It’s that time of year; my NHL Entry Draft coverage has begun. When it comes to this iteration of my player profiles, I’ll be doing things a bit differently and compiling a few prospects of the same position from similar circuits to analyze. This will allow me to share more brief but concise updates on more players eligible for this summer’s draft between now and July.
To start, I’ve taken a look at a trio of Swedish defenders who are hoping to hear their name called on day one.
Elias Salomonsson | D | Skellefteå AIK J20
Salomonsson is a later birthday in this class, being eligible by just a few weeks. The 17-year old stands at 6’1” and plays for his hometown Skellefteå club.
Salomonsson caught the eyes of many scouts with an impressive performance last season as a 16-year old at the U20 level; he scored four goals and 15 points in 14 games and even earned a three-game call-up to the SHL. This year has been a different story both statistically and in his development. He started the year with just two points in his first six games but then ripped off a four-game goal streak. He dressed for four games with the U18 national team in November before going back to the J20 Nationell and playing a few more SHL games. Once identified as a potential first-round pick, Salomonsson’s on-ice performances have been shaky (if not a step-down from last year) at many moments this season.
Salomonsson (#55, white) moves extremely well in all four directions for his size as you can see above, but—as demonstrated early in the clip—he can be careless with unforced errors in dishing the puck. It’s not an issue with skill (see here), it’s just...well...careless. He transitions well between forward and backward skating and uses his hips well to open up his body when receiving a pass or making a move on opponents; he also dishes a sweet pass here for a brilliant scoring chance. But, you can sense there’s more that he can bring to the table with the puck on his stick.
I love how aggressively he can sit in the offensive zone, flirting with the top of the circles, and he can make good passes under pressure or jump into the rush at the right moment as he does above, but he’s not always consistent. He demonstrates a good stride extension and recovery to get back on defense and ultimately uses his body to force a change of possession.
Salomonsson will also likely be used as a key asset on any team’s power play; for Skellefteå, he mans the half-wall, pestering goalies with effective wrist shots or dishing to his teammates.
Overall, he’s got good size and a tantalizing skill set, but he’s just too inconsistent night-to-night. Defensively, he can misread gaps, mistime his pivots, or chase a play, so at this point, he’s likely a mid-second or third-round pick at this point.
Calle Odelius | D | Djurgårdens IF J20
Contrary to Salomonsson, Calle Odelius has been a steady riser in public opinion all year. The 17-year old defender stands at 6’0” and has been lighting up the J20 Nationell this season. The Djurgårdens skater is second among U18 defenders in the league with 22 points in 33 games; he’s also skated in seven SHL games this season.
Odelius (#20, white) is another mobile defender who could refine a few of his skating mechanics—notably his knee bend. He doesn’t have amazing footspeed, and in the clip above, he’s able to race back and take out the puck-carrier with his physical play, but some skating touch-ups would help him win that race much more easily.
In all zones, Odelius is constantly mapping out all the moving parts around him, and he uses that to walk the blue line well and control and distribute the puck. His shooting talent is okay, but that will be improved with added strength. He attacks open space, giving his teammates more passing options, and when he’s on his game, he makes it hard for opposing forwards not to chase his puck play.
When Odelius starts the transition from his own zone, he jumps quickly into the play after his first pass, contracting the space the other team has to defend throughout the rest of the ice. With his stronger skating skills, he’s largely able to negotiate timing between moving up and moving back well, but he can still get backed up back faster puck-carriers and maintain poor gap control or miss his pivots as seen above.
While it may be later on day one, Odelius is a fairly clear first-rounder to me.
Mattias Hävelid | D | Linköping HC J20
Rounding out this notebook is the exciting defender Mattias Hävelid. He turned 18 at the start of this year, and he’s smaller in size at just 5’10”, but he may have the highest ceiling of this group.
The Linköping blueliner has notched seven goals and 14 points in 22 U20 games this year and has graduated to play in 17 SHL games; he’s also scored two goals and 10 points in nine games for the U18 Swedish team this season.
Hävelid (#6, white) has his fans, and he has his detractors; what few can deny is how mesmerizing he is with the puck on his stick. He keeps his head up the whole way up the ice, uses linear crossovers to build space between him and the other team, and freezes defenders with his adept, but not chaotic, stickhandling. He doesn’t have the straight-line speed to excel like this in the NHL right now, but his confidence will go a long way to him hopefully becoming a top-four defender at the pro level.
On defense, Hävelid’s instincts are okay. He tends to let the play come to him and kind of float in space when not challenging the puck in neutral ice. He doesn’t engage puck-carriers like you want a top defender to do despite his ability to be so dynamic when possession flips to his side of the ice. In the defensive zone, I have concerns that he’s too stagnant and waits for a moment to rush up ice instead of creating that chance himself.
When it comes to putting the puck in the net, Hävelid comes with an impressive shooting arsenal and can really let the puck rip as we see above.
While some of his SHL performances have drawn questions about the ceiling of his defensive game, Hävelid oozes skill. He’s a later first-round pick for me and will be a fun player to develop for any club.
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com.