It’s one thing for young unproven prospects to awe front office folks, but it’s another to pique the curiosity of NHL players.
Yet that’s what 2010 second-round draft pick Calle Jarnkrok apparently did during the IIHF World Championship last month.
Shortly after the Red Wings signed Jarnkrok to a three-year, entry-level contract last week, assistant general manager Jim Nill called the 20-year-old Swedish center one of the franchise’s top prospects.
High praise for a youngster who hasn’t played in an NHL game, let alone participate in a big-league training camp, but the way one Wings’ player sees it, it’s a well-deserved accolade.
“He’s got so much upside,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kornwall said. “Very impressive.”
Jarnkrok played alongside Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Jonathan Ericsson on the Swedish national team that competed in the 16-team international tournament in Sweden and Finland in May.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound speedster finished with one assist in eight games while skating mostly on the Swede’s second forward line between a pair of Ottawa Senators – Daniel Alfredsson and prospect Jakob Silfverberg.
The telling tourney statistics for Jarnkrok was his performance in the face-off circle where he won 67.1 percent of his 70 draws. Only Norway’s Marius Holtet (68.7 percent), a former Dallas Stars prospect, had a higher percentage of face-off wins during the 17-day tournament.
“He’s got the skill to play with our top guys,” Kronwall said, of Jarnkrok. “He’s still, I think a few more pounds away to being ready, but even at the World Championship there was no way to tell that he was too light or anything like that.
“He’s so smart that he puts himself in the right positions to cover the puck or win the puck back. Even though he’s not a huge guy he’s still very strong on his stick, with good balance and outstanding hockey sense.”
Though he signed with the Wings, Jarnkrok will likely spend the upcoming season playing for Brynas in the Swedish Elite League. The hope is that Jarnkrok will be granted permission to participate in the Wings’ training camp in September, but either way, Kronwall is a believer in the young prospect.
“I always get impressed nowadays with a kid that’s coming up – they’re 18-, 19-years-old – and they’re ready to go,” Kronwall said. “They don’t need the years in the minors always. A lot of them are ready to go and their bodies are already mature enough that they’re good to go.”
And based on what Kronwall saw last month, Jarnkrok isn’t far away from making it to the NHL.
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