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NHL future looks positive for Swedish center Josefson

Thursday, 04.09.2009 / 1:00 AM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

It's safe to say the 2008-09 season will not rank among the best in the young life of Swedish center Jacob Josefson.

Josefson's team, Djurgarden, flirted with the Swedish Elite League basement for much of the season before finishing in 10th place, out of the playoffs and just one spot above a battle to avoid relegation.

Certainly that was a bit of comeuppance for the proud Stockholm club that so often has ruled the Swedish hockey scene. It also was an eye-opener for the 18-year-old Josefson, a Stockholm native that grew up worshipping the club only to find his dream first season on the senior team turned into somewhat of a nightmare scenario.

"I always loved Djurgarden and I love playing for them," Josefson told NHL.com in January. "We are in last right now and struggling, but I feel we will make a big jump. But it's still a little bit of a dream to play for the senior team in Elitserien. I lived in Stockholm my whole life and I love the city."

"I don't feel the pressure of being a local guy. I just try to play my game and I can't do any more than that."

Actually, Josefson couldn't do much at all as he was used in more of a support role, rather than a starring role. He started the season on the fourth line before earning a promotion to the third during the season. For the most part, he averaged about 10 minutes a game, playing more on the wing than at his natural center position.

"I don't have a need to take so much responsibility because I am so young, but it's a little bit tougher because you have to play more simple and stuff," Josefson said.

Still, he had 5 goals and 16 points and was a respectable minus-3 on a team that had just five regulars reach positive numbers on the plus/minus scale.

Internationally, things did not go much better.

While he did make Sweden's roster for the 2009 World Junior Championship, his tournament was something of a disaster. He went scoreless and was minus-1 in six games, and according to NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb, he did little to help his draft standing.

"Jacob had bad luck at World Juniors because he had a stomach flu," Stubb told NHL.com. "I think he felt weak and was weak and did not play up to his talent at all."

Even worse, the Swedes fell in the gold-medal game, losing to Canada for the second-straight season.

He is also a member of Team Sweden at this month's World U-18 Championship, looking for redemption on the international stage.

Regardless of how things work out on the U-18 tournament, there's still a good chance Josefson will have at least one more fond memory of 2008-09, and that will come when an NHL team announces his name as a first-round selection in June in Montreal.

Josefson is ranked No. 3 among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting in its midterm rankings, and he could easily go in the top 10 of the 2009 Entry Draft. He will likely hold that position when the final rankings are announced April 14.

"My goal is to play in NHL," Josefson said. "It's my dream. I will do the things to be there as fast as possible."

According to Stubb, Josefson is not that far away from the NHL, especially after maturing at a rapid rate this season by playing in the Elitserien. 

"He is a very good two-way player," said Stubb. "He has a very good responsibility for his defensive duties."

The 6-foot, 187-pound Josefson may be defensively conscious -- always a plus in today's NHL -- but it is offense that is his calling card.

"He's more a playmaker, a guy who sees the ice really well, creates a lot of scoring chances with his passing skills," Stubb said. "He's very good with the stick and very good in traffic because he is an excellent stickhandler. He's a smooth passer with very soft hands."

"He's more a playmaker, a guy who sees the ice really well, creates a lot of scoring chances with his passing skills. He's very good with the stick and very good in traffic because he is an excellent stickhandler. He's a smooth passer with very soft hands." -- Goran Stubb
Skelleftea defenseman David Rundblad is another Swedish prospect eligible for the draft. He played against Josefson this season in the Elitserien and played with Josefson at the World Juniors, and can attest to the fact that Josefson is the real deal.

"Jacob is a real smart player," Rundblad told NHL.com. "He never makes a mistake and can play both center and wing. He has great skill and is a pretty good skater."

Josefson has seen hints that he is ready to make the next step. As the season progressed, the game became a little easier. The decisions that were so hard to process in October and November came more easily in January and February. His confidence grew by leaps and bounds, and he returned to the natural assertive game that served him so well in Djurgarden's youth ranks.

NHL Scouting Combine GearJosefson said the roots of his success are simple and, therefore, repeatable in almost any scenario.

"I'm a good skater and I see the ice very well," he said. "I always work 100 percent. That's pretty much me."

As a result, Josefson walks away from the 2008-09 season knowing that if he works hard enough, better days are ahead for him. And he knows those better days likely will begin June 26 in Montreal.