As a lead-in to the 2008 NHL Entry Draft June 26-27 in Montreal, NashvillePredators.com will be taking a look at the top prospects available in this year's draft class. Today we will continue with the top European skaters.
Sweden is the clear power-country in Europe this year, producing the top-eight prospects in Central Scouting's International Skaters rankings and 17 of the top-30 International Skaters on Central Scouting's rankings. Victor Hedman is the first defenseman expected to be selected in this year's draft -- and a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick. Top European Forwards 1) Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (Timra, SWE) - 50 games, 7g-10a-17pts, 4 penalty minutesCSS-I-#2, HN-#7, ISS-#4, TSN-#10
( Paajarvi-Svensson Video Highlights
Paajarvi-Svensson is a highly skilled forward with creative offensive skills. He's drawn comparisons to fellow Swedes like Mats Naslund and Peter Forsberg and already has two season exerpience playing against men in the Swedish Elite League. Paajarvi-Svensson will likely be the second European player selected in this year's draft behind Victor Hedman and is a potential top-5 overall selection.
"Magnus perhaps is the stereotype of the skilled Swede coming over here in recent years – outside speed extraordinaire, ability to freeze defenders and make all his good moves work even more effectively. He was a good contributor to his team at the World Junior tournament and I think will be an essential member of any NHL team in years to come. He showed, at the World Junior championships, why the 1980 comparisons to Mats Naslund, Kent Nilsson and more recently a Peter Forsberg will follow him over to his NHL team. He’ll be a high draft pick and I’m sure he’s going to be a combination of the kind of offensive flare and skills that have made those other three predecessors great NHL players." - EJ McGuire, Director of NHL's Central Scouting 2) Jacob Josefson (Djurgarden, SWE) - 50 games, 5g-11a-16pts, 14 penalty minutesCSS-I-#3, HN-#15, ISS-#11, TSN-#16
( Josefson Video Highlights
Josefson is a solid two-way center with tremendous skating abilities. He struggled at this year's World Junior Championships while battling a stomach flu, but still helped Sweden to a Silver Medal showing. He posted 16 points while playing primarily a fourth line role against men in the Swedish Elite League this season and projects as a potential lottery pick in this year's draft.
“He is a very good two-way player. He has a very good responsibility for his defensive duties. 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, Director of NHL's European Scouting3) Carl Klingberg (Frolunda-Jr, SWE-Jr) - 35 games, 13g-13a-26pts, 34 penalty minutesCSS-I-#7, HN-#37, ISS-#32, TSN-#34
Projected as a late first round-to-early second round pick, Klingberg is a big, physical forward. He's shown a willingness to play a power-forward style of game and go to the "physical" areas on the ice and at 6-3, 205 pounds he already has legitimate NHL size -- with the frame to grow even bigger. Klingberg spent most of the season playing in the junior league in Sweden, but earned a promotion to the Elite League, posting three points in 10 games against the men.
“He has explosive acceleration and is strong on his skates – he is hard to hold off when he’s driving the net. He works hard down low in the zone and is courageous enough to go into tight battles.” - NHL European Scouting Service4) Marcus Johansson (Farjestad, SWE) - 45 games, 5g-5a-10pts, 10 penalty minutesCSS-I-#8, HN-#30, ISS-#93, TSN-#33
A consistent offensive talent, Johansson has shown the versatility to play either the center of wing at top levels. Like many of the other top Swedish players in this year's draft class Johansson has experience in the Swedish Elite League. He's not as flashy as some of his fellow countrymen, but is solid in all aspects of his game.
“Johansson has a good selection of shots with a quick precise wrist shot. His overall skill level and stickhandling give him room to move the puck and shoot. He is a player with good offensive instincts and fine understanding of his defensive duties. He can play both center and wing with a consistent hard working presence.” - NHL European Scouting Service Top European Defensemen 1) Victor Hedman (MODO, SWE) - 43 games, 7g-14a-21pts, 52 penalty minutesCSS-I-#1, HN-#2, ISS-#3, TSN-#2
( Hedman Video Highlights
Long projected as the first defenseman to be selected in this year's draft, Hedman is a legitimate candidate for the No. 1 overall selection. He's a big mobile two-way defenseman with 6-6 height and elite offensive skills. Hedman's been compared to Chris Pronger at similar points in their development and he already has two seasons of experience in the Swedish Elite League.
