him to escape forechecking pressure and make quick outlets to start the breakout. His poise with the puck is on display in the defensive zone, where he can beat his man with either his legs or a long stretch pass.”
Havelid played well in the Hlinka Gretzky Tournament in August, and we can expect him to make his SHL-debut this season. A strong season with some SHL-minutes could strengthen his chances of being selected in the first round.
Jonathan Lekkerimaki, C/W, Djurgardens IF (J20 Nationell)
Goals, goals, goals. That’s what Jonathan Lekkerimaki is all about. He has scored at every level he’s been on, and he is not going to stop doing it this upcoming season. But he is also a smart skater who find openings on the ice, and his playmaking is not too shabby.
In 2019-20, Lekkerimaki was rewarded with Sven Tumbas Stipendium as the best forward in the TV-pucken tournament. With 18 points (11 goals, seven assists) in eight games, he was the tournament leader in both goals and points. The same season, Lekkerimaki played 18 games with Djurgarden U16, scoring 20 points (16 goals, four assists).
Last season, Lekkerimaki played most of the games with Djurgarden in J18 Elit before the season was cancelled. He played eight games, scoring 16 points (12 goals, four assists). At the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky back in August, Lekkerimaki had five points in five games — all goals.
“He can make smart decisions that will set himself up with dangerous shot attempts, whether that be crafty zone entries, using skill to beat defenders to the net, or simple shots looking for rebounds,” FCHockey scout Joshua Frojelin said. “Lekkerimäki especially impress along the left half-wall, at both 5-on-5 and the power play, using power, skill, and vision to create offensive threats.”
Maybe we will see Lekkerimaki make his SHL-debut this season. It’s not a sure thing, but we all can hope. But he will probably light some lamps in the J20 Nationell in the meantime, and probably interest many NHL-scouts.
Noah Ostlund, C, Djurgardens IF (J20 Nationell)
Lekkerimaki’s linemate for the last couple of seasons has been Noah Ostlund — a creative, skilled center with a great all-rounded game who is looking more and more like a solid first rounder.
Ostlund also played TV-pucken back in 2019-20 (in addition to playing in it in 2018-19 as a underager), and he was also a player who made a big impact for his team. Him and Lekkerimaki was a lethal duo and Ostlund picked up 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in eight games. The same season, Ostlund was a big part of Djurgarden’s team in J18 Elit where he scored nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 15 games, and then 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 13 games in J18 Allsvenskan.
Last season, Ostlund had a really strong season before a premature end to his season. He netted 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 10 games with Djurgarden in J20 Nationell. He was also selected to the Under-18s as an underager.
“Ostlund is a speedy two-way center who plays the game with a lot of pace and a lot of skill. His aggressiveness, motor and elite level speed make him a nightmare to play against,” FCHockey scout Austin Broad said. “With his speed and puck control Ostlund is an effective puck carrier, he can read the play at top-speed and make accurate passes to his teammates in stride.”
Ostlund will be an impact player at J20 Nationell. And as of September 2021, there is a big chance that Ostlund will make his SHL-debut this season due to some insecurities in the Djurgarden line-up. That could help him solidify his spot in the first round, and maybe as a top-20 player.
Ludwig Persson, LW, Frolunda HC (J20 Nationell)
As an early bloomer and a late 2003-born player, Ludwig Persson was a predicted first-round player on many rankings a couple of years ago. Some had him as high as top-10. His peers have now caught up with him, but he is still a very intriguing prospect.
The speedy winger played in both J18 Elit and J20 SuperElit during the 2019-20 season with Frölunda. He played 16 games with Frölunda J18 and tallying 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists). But he also became the youngest Frolunda player ever to play a game in the SHL. At only 16, he made his debut against Orebro.
Last season, Persson was a regular player in J20 Nationell where he played 17 games before the season was cancelled, amassing 14 points (five goals, nine assists). He also played 13 games in the SHL, which in one of them he scored his first SHL goal.
“One of Persson’s most stand out skill is his skating. His first steps are quick and he uses crossovers to accelerate past opponents and quickly reach a high top-speed,” FCHockey scout Viktor Bergman said. “He is agile and is hard to stop, both with and without the puck, with his quick feet and elusive playing style.”
As a new season is upon us, Persson will be a leading player for Frölunda J20. Question is if he will get the chance to impress NHL-scouts at SHL-games as well.
Elias Salomonsson, D, Skelleftea AIK (J20 Nationell)
The first name is probably the most obvious one. Last season, Elias Salomonsson became the first 2004-born player to play a game in the SHL. As a right-handed, two-way defenseman with good size and puck-moving skills, Salomonsson will be a highly touted prospect.
He spent the 2020-21 season mostly in J20 Nationell with Skellefteå AIK J20. At just 16, Salomonsson played 14 games and collected 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) before the league was halted because of COVID-19 restrictions.
With that pace, Salomonsson had a points-per-game average of 1.07. Had he kept that pace over the course of a full season, Salomonsson would have broken the point record for a U17 defenseman in J20 Nationell, exclipsing current record-holder and Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Brannstrom, who had 30 points (eight goals, 22 assists) in 41 games.
“His knowledge of how to play in his own end at his age and at this level is very strong,” Josh Bell, FCHockey’s head crossover scout, said. “He uses his long reach to pressure attackers or swat pucks away. He reads the play well, knowing where to be, who to cover, and when his partner is taking a risk and he should hold back.”
Salomonsson looks to be in the top-15 discussion so far and he will probably get the chance in the SHL many times this upcoming season. This will give him a great opportunity to solidify that top-15 ranking.