Tom Hedberg isn't the biggest blueliner on the ice but he knows how to move the puck. Learn about him and other future NHLers in our weekly wrap
In our latest issue, Prospects Unlimited, I wrote a story about NCAA recruiting and how intensive the occupation has become. Two of the coaching staffs involved in the story came from Boston U. and Denver. Boston has been on a serious recruiting run under coach David Quinn and the Terriers just landed another in 2017 draft prospect Cameron Crotty, a smart, mobile defenseman from Ontario. Meanwhile, Denver has been getting major offense this season from Florida Panthers first-rounder Henrik Borgstrom, a Finnish center the Pioneers spent six months recruiting. Who else is making noise in the world of prospects this week? Let's go to the list.
Tom Hedberg, D – Barrie Colts (OHL): The Colts lost a ton of talent over the summer, from San Jose pick Kevin Labanc to New Jersey goalie prospect Mackenzie Blackwood. On the back end, Rasmus Andersson is off to the pros with Calgary's AHL squad, but Barrie simply brought in another Swedish D-man via the Import Draft. Hedberg doesn't have Andersson's size, but he's bringing the Colts some offense nonetheless. The 2017 draft prospect has six points in his past six games and is adjusting well to the culture.
"When I lived in Sweden I lived alone," Hedberg said. "Over here I have a billet, so it's actually easier. They make awesome food."
Hedberg comes from the legendary small-town hockey factory of Ornskoldsvik - just like Peter Forsberg, Victor Hedman and the Sedin twins, among others. He moved away as a teenager to play for Leksand and now he's in Ontario to play his trade. Hedberg got the inside scoop on the OHL from buddy Alex Nylander, who played for Mississauga before the Buffalo Sabres landed him in the first round of the draft. Hedberg hung out with the whole Nylander family in Toronto during the summer and went to Buffalo for Alex's big day. And while they play different positions, Hedberg's assets are similar to Nylander's.
"Probably the offense," Hedberg said. "I move the puck and my skating is my biggest strength. I'm an offensive defenseman."
A big fan of Arizona's Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Hedberg loves the Coyote's two-way game and wants to improve his own defensive play to be more like his idol. At 5-foot-11 and 161 pounds, Hedberg isn't a bruiser, but he is very good at using his body and low leverage to protect the puck.
"I'm a little bit smaller and I've always been playing against bigger guys," he said. "You have to learn to play with it and that has taught me how to play better."
And as he works on his defense, he'll become an even greater threat for the Colts. Because they already know they've got a kid with a lot of horsepower.
In the Pipeline
Carl Grundstrom, RW (Toronto): A maximum-effort player who competes in both ends, Grundstrom has turned into a sniper lately. The Frolunda winger is hot in the SHL, posting up six goals in his past six games. That includes a hat trick and he now sits atop the league in scoring by a junior-aged player with seven points in 15 contests.
Austin Wagner, LW (Los Angeles): Wagner's Regina Pats are red-hot in the WHL and he has been chipping in nicely with seven goals and 11 points in eight games. The left winger has great size and more importantly, can really skate out there. Most impressive? He has three shorthanded goals already.
Samuel Montembeault, G (Florida): The Panthers have an organizational logjam in net, so Montembeault was sent back to Blainville-Boisbriand in the QMJHL for an overage year. He's getting tons of playing time with the Armada, so mission accomplished. Also, the athletic netminder has been lights-out, rocking a .941 save percentage. The league's goalie of the month is also 9-1-0 so far.
Samuel Girard, D (Nashville): How fast can Girard join the floundering Preds? Just kidding. But serious, this kid has moves from the back end and has yet to be held off the scoresheet this season. Girard has 20 points in just nine games for the Q's Shawinigan Cataractes.
Joey Anderson, RW (New Jersey): The University of Minnesota-Duluth is riding high right now after a weekend sweep of top-ranked North Dakota. Anderson, a big powerful freshman from the NTDP, has gotten on track right away and has seven points (all assists) through eight games.
A.J. Greer, LW (Colorado): Speaking of great starts, Greer is making a name for himself with AHL San Antonio. The power forward brings skill and brawn to the Rampage and is tied for the league's rookie scoring league with eight points through eight games.
2017 Draft Stars
Kailer Yamamoto, RW – Spokane Chiefs (WHL): The 'Dub' scoring race is looking really fun this year. Yamamoto joins fellow draft prospects Mason Shaw and Cody Glass at the top thanks to seven points in his past four games. That earned the slender kid player of the week honors and he's up to 23 points in 15 games. An opportunistic scorer, Yamamoto knows how to get to the quiet areas.
Miro Heiskanen, D – HIFK (Fin.): Given his age, Heiskanen is getting a lot of responsibility in Finland's top league. An active shooter from the blueline, he's one of HIFK’s ice time leaders, averaging nearly 20 minutes a game. Has a bit of an edge in his two-way game, too.
Matthew Strome, LW – Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL): The Bulldogs have been a pleasant surprise so far and Strome's scoring ability have certainly helped. Big and smart, the youngest Strome brother has 17 points through 14 games.
Maksim Zhukov, G – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL): The Russian import has been great for the Gamblers, posting up a 2.01 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. His 6-foot-3 frame is great, but just as nice is his calm demeanor and maturity in the crease.