"Victor Hedman brings to his game unsurpassed combinations of size, explosiveness in his skating, quickness and offensive ability. He is indeed the whole package and that just might get him the number one selection overall." - EJ McGuire, Director of NHL's Central Scouting 2) Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Leksand, SWE-2) - 39 games, 3g-14a-17pts, 32 penalty minutesCSS-I-#4, HN-#13, ISS-#9, TSN-#6
Ekman-Larsson is a big hitter with great skating abilities and solid offensive instincts. With all the depth coming out of Sweden in this year's draft class, he may have been overlooked in some scouting circles. At 6-2, Ekman-Larsson has NHL height, but still needs to fill out his frame (176 pounds).
“Oliver likes to play offensively, often carrying the puck into the neutral zone. He has the frame, speed and skill to dominate. He is a smooth skater and can handle the puck at top speed, but needs to use his size to his advantage more. He often quarterbacks the power-play and has a hard shot from the blue line.” - NHL European Scouting Service 3) Dmitry Kulikov (Drummondville, QMJHL) - 57 games, 12g-50a-62pts, 46 penalty minutesCSS-NA-#11, HN-#11, ISS-#10, TSN-#9
A Russian-born player, Kulikov made the move to North America this season, playing for Drummondville in the QMJHL and adjusting to the North American style of play, culture, and languages (both English and French). He's a tremendous offensive defenseman with elite skating abilities and a strong competitive drive. A legitimate contender to be a top-10 selection, the political climate with the KHL and Russian hockey federation may ultimately cause him to fall later in the first round.
“In his first year (in the QMJHL) he’s been an all-around good player. He’s a great skater; he can carry the puck and shoot the puck well. He’s strong too, he can take big hits and they don’t seem to bother him. What we saw this year is likely what we are going to see from Kulikov in the future; he’s going to play the same way in the NHL. He knows when to join the rush, he plays defense first, but recognizes the holes. He can shoot the puck well on the powerplay and I wouldn’t be surprised if he played in the NHL next year.” - Chris Bordeleau, NHL Central Scouting4) David Rundblad (Skelleftea, SWE) - 45 games, 0g-10a-10pts, 8 penalty minutesCSS-I-#6, HN-#10, ISS-#22, TSN-#2
Rundblad is one of the wild cards to this year's draft; some scouting services view him as a potential top-10 pick, while others view him as a late first round talent. He's an intelligent puck-moving defenseman with good on-ice vision and solid instincts, but needs to improve the physical elements to his game.
“He has a very good shot. He is a right-handed shot and he is used on the power play, even in the (Elite) League despite being a young player. He is a very smart player. He could be a little more physical in his game, but that is something that he is learning.” - Goran Stubb, Director of NHL's European Scouting5) Tim Erixon (Skelleftea, SWE) - 45 games, 2g-5a-7pts, 12 penalty minutesCSS-I-#5, HN-#32, ISS-#55, TSN-#28
( Erixon Video Highlights
Son of former NHLer Jan Erixon, Tim Erixon is a solid two-way defenseman. He spent the majority of the 2008-09 season in the Swedish Elite League, but scouts are mixed on his NHL potential; some view him as a dynamic upper-level defensemen, while others view him as a safe, steady pro. Most scouting services have him pegged in the late first-to-early second round range.
"Tim Erixon brings to his Swedish Elite League club team, the same kind of elite hockey skills that perhaps his dad, Jan Erixon, did for over 500 games in the NHL. A smart defenseman who can either lead a rush or support the rush from behind, he was on display at the World Junior Championship in helping bring his team to the final game." - EJ McGuire, Director of NHL's Central Scouting CSS-I - NHL Central Scouting (International Rankings); HN - Hockey News; ISS - International Scouting Service; TSN - TSN.ca