Ludvig Rensfeldt was the first Swedish player picked in the draft, going 35th overall to Chicago. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES – In the 2009 draft, seven elite players were taken from Sweden in the opening round: Victor Hedman, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, David Rundblad, Jacob Josefson, Tim Erixon and Marcus Johansson.
But in 2010, the Swedes were shutout of the opening round. Not that it’s a cause for concern: On Day 2 six players were plucked from Sweden in Round 2 and they bring immense talent to the table that shouldn’t be underestimated.
“People probably figured with the success of the Swedes last year it might be the same thing this year, but I think last year might have been almost a freak of nature with the guys they had – the high, high talent guys – and that’s not taking away from any of the kids who are there this year,” said Todd Woodcroft, a European scout for the Los Angeles Kings based in Sweden.
The second round Swedes have all the potential to make the NHL and each bring their own distinct skillset to the mix:
Ludvig Rensfeldt, LW, Chicago (35th overall): Had a strong world junior performance that raised his stock and was the second-leading scorer on Brynas’ under-20 team with 53 points in 44 games.
Woodcroft: “An excellent player; a big guy who can score.”
Patrik Nemeth, D, Dallas (41st overall): At 6-foot-3, 201 pounds, Nemeth’s strength isn’t a concern, but his skating needs work. Had 19 assists and 120 penalty minutes in 38 games with AIK of the Swedish under-20 league.
Woodcroft: “Already a man, going to play in the elite league next year. Good prospect too.”
Sebastian Wannstrom, RW, St. Louis (44th overall): Passed over in the 2009 draft, Wannstrom was a teammate of Rensfeldt’s and scored at nearly a goal-a-game pace in the Swedish under-20 league.
Woodcroft: “Just scores and scores and scores. He’s a similar player to Andrew Brunette or Trent Hunter: those opportunistic guys from the blueline in. He’s a dangerous, dangerous player.”
Calle Jarnkrok, C, Detroit (51st overall): The fourth-ranked European skater in Central Scouting’s final rankings, Jarnkrok is undersized at 5-foot-11, 156 pounds, but held his own in his first taste of the Elitserien.
Woodcroft: “Shouldn’t be the Winged Wheel, it should be the Swede Wheel with the amount of Swedes they have and this kid’s going to fit right in. He’s a top-end talent, he’s a skinny guy right now and I think they’ll probably give him time to develop in Brynas.”
Johan Larsson, LW, Minnesota (56th overall): Second-leading scorer at the world under-18 championship and was ranked way down at 34th among European skaters in Central Scouting’s rankings.
Woodcroft: “Is like a Chris Clark kind of player; gritty two-way guy, goes in and gets pucks. I thought that was a great choice for the Wild.
Oscar Lindberg, C, Phoenix (57th overall): Seventh-ranked European skater by Central Scouting, the versatile Lindberg got a taste of the Elitserien in 2009-10 and should spend all of next season there.
Woodcroft: “A really sharp player. Very good on both sides of the puck. Brought good energy to that team in the elite league. Strong guy, strong character.”
Pretty good praise for a class that was shutout of the opening round. Not to mention how four Swedes picked in the fifth round were available in the 2009 draft, but passed over because they needed a bit more seasoning.
“That could also mean last year was extra strong,” Woodcroft noted.
KRAZY KIRILL KABANOV
Our own Ryan Kennedy saw the infamous Kabanov dash across the street against a red light while everyone else stood at the curb about 10 minutes after the second round had commenced.
The kid likes to speak his mind and sure isn’t shy around the media. When asked why he thought his stock dropped from first-rounder to third-rounder, he was quite insightful.
“Hockey is a sport and sometimes you go up and sometimes you go down,” Kabanov colorfully explained. “You know the plane? (Turbulence). The plane isn’t going down. It’s not a big deal. I just try and go back to the normal spot. I will try to make the NHL as soon as I can.”
You’d think the kid might want to learn when to catch himself in speech, given all the troubles he had this past season. But as Woodcroft explained, sometimes NHL teams like to see that color in a player.
“As (Minnesota assistant coach) Mike Ramsey, a guy I respect very much, told me you need to have sometimes a little ‘cowboy’ in your locker room; a little swagger,” Woodcroft said. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a guy with a little personality and a little cowboy to him.
“Good pickup for the Islanders. He can score, he can play, he’s got a good chance. The Islanders really develop their guys mentally and physically and they spend time on their prospects and I think they’ll be OK there.”
THN Puck Panel: 2010 NHL Entry Draft roundup
PRODUCER: Ted Cooper
THN is in Los Angeles covering the NHL Draft.
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