Prospect Spotlight: Berggren returns from injury with historic SHL season
Red Wings' 33rd overall pick in 2018 inching closer to realizing NHL dreamby Josh Berenter @DetroitRedWings / DetroitRedWings.com
DETROIT -- Jonatan Berggren is only 20 years old, but the winger has spent several years grinding in the Swedish Hockey League while dealing with multiple injuries as he continues his quest to make his NHL dreams come true.
Eight days ago, that dream got closer to becoming a reality as Berggren signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Detroit Red Wings.
After being the 33rd overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, Berggren became the fifth member of Detroit's 2018 class to sign with the Red Wings, following current Wings forwards Filip Zadina (sixth overall) and Joe Veleno (30th overall) and prospects Jared McIsaac (36th overall) and Seth Barton (81st overall).
A native of Enkoping, Sweden, Berggren has played his entire career in his home country, including the last four years in the SHL, working to developing a 200-foot game and take advantage of his incredible skating ability and raw talent.
As a fan of Swedish former Red Wings like Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen, Detroit was Berggren's favorite NHL team as a child, and he was thrilled to be drafted by the Wings and have a chance to follow in the footsteps of his famed countrymen.
"Detroit was my favorite team growing up," Berggren said after he was drafted. "They had all the Swedes on the roster. I'm excited."
But the road to the NHL has been an eventful one for the 5-foot-10, 181-pound winger.
After tying for the scoring lead in the Swedish junior league with 57 points in 38 games in 2017-18, Berggren suffered separate back and shoulder injuries the last two seasons, combining for 15 points in just 40 games played in that span.
The swift-scoring winger bounced back, though, and enjoyed a breakout campaign for his Skelleftea AIK club in 2020-21, earning 45 points (12 goals, 33 assists) in 49 games and adding four points in 12 postseason contests to lead his team to the SHL semifinals.
Berggren's 45-point output this past season was good for a sixth-place tie among SHL skaters, and he became just the 13th player in SHL history at age 20 or younger to earn at least 40 points in a single season.
Red Wings director of player development Shawn Horcoff said Berggren has developed a lot of mental toughness through rehabbing his injuries and he's polished the raw skills that enticed the Wings when they drafted him three years ago.
"He's a guy who's faced a lot of adversity with injuries the last couple years," Horcoff said in October. "These aren't injuries that are easy to come back from. To his credit, going through that, it's done two things - it's made him realize what he needs to work on, and it's also given him time to work on those deficiencies.
"He was a guy we drafted who was very raw in terms of his physical development. I think the last couple of years, the amount of time he's been able to spend in the gym and off the ice has helped him in that area."
As an undersized winger, Berggren has relied on his speed and scoring ability to develop through the ranks, and he hopes to bring his unique skillset to the Red Wings as soon as possible.
"I'm a skilled forward who has much speed and likes to make plays, play in the offensive zone," Berggren said in 2018. "I'm not going to be the biggest or strongest guy on the ice. I must use my speed to advance."
This summer, Berggren will enjoy his first offseason since 2019 without needing to rehab an injury. The winger, who turns 21 on July 16, will use this offseason to continue developing his game with an emphasis on skating and two-way hockey with the hopes of soon realizing his dreams and making his NHL debut with the Red Wings.