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NHL Draft

Creative Lundestrom building first-round resume for 2018 NHL Draft

Center producing in Swedish Hockey League, received A rating from NHL Central Scouting

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2018 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

Center Isac Lundestrom of Lulea in the Swedish Hockey League has made it a habit of being difficult to contain.

Lundestrom (6-foot, 185 pounds) is hoping that style of play and the way he sees the ice to create space for himself and teammates will make an indelible impression leading up to the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center in Dallas on June 22-23.

"I like to get the puck into the offensive zone and work down there, be strong on the puck and be strong on my skates," Lundestrom said. "I'm more a playmaker. I like watching the skating and creativity of Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) and Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins) when they have the puck. They're always searching for a good play and they make their teammates better.

"That's how I want to play."

Lundestrom, who turned 18 on Nov. 6, has nine points (three goals, six assists) and a plus-5 rating in 20 games for Lulea this season.

"The way he skates, with the ability to switch tempo to beat his defender, he reminds me of a young (Detroit Red Wings center) Henrik Zetterberg," Lulea coach Thomas Berglund said. "He's not as physical as Zetterberg was, but he'll be able to develop that side in his further development because he doesn't shy away from physical play."

Lundestrom is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2018 draft after receiving an A rating on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list.

"He's got an excellent combination of speed and skills with excellent offensive instincts," said Goran Stubb, NHL Director of European Scouting. "He has smooth hands, is very good with the puck and knows when to move the puck quickly or when to be patient with it."

Lundestrom has proven to be much more confident this season; he had six points (three goals, three assists) and a minus-5 rating in 45 games for Lulea last season.

"Based on his good physical shape and natural skating, he can easily play many minutes each game," Berglund said. "Where he needs to improve are his face-offs to really be the first choice as a center forward when the game is on the line."

Lulea general manager Stefan Nilsson said Lundestrom is looking to improve each day he takes the ice.

"Isac has always been motivated to play at the highest possible level, and since he is good enough to play in the SHL, then this is perfect for his development," he said. "Being the all-around player he is, he can play the penalty kill, power play and even in important situations of the game. … It's impressive."

Lundestrom could play for Sweden at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo from Dec. 26-Jan. 5. He was part of the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan, in August and had two assists, five shots on goal and a plus-1 rating in four games against the United States, Finland and Canada.

"He has the skills to make plays and he reads the ice really well, sees openings," said Sweden WJC coach Tomas Monten. "I think he has some work to do on his strength, but as far as the game goes I think he's smart, can play both ends of the ice, and he can play center and wing."

Frolunda defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who could be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 Draft, enjoyed playing with Lundestrom at the World Junior Summer Showcase.

"He's so fast, and he makes good passes and plays all over the ice," Dahlin said. "He's easy to play with so I like him."

Lundestrom, who considers himself more of a playmaker, feels his strengths are gaining the offensive zone and being strong on the puck. He credits his older brother, Eric, for motivating him. Eric Lundestrom, 21, last played in Sweden's second division for Kiruna in 2016-17.

"He has an excellent drive in his skating and an ability to switch tempo on the ice that not many other players have," Berglund said of Isac. "He's a player that can play his game even at a very high tempo. He reads the play, and has a strong shot when he opts to use it."

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