COLOGNE, GERMANY - MAY 23: Magnus Johansson of Sweden poses with his team mates after winning the IIHF World Championship bronze medal match between Sweden and Germany at Lanxess Arena on May 23, 2010 in Cologne, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)
I know, I know, I'm beating this whole I come from the land of ice and snow thing to death lately, but I figured I would take a look at some of the Scandinavian prospects that should be around when the Isles pick in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds. Its a quick look at who might be available from Sweden, Finalnd, Denmark and Norway around the slots the five picks, although as I talked about here that probably won't happen. while there isn't the quality and quantity of Scandinavians as there were last year (7 Swedes drafted in the 1st round, 24 overall) there are some good prospects available.
Here are my guidelines for the players I'll be highlighting:
1 - They have to play in Europe, not the CHL/US Juniors/NCAA. I consider those guys basically North American prospects.
2 - I am only going up to the 82nd overall pick, the Islanders final pick in the 3r round. After that point its pretty much a crap shoot as to whether a Scandinavian prospect will be taken or not.
3 - I'm using the rankings of the ISS (When available. I don't have the money to subscribe, sorry.), NHL Central and THN to determine whether or not a player will be available at 5, 35, 58, 65 and 82. I look for guys ranked in those general vicinities and do a bit of scouting on them via youtube, eliteprospects and various Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian and Danish papers reporting on the National Junior teams and the domestic leagues (Elitserien, SM-Liiga, ect.).
1st Round - 5th Pick
Mikael Granlund, HIFK (Finland) - ISS: 17, NHL Central: European 1, THN: 10; 5'10", 180, Pos: C, Shot: Left
Granlund entered the year as a close number four in the draft behind Hall, Seguin and Fowler but has seen his stick plummet during the season. Why? Beats me. He did everything that was asked of him and more. As one of the youngest players in the SM-Liiga he played big minutes on the top line for HIFK, putting up 13 goals, 27 assists in 43 games good for 3rd on the team. He probably would have led his team in scoring if he hadn't missed 10 games of the SM-Liiga season because of international duty with the Finland U-18 and U-20 squads. At the WJC, Granlund was respectable as he scored 1 goal and 6 assists in 6 games. At the U-18's he dominated, scoring 4 goals and 9 assists in 6 games. He has drawn comparisons to fellow countryman Saku Koivu. The Isles seem to be pretty set at Center with Tavares, Nielsen, Bailey and Schremp. That being said, I think he would be a smart pick but if he is someone Snow wants, trade down to get him.
2nd Round - 35th Pick (Islanders)
Calle Jarnkrok, Brynas (Sweden) - ISS: 72, NHL Central: European 4, THN 28; 5'11", 165, Pos: C, Shot: Right
Jarnkrok is one of the highest risers in the draft and might go from a 3rd-4th rounder to a late 1st rounder-early 2nd rounder. He started out with his parent clud Brynas but had a slow start that saw him sent down to the SuperElit developmental league. The young Swede tore up the SuperElit season putting up 11 goals and 20 assist in 19 games. This performance saw him promoted to the Elitserien where he again saw limited time. He also failed to impress at the U-18, scoring 3 assists in 4 games as the entire Swedish team struggled. Has the potential to be a good play making center but his stock rising is solely based on his dominating half season performance in the SuperElit. Could be gone before Isles pick in the 2nd round. High riser coming out of nowhere though, I say beware.
Ludvig Rensfeldt, Brynas - ISS: 46, NHL Central: European 5, THN 32; 6'3", 192, Pos: LW, Shot: Left
Jarnkrok's teammate at Brynas, the big Rensfeldt dominated the SuperElit as well scoring 21 goals and 29 assists in 39 games for the junior club. He has yet to feature for the big club. Rensfeldt spent a good deal of time this past season playing for Sweden's U-18 team both at the U-18 Championships, the World Junior A Challenge and the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. While the rest of the Swedish team struggled, Rensfeldt excelled putting up a line of 12 goals and 18 assists including a 6 goal, 6 assist performance at the U-18 WJC. Has size and scoring ability, although the Isles have quite a few LWers already. He also hasn't been tested at the U-20 International level or Elitserien. Could be picked at 35, probably won't be around for 58.
2nd Round - 58th Pick (Andy Sutton); 3rd Round - 65th Pick (Islanders)
Patrik Nemeth, AIK (Sweden)- NHL Central: European 11, THN: 61; 6'3", 212, Pos: D, Shot: Left
Born in Sweden to Hungarian parents, the big blueliner split the season between the SuperElit and helping AIK secure promotion to the Elitserien. Nemeth has a nasty streak, recording 120 PIMs in 38 games in the SuperElit and 72 PIMs in only 18 games in U-18 duty for Sweden. Like Rensfeldt, Nemeth really hasn't been tested against higher competition playing in the SuperElit and the Allsvenskan. He has the potential to be a sleep though as he has good size and is physical. Could be the poor man's Gudbranson in the draft. Should be around at 58 or 65.
