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Entry-Level Expectations, Part II: Hardy Häman Aktell

With a new season upon us, there is a new class of Predators prospects whose exclusive negotiating rights with the team expire at the end of the year. I am doing a four-part installment assessing the likelihood of these players receiving entry-level contracts.

If you missed the first installment on Vladislav Yeryomenko, you can read that here.

Next up is defender Hardy Häman Aktell.

What’s New Since Draft Day?

SuperElit 3 1 2 3 6
SuperElit 