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Draft notebook: Brannstrom found success at young age in SHL

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Niklas Brannstrom played nine seasons in the Swedish Hockey League, beginning his career with Farjestad BK in 1991-92 and ending it with HV71 in 2002-2003. He played 341 games in Sweden's top league and scored 82 goals and 84 assists.

What eluded him in all of those years was the Le Mat Trophy, awarded each year to the champion of the SHL. Brannstrom's HV71 team actually won the championship in 2004, one year after his career had ended.

So how's this for a twist of fate? This past season, Erik Brannstrom - Niklas' son - played 35 games for HV71 at the ripe age of 17. That team won the championship, and Erik - one year into his SHL career - was able to experience what had eluded Niklas for nine seasons.

So how does Niklas feel watching his son?

"I think it's pretty big," Erik said at the NHL Scouting Combine. "We won the championship in Sweden. He didn't win that so I think it's pretty big."

Erik says his father is his biggest role model in life. But unlike Niklas, who played on the wing, Erik plays on the back end, albeit with offensive tendencies.

"I describe [myself] as an offensive defenseman," he said. "I like to join the rush and have the puck and skate."

Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com, who listed Brannstrom at No. 21 on his list of the top prospects for this year's draft, described the defenseman in a similar light.

"Teams are always craving brilliant offensive skill sets on the back line," Baker wrote. "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."

Brannstrom thrived as captain of HV71's J20 team in the SuperElit league, earning Best Defenseman honors with 23 points (9+14) in 19 games. He scored an additional seven points (3+4) in seven playoff games for the J20 team.

To play 35 games at the SHL level against a league full of adult men is another challenge. Brannstrom scored six points (1+5) there, where he says he was picked up by his older teammates.

"They took care of me the whole year, all the guys," he said. "On the ice, it was pretty easy to play with them. They think more like you."

And while Brannstrom didn't play in the playoffs for HV71, he offered a comparison to describe what the team's championship meant to him.

"I imagine as big as it is to win a Stanley Cup," he said.

 

 

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