In the last article I wrote about Stefan Liv, the best prospect so far this year and Henrik Zetterberg. In this article I will write about the other Swedish prospects.
Let`s start with Niklas Kronwall, who is once again having a solid season, but still isn`t having his real breakthrough year.
Going into the season Kronwall had a great training camp in Detroit with the other Red Wings prospects, but when he returned to Sweden he cooled off and played without confidence and that led to limited ice time. But as the season continued, Kronwall picked up his game and played the hockey that made the Red Wing pick him 29th overall in the 2000 entry draft. He scored goals, made great passes, shots, hits and so on, but in the last 9 games his game once again dropped off
Why is it that Niklas can`t keep an equal pace througout a longer period of the season?
The answer could be ice time on the power play.
When Djurgarden had some injury problems on Defense, Kronwall stepped in and played a good two-way game while reciving solid time on the power play unit, but as soon as the injured D-men returned, Kronwall was put off the PP unit and his production and confidence fell off.
I think that Niklas is a top four D-man on Djurgarden and that he deserves to be on the PP unit, but the coach obviously thinks different.
Enough of the complaints, even if he hasn`t been able to produce big numbers this season, it still has been a step forward in his career. He has bulked up a bit to 176 pounds and is slowly growing into an NHL frame. He has also developed his defensive game, he is now more responsible in his own end and is clearing the zone effectively. By now we all know that Niklas Kronwall has a big heart and that he is willing to throw the body but he has not been a perfect hitter. This year he has worked on this area and it has paid off with some big hits.
Kronwall is still second among Red Wings prospects and he has potential to be a top four D-man and a power play specialist in the mold of Anaheim Mighty Ducks quarterback Oleg Tverdovsky. Kronwall will spend at least one more year in Sweden and will try to make the National team next year and fight for a World Championship ticket.
Two prospects that have been pleasant surprises this year are Jari Tolsa of Frölunda and Pär Bäcker of the top club in the country, Färjestad.
Jari started the year on a cold streak, he struggled with the production and didn`t see much ice time. Even with little ice time and problems with the offense he still played a good defensive game and was used regulary on the penalty killing unit.
In an interview, Frölunda coach Conny Evensson was asked what he thought about Jari Tolsa and his play so far.
He said that he was pleased with his play and that he was giving him tons of ice time on the PK because he deserved it. Evensson also added that Tolsa himself was suprised by getting so much playing time on the PK unit.
But in the last 15 games Tolsa has had his best play in the Elite League so far. He has scored 7 goals and added 6 assists for his season total of 13 points. He has emerged as one of the best two-way forwards on the team and has been the best player in most of the games.
I knew that it was just a matter of time before he was going to break out offensively because I was able to see Tolsa in some pre-season games. I quickly noticed that he had developed a lot since last year. He was faster, stronger, tougher, bigger and he had one full year of Elite hockey behind him.
Tolsa is already having a career year in both goals and points but I think that he will be able to raise his game to another level as the season comes to an end and goes into the playoffs. Jari has lately showed glimpses of his offensive arsenal and could develop into a dependable two-way third line forward in two to three years from now.
Pär Bäcker who is playing on the top team in the league Färjestad, is having a strong rookie season. He is centering the fourth line and is getting 8 to 10 minutes a game. He has been used very carefully on the power play and on the penalty killing units. He has still managed to put up 8 points (2+6) in 30 games, but the most important thing is that he has played all the 30 games the team has played.
Färjestad coach, Bengt Åke Gustafsson has been pleased with the play of the 19 year old center and says that he has a bright future ahead of him. Bengt is not the only one that likes Bäckers playing style. The New York Rangers head scout in Sweden, Christer Rockström is also excited about the young kid. He sayed that Bäcker had a impressive year last season in the second-tier league with Bofors where he scored 20 goals and 15 assists in 41 games as an 18 year old and that he has made a smooth adjustment to Elite League tempo this year.
Bäcker has good size 6-foot-2 but needs to bulk up around 10 pounds to 190, which he will by next year. He has good speed and likes to handle the puck through traffic. He is a very smart and sharp passer with a good shot. He reminds a lot of young Red Winger Pavel Datsyuk, even dough Bäcker isn`t as fancy stickhandler as Datsyuk is but both are very smart players and both play a speed game.
Bäcker is only 19 and will spend at least three to four years in Sweden before trying to crack Red Wings lineup.
Andreas Jämtin, last years fifth round pick has had a very good season so far. He has been playing with both the Elite team and the junior team. With the a senior team Jämtin has seen limited ice time in most of the games and has not been able to earn a regular spot, even though I think that he should be among the top 12 forwards on this poor team. In most of the games he has played, he has been among the best player together with Dallas Stars prospect Yared Hagos. Thay have provided great forchecking which has created many scoring opportunities and brought great spirit into the team.
With the junior team, Jämtin has been a star, in 8 games he has scored 8 goals and added 9 assists. He has also been a physical force to as usual, but the difference this year is that he has matured a lot and is not taking stupid penalties as much as he did last year.
He has also been a regular on the Swedish junior national team and will most likely be a part of the team that will compete at the WJC in Czech Republic in December.
Jämtin is a great pick in the 5th round because of his high skill level and his willigness to be physical. Jämtin is a long term project and will stay in Sweden for at least three to four years.
Jimmie Svensson, Red Wings 7th round pick, 228th overall in the 2000 draft. He has been playing with Malmö Red Hawks juniors as a captain in his second year with the team. Last year he had a bad year offensively while doing a great job on the defense. He spent too much time in the penalty box and not on the ice, but this year he has maintained his physical force and has been tossing bodies around every single game while taking more responsibilities offensively and developing his scoring touch, he has 12 goals and 4 assists in 22 games.
Jimmie is a good and powerful skater with very good speed, he is very strong all over the ice and uses it to his advantage. He kills a lot penalties and is being used similiar as Tomas Holmström on the powerplay in front of the net.
Jimmie could have been grinding in the Elite League this year but Malmö has the same problem as Detroit, too many old guys on the team. He could be with the team next year or he will be send to the second-tier league.
Notes: In the next article I will be covering the rest of the prospects from all the other leagues.