Teemu Pulkkinen, Jokerit (Finland) - ISS: 53, NHL Central: European 17, THN: 50; 5'11", 183, Pos: RW/LW, Shot: Right
The small Finn split his season between Jokerit's Jr A SM-Liiga team and the parent club. Another smallish Scandinavian forward, Pulkkinen dominated in the Jr A, scoring 20 goals and 21 assists in 17 games. He also benefited from playing with Mikael Granlund at the U-18 where he scored 10 goals and 5 assists in 6 games. Those of you dreaming about another Bergenheim can forget it here, Pulkkinen's flaws are poor skating and seeming lack of desire to get dirty in the corners and forecheck. Not a Go-Go Gordon profile so I don't expect the Isles to draft him.
Adam Pettersson, Skelleftea (Sweden) - NHL Central: European 9, THN: 67; 6', 194, Pos: C/LW, Shot: Left
Pettersson is an interesting prospect. He split the season between the SuperElit, the Elitserien and U-18 duty for Sweden. While he didn't put up the gaudy offensive numbers of a Jarnkrok or a Rensfeldt, he does play a solid two way game and is sound in his own end. Think a young Franz Nielsen. Like Nielsen he will probably be a 3rd round pick and will need time to develop in both Sweden and the AHL.
3rd Round - 82nd Pick (via Phoenix)
Johan Alm, Frolunda/Skelleftea (Sweden) - NHL Central: European 28, THN 91; 6'2", 194, Pos: D, Shot: Left
Alm's stock has been falling precipitously over the past year. Going in he was thought to be a high to mid 2nd rounder has now dropped to a probable late 3rd-early 4th rounder. He's also been dismissed from Frolunda's development program and returns to his youth club of Skelleftea for next season. Alm played poorly at all levels this season, failing to tally a single point in 22 games for Sweden's U-18 team and 11 points in the SuperElit. While fellow Swede Patrik Nemeth didn't light up the lamp as well, Nemeth brought a physical side to the game scouts haven't seen in Alm this year. His stock is falling so quickly (He dropped 13 spots in the final NHL Central rankings) I wouldn't touch him.
Petter Granberg, Skelleftea - NHL Central: European 21, THN: Not Ranked, 6'2", 201, Pos: D, Shot: Right
For as fast as fellow Skelleftea prospect Alm is falling, Petter Granberg is rising. Not even considered to be drafted at the midterm, the big Swedish defenseman impressed in the second half with his physicality and has shut-down potential. He will be one of the youngest draft-eligible players, born in August of 1992 (Feeling old yet?). While I am somewhat weary of fast rising prosepcts, if he's around at 82 he'd be worth picking up. In a system that lacks big, physical defensemen, Granberg would be a good addition even if the Isles draft Gudbranson and another defenseman.
Lars Volden, Blues (Finland) - NHL Central: European Goalies 4, THN: NR, 6'3", 183, Pos: G, Shot: Left
The tall Norwegian keeper recently signed on to play at Finnish outfit Blues, probably the one SM-Liiga team not known for producing Goalies. His stock has risen in the second half helping Norway's U-20 and U-18 teams secure promotion to the top tier of each competition, most impressively putting up a 1.47 GAA and a .958 Save % at the WJC D-1. Would Garth draft another tall Scandinavian keeper? If he does, all he would need is a Danish goalie to complete the tour of Scandinavia.
Who I'd like to see drafted? While I would prefer the Isles draft either Fowler or Gudbranson (I can take or leave Gormley), I wouldn't be opposed to trading down and snatching Granlund. I know I'm definitely in a very small minority in here, but I just really like what Granlund did this season. He did everything asked of him and more, switched to a team where he wasn't going to be guaranteed top minutes in HIFK from Karpat and scored his way to the first line. With Bailey's future at C definitely in question, I wouldn't be adverse to adding a playmaking center. In the second round, I would really like to see them get Nemeth at 58 even if the select a defenseman 5th. He's big, has a nasty streak and can hit. I don't see any of the other pre-4th round picks going toward Scandinavians though. Outside of Granberg there isn't much there worth taking. 4th round and later there might be some guys worth taking a flyer on (Sondre Olden, my Nino) but with the transfer agreements putting in place the two year limit on exclusive rights, I don't see many project guys Scandinavia getting drafted.
Well, there you have it. as I had previously profiled, Snow and Jankowski have tended to stay away from Scandinavian prospects, although the selections of Koskinen and Nilsson last year could signal a change from that. At the very least I hope reading this will cut down on the "Who?" or "Huh?"'s if the Isles happen to draft one of these guys.