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The Word on the Street: Calle Jarnkrok

by Jimi Russell / Nashville Predators

With yesterday’s acquisition of prospect forward Calle Jarnkrok, we decided to take a look at what some of the people around the League and around hockey are saying about the young Swedish center.

For a little background, Jarnkrok, 22, was playing with the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins prior to the trade. He has 36 points (13g-23a) in 57 AHL games, and was recently rated No. 41 in The Hockey News’ Top 50 NHL-affiliated prospects. He will now report to the Milwaukee Admirals, and is scheduled to play in his first game on Friday night against Rockford.

The Gavle, Sweden native has several connections with the Preds organization. He helped the Tre Kronor win gold at the 2011 World Junior Championships – a team that also included Preds prospect Filip Forsberg. Jarnkrok also won a Swedish League title in 2012 with Brynas, playing alongside defenseman Mattias Ekholm. During his rookie SEL season, he led all junior players in goals (11) and points (29), but finished runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting to Ekholm.

Now that the background is out of the way, here’s the word on the street:

Ekholm had to say about Jarnkrok:

“He’s a right-handed centerman. He likes to play the half-wall on the power play. He is going to be a really good fit for us whenever he makes it here.”

“He’s an offensive-minded player. He’s not bad in the defensive zone, but he’s really offensive. He is more of a set-up guy than a scorer – gets assists, not a big shooter. He can do both, but he’s more of a disher.”

Here’s what Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile had to say about Jarnkrok following Wednesday’s trade:

“I think he’s a player who has a really good chance to compete for a job next year,” Poile said. “This kid has terrific hockey sense, great hands. He’s a really good skater and a really good competitor.”

According to Bob Duff of the Windsor Star, Detroit’s Development Coach Jiri Fischer had this to say about Jarnkrok’s potential just last month.

“He’s certainly one of our most talented, if not the most talented prospect,” Fischer said. “Not to take anything away from others like Anthony Mantha, but Calle, the stuff he can do – he is as good as anybody in terms of hand-eye coordination and skill in tight places.

“He makes plays and it’s just a matter of time until he really starts putting up big numbers.”

Read Bob’s feature here

Last April, Ansar Khan of caught up with former Red Wing’s captain and current Red Wing’s European scout Nicklas Lidstrom, and Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson to talk about Jarnkrok.

“He's a very shifty guy, he's quick, he's got quick hands, he sees the ice very well,'' Lidstrom said. “He's got real good hockey sense. He needs to get stronger and get used to playing on this ice surface, but he's got a lot of potential.''

Many have likened Jarnkrok's style to current Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg.

“You do see a lot of similarities to how Hank plays,'' Lidstrom said. “He's got that ability to hang onto the puck and not throw it away unless he has to. He can hold off guys and make that play when there's an opening and wait for that opening, too.

“I think he's ready for the next level and see how quick he can adapt to playing on smaller rinks with faster guys.''

Ericsson played with Jarnkrok on Sweden's World Championship team last year.

“He’s got really good hands and good vision,'' Ericsson said. “He’s not a very big guy, but it’s something that you can work on. He’s got all of the tools. It feels like he’s aware of everything all of the time.

Ericsson compared and contrasted Jarnkrok to Gustav Nyquist, another of the organization's skilled prospects.

“Gus is probably a little more explosive as far as his skating goes; there’s more of a smoothness to Calle’s skating, it’s really easy for him,'' Ericsson said. “I’d say that (Jarnkrok's) skills and moves are smoother, maybe more in the (Pavel) Datsyuk way, and Gus is really shifty.”

Read Ansar’s piece here.

In The Hockey News’ Future Watch 2014, Jiri Fischer echoed a lot of the same praise for the Swedish forward that he showed in Bob Duffs feature, but also noted:

“He knows he has to work on his strength, his power. He needs to work on his explosiveness.”

The blog, Red Wings Central, had this to say about Jarnkrok's potential in a Wings prospect talent review in November.

“He hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in his short time on North American ice, but Jarnkrok remains a very important part of the Red Wings’ future. He’s a hard-working, two-way center whose high skill level gives him upside as a potential top-six NHL contributor.”

Just last month, Red Wings Central caught up with Griffins Head Coach Jeff Blashill about Jarnkrok.

Blashill said Jarnkrok has shown “flashes of real, real high-end skill.”

“He’s extremely talented with a very, very good brain for the game,” Blashill said.

“It’s a matter of learning to create the same space here that he had naturally on the bigger sheet,” Blashill said. “That’s going to be done with his brain, and also with his off-ice work, getting stronger, getting bigger, getting thicker.”

“I’ve been extremely pleased with him,” Blashill said. “He’s been a big factor in us winning lots of games and his production will follow as the year continues.”

Read more from Red Wings Central here.

Jarnkrok’s Elite Prospect’s profile had this to say about him:

A very skilled center that will get the job done on the wing as well. Järnkrok's main asset is his outstanding hockey sense, which allows him to be the great playmaker that he is. Overall a very smart player with good positioning in all zones. Also quite shifty with soft hands and impressive puckhandling skills. Not a physical player, but plays pretty well through heavy traffic although in need of gaining strength and muscles. Good character. Often used as pointman on the man advantage, but can still improve his release. Is a good skater, but there is still some room for improvement in that department.

After Jarnkrok’s outstanding rookie year in the SEL, did a piece on Brynas’ quartet of young players (including Ekholm).

"We are very excited about Calle's future, but at the same time, we know that he needs more time in Elitserien," said Red Wings scout Hakan Andersson. "The ice time will be important for him and he still needs to get stronger to compete in the NHL. When he's ready, he's got a chance to be a good player in the NHL. Calle has a very high skill level."

Catch the entire feature from 2011 here.

In 2010, ESPN did a feature on the top-rated European prospects yet to make their NHL debuts, Jarnkrok topped their list.

"The future is very bright for Jarnkrok. He reminds me a lot of Nicklas Backstrom," said Leif Boork, a coaching veteran in Swedish hockey with over 30 seasons behind the bench. Boork coached Backstrom in Brynas for two seasons before the young Swede moved to Washington. "Jarnkrok had a slight dip in his performance midway through the season but has stepped up ever since. He sees the ice extremely well and acts very mature."

See the full ESPN insider report here.

While awaits video of Jarnkrok in Milwaukee, here are some various YouTube video for your consumption: 

Jarnkrok meets with the Milwaukee Admirals
Power play success in Grand Rapids - Jarnkrok goal.
Calle Jarnkrok Highlights - Brynas IF
Jarnkrok two goals against Farjestad

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