And within Sweden is a junior hockey team that has produced at least one NHL Draft pick in each of the past 16 years: Frolunda. No other club team in the country can match that streak of pipeline popularity. Over that 16-year stretch, in fact, 48 players have been chosen, almost twice as many as Djurgarden (27) and Brynas Gavle (26).
This year's group of budding prospects from Frolunda's team in Sweden's under-20 league is also sure to please.
NHL Central Scouting identified three players as B-rated skaters on the November players to watch list for the 2014 draft in forwards Anton Karlsson and Kevin Elgestal, and defenceman Julius Bergman. Additionally, left wing Pierre Engvall earned a C rating on the watch list.
"Frolunda is known for their good junior system and many prospects like to join them," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com.
Of the four prospects, Karlsson (6-foot-1.25, 187 pounds) has the best shot at representing his country at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden, in December. He's one of the hardest workers for Frolunda's team, producing nine goals, 16 points and 22 penalty minutes in 16 games.
He captained Sweden to a gold medal at the 2013 Under-17 World Hockey Championship with six goals and nine points in six games. He also was named one of the top three players for his team while serving as assistant captain at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Sochi, Russia, where he had for two goals and four points in five games.
"He's a physical player and effective on the forecheck," Stubb said. "He works real hard and finishes his checks well."
Karlsson's older brother, Erik, who plays with Anton on Frolunda's SuperElit team, was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the fourth round (No. 99) of the 2012 draft.
Bergman (6-1, 187), an extremely mobile defenceman, was playing with Karlskrona in Sweden's second division at the start of the 2012-13 season but was moved to Frolunda's Under-20 team at the midway point. He's proven his ability against bigger and stronger competition this season, producing five goals, 16 points, 26 penalty minutes and a plus-16 rating in 19 games.
"He's strong on his skates and has improved both his acceleration and overall skating from last year," Stubb told NHL.com. "He's an effective two-way player with good offensive instincts."
Elgestal, who lists Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin as his favorite NHL player, is also having a productive season as a hard-working, two-way wing. In 19 games, Elgestal has five goals, 14 points and a plus-11 rating with Frolunda's junior team.
"He's very active and involved on every shift," Stubb said. "He's a good skater with a quick shot, highly competitive, determined and used in all game situations. He could improve his overall technical skills."
Elgestal's younger brother, Philip, plays for Frolunda's Elite U-16 Team.
SOARING IN SARNIA
It was only two years ago a couple big names from the Sarnia Sting in the Ontario Hockey League went among the top three picks at the 2012 draft at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
Left wing Nail Yakupov was selected No. 1 by the Edmonton Oilers and center Alex Galchenyuk was chosen two picks later by the Montreal Canadiens.
This year, Sarnia has two impressive prospects rising up the ranks in right wing Nikolay Goldobin and defenceman Anthony DeAngelo. Both were considered B-rated skaters on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch release, indicating a potential second- or third-round candidate at the 2014 draft.
DeAngelo (5-10.75, 175) is this week's Prospector Files' "Draft Dandy of the Week." He leads the team with 35 points and a 1.46 points per game average, in 24 matches.
"[DeAngelo] has excellent speed and quickness, and is improving his ability to manage the risks versus the rewards in decisions," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com. "He's a very dynamic player with good offensive tools. He can generate chances, competes hard and always plays with energy."
The 5-11.5, 178-pound Goldobin is considered a very creative player with a solid two-way game. The left-handed shooting Russian is second on the team with 33 points.
"[Goldobin] has a high energy and is smooth out there," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said. "He's got good playmaking ability and he probably would have a lot more points if players were able to finish for him. He doesn't always need the puck, but he sets up linemates.
"He's the type of kid who receives a lot of ice time because he plays a complete game."
NALIMOV BACKSTOPS RUSSIA
The final game of the Subway Super Series pitting the Russian National Junior Team against the top Canadian Hockey League stars takes place on Thursday in Lethbridge, Alberta.
While several 2014 draft-eligible players on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list have impressed, Russian goalie Ivan Nalimov has earned surprising praise without the benefit of a rating.
The 6-5, 211-pound left-handed shot blocker from Novokuznetsk, Russia entered the game Wednesday against the Western Hockey League having won two of three starts in the Subway Series. The 19-year-old sports a 2.33 goals-against average and .941 save percentage against the best the CHL has to offer.
According to Stubb, Nalimov has had the unenviable task of playing in the shadow of Tampa Bay Lightning 2012 first-round pick (No. 19) Andrei Vasilevski for much of his playing career.
During the 2011-12 Under-18 World Junior Championship, Vasilevski started five games and finished with a 2.20 GAA. Nalimov played one game and allowed one goal. In the 2011-12 U-19 World Junior A Challenge, Nalimov had a 3.73 GAA in two appearances while Vasilevski had a 3.29 GAA in three games.
"We have followed him and do like him; the problem is that Vasilevski is born the same year  and has been the No. 1 on various Russian junior teams ahead of Nalimov," Stubb told NHL.com.
Nalimov, passed over in the previous two NHL drafts, plays for SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League.
PRAYERS FOR KENNY
It has been an amazing outpouring of emotion, prayer and support for the family of Kevin Kenny the past two weeks after it was learned the 20-year-old native of Pittsburgh sustained a spinal cord injury while playing a game for his junior hockey team this month.
John Kenny, Kevin's father, released a statement Monday to inform the public that "Kevin's prognosis is guarded." Kenny has undergone two spinal cord surgeries since the accident on Nov. 16 while playing in a North American Tier 3 Hockey League game for the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Vengeance.
To access NHL.com's story on Kenny, click here (www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=692962).
According to the Facebook page that has been updating his condition at "7 Kenny Strong," Kenny's breathing tube was removed on Tuesday and "things are proceeding well." The doctors attending to Kenny have advised no visitors while he regains his strength. Additionally, over $30,000 has been raised for the Kenny Family via the Kevin Kenny Fund (www.helpforkevinkenny.com).
Donations are being accepted at www.GoFundMe.com/5d9lrk. Cards from players who wish to offer their support to the "Cards for Kenny Campaign" can be mailed to: Cards for Kenny, c/o Renee Heininger, 205 Carriage Court, Pittsburgh, PA, 15238. Support may also be given via Twitter at: #prayersforKenny and #prayforKevin.
PROSPECTS ON THE RISE
1. Ben Thomas, Calgary Hitmen (WHL): The 6-1.25, 192-pound defenceman is in his first full season with the Hitmen after playing seven games in 2012-13. The right-handed shot, who earned a C rating on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list, has two goals and 11 points in 24 games. Thomas has logged quality time on the power play.
"He has good size and a nice flow to his game," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told NHL.com. "He's pretty heady and moves the puck well to all the right areas. He keeps forwards to the outside and he has upside with pretty good skill set."
2. Ryan Hitchcock, USA U-18 (USHL): The C-rated left wing (5-10, 170) on Central Scouting's players to watch list is committed to Yale University in 2014-15. He has four goals and 22 points in 21 games for the Under-18 National Team Development Program.
"He's a compact player with good speed and quickness; he plays with energy and tenacity," Marr told NHL.com. "He's always on the puck and to the net and makes something happen. NHL teams will look to see if he can continue to plays bigger than his size and get consistent results."
3. Scott Savage, Boston College (H-EAST): Savage is the only skater on Central Scouting's November players to watch list from Hockey East. The 6-1, 171-pound defender, who earned a C rating, has two goals, seven points and a plus-8 rating for coach Jerry York.
"He's working the second power-play unit because he's very active in the attacking zone and has a great shot," Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "His shot isn't always coming off the stick quick, but the puck gets through. He struggled a bit 5-on-5 when trying to make decisions on pinching in the attacking zone.
"I saw improvement from the first time to the second time I saw him. His footwork looks better than last year and he's in an environment where he's playing meaningful games every night against grown men, putting up power-play points, so that's a good sign."
DRAFT DANDY OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY DeANGELO
Sarnia Sting defenceman Anthony DeAngelo has made it a point to take care of his own end and shut down the opposition before even thinking offense.
It's that type of mindset that has intrigued scouts who have an interest in the 5-foot-10.75, 175-pound right-handed shot.
"He's a highly skilled player and every shift, he seems to make something happen," NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "He likes to jump up into the rush and can hit the one-timer. He skates well, has a quick recovery and very rarely comes off the ice."
NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr compares DeAngelo to a young P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens) or Ryan Murphy (Carolina Hurricanes).
"He has all the ingredients as an NHL prospect and will only get better," Marr said of DeAngelo.
Now in his third season with the Sting, the B-rated skater on Central Scouting's November players to watch list has a team-leading 35 points (eight goals, 27 assists). He's also scored four power-play goals and one shorthanded goal. He has the potential to one day quarterback a power play for an NHL team.
"He's not a physical presence and gets himself into trouble at times when he handles the puck too much, but that part of his game will come around," Edwards said.
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer