Left wing Adrian Kempe and defenseman Andreas Englund are two intriguing blue-chip prospects from Sweden who could be playing in the NHL sooner rather than later with the proper development.
Born on Sept. 13, 1996, Kempe is not only the youngest European skater among the top 30 on NHL Central Scouting's final rankings of international skaters, but also the youngest among the top 30 skaters on the North American list.
The 6-foot-1, 187-pound left-handed shooter is No. 6 on Central Scouting's final ranking of the top international skaters eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on June 27-28.
Kempe, a power forward type, is considered a first-round pick by many NHL scouts. Some have compared him to Loui Eriksson of the Boston Bruins as an exceptional skater with a two-way approach to the game.
"He's a big, strong, bullish forward who can play center or wing," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. "He likes to drive hard for the net, using his strength and skating to his advantage. He plays the body and is aggressive when forechecking. He has a good defensive game for a player with his offensive skills; mobile, solid and strong."
Kempe played a majority of the 2013-14 season at the top level in Sweden for MODO in the Swedish Hockey League. As an assistant captain for MODO Jr. in the SuperElit earlier in the season, he had three goals, 19 points and 32 penalty minutes in 20 games. In 45 games with MODO in the SHL, playing against older and stronger competition, he had five goals, 11 points and 12 penalty minutes.
Kempe, born in Kramfors, Sweden, considers himself a technical player with a "powerful" shot. His brother, Mario Kempe, was selected in the fifth round (No. 122) of the 2007 NHL Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers, but has spent the past five seasons playing in Sweden.
His Canadian Hockey League rights belong to the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League, who selected him in the second round (No. 107) of the 2013 CHL Import Draft. NHL Network analyst Craig Button said Kempe "has all the elements necessary to becoming a really strong NHL player."
Kempe's player agent, Claes Elefalk, told NHL.com his client will not play for Barrie since he is playing a big role in the SHL.
Both Kempe and Englund are under contract with their respective SHL teams through 2015-16. Still, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed any NHL team may still sign a player under a SHL contract, no matter the length of that contract, so long as it is done before June 15 of that year.
Englund (6-3, 189), according to Stubb, was one of the most improved 1996-born players in Sweden last season. He began the year in the SuperElit with Djurgarden's junior team, connecting for one goal, three points and 44 penalty minutes in 14 games, before being promoted to Allsvenskan.
He is No. 30 on Central Scouting's final list of the top draft-eligible international players. He is the 13th highest defenseman on Central Scouting's European list.
"He is a big physical defenseman with some skills; he plays tough, uses his size and physical strength well in the defensive zone," Stubb said. "He's a defensive-defenseman, but will join the offensive rush and has a good shot."
Englund is sometimes compared to Mattias Ohlund in his prime.
"He's tough as nails, never backs away from a fight and is strong like a grizzly," Elefalk, who also represents Englund, said.
There's little doubt Kempe and Englund have valuable attributes that would benefit any NHL team courting their services at the 2014 draft.