Kris Baker is once again counting down his list of top prospects available in the NHL Draft for Sabres.com. The first round of the 2017 NHL Draft will take place on June 23 in Chicago.
Team: HV 71 (SHL)
The new NHL requires an attacking style mentality from the back end. Enter Erik Brannstrom, a left-shot defender who dominated the Swedish junior ranks this past season while also earning 35 games of pro experience with one of the SHL's top teams, HV 71.
Teams are always craving brilliant offensive skill sets on the back line. Brannstrom just might have that "it" factor that can someday develop into a superstar talent, and thus might be the biggest wild card that gets played on Friday night.
Branded as a Kimmo Timonen clone for his 5-foot-11 frame, power play quarterbacking skills and his ability to dictate the pace of a game, Brannstrom is equal parts offensively skilled defender and top-notch competitor. He possesses finesse in his passing game, quickly identifies opportunities to jump into offensive zone space and executes with great confidence at both ends of the ice thank to his superior skating skills.
Also, like Timonen, Brannstrom plays a sound defensive game. He overcomes the outdated size argument with a fully engaged effort, approaching every defensive zone shift as if it's a battle. He's good with his stick and has good timing when stepping to his man and going down to break up a play.
Following a successful season that included the award as the J20 SuperElit Best Defenseman, Brannstrom stood out for Sweden at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship, leading all team defenders and tying for the team lead with five points (2+3) in seven games while relying on his skill set to post a team-high 37 shots on goal.
With two years remaining on his contract with HV 71, Brannstrom will be charged to continue his development with the normally prescribed work in the weight room.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker's website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects).
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