– No one in the hockey community was surprised when the Red Wings walked to the podium at Staples Center and selected a Swedish forward in the second round at last month’s draft in Los Angeles.
Jim Nill, the Wings’ assistant general manager, and team scouts have built a reputation for finding NHL talent in Europe.
The latest Wings’ prospect from Sweden is forward Calle Jarnkrok, the Wings’ second-round pick (51st overall) this June. Jarnkrok, who played for Brynas of the Swedish Elite League last season, is a skilled forward whose question mark is his size.
Nill admitted that the 18-year-old Jarnkrok needs to add muscle to his 5-foot-11 frame before he can compete for a roster spot in Detroit. But the Wings’ assistant GM also pointed out that stars like Pavel Datsyuk
and Henrik Zetterberg
were also criticized as under-sized projects.
“He’s got to put some weight on,” Nill said of Jarnkrok. “If you go back, and it’s hard for people to see this, but in the Zetterberg’s and the Datsyuk’s, we’ve brought them into these camps, and everybody was saying the same thing. Now, is he a Zetterberg or a Datsyuk? We don’t know, that’s up to him.”
Nill said that Wings’ fans should not be concerned about Jarnkrok’s size, because almost every prospect needs to work on the same thing.
“I think every time I talk to the media, they say, ‘what do they need to work on?’ and it’s all strength,” Nill said. “These are all kids that are 18-years-old, and never worked out, and a lot of it is Mother Nature. It just takes time.
“I wish I was 165-pounds, but I went the other way. It’s just Mother Nature, and his hard work is going to decide what kind of player he’s going to be.”
BIG YEAR FOR NESTRASIL:
One of the other European prospects Nill discussed was Andrej Nestrasil
, the Wings’ third-round pick in 2009.
A native of Prague, Czech Republic, Nestrasil has spent the last two seasons with the Victoriaville Tigers of the QMJHL. Last year, he posted 16 goals, 35 assists and 40 penalty minutes.
“He’s kind of a power-forward type of player,” Nill said. “His game is down-low, dumping pucks. He’s a big strong power-forward that needs to work on his skating. But he’s real good down low, he’s a big body, he had a good year in the Quebec league, his team had a good playoff run.”
Nill said the Wings’ front office will keep track of Nestrasil’s progress during the upcoming season, because they must sign him to a contract by next summer.
“We have big expectations for him, and this is a big year for him,” Nill said. “This is his year to get signed, so he’ll have a good year and we’ll keep a close eye on him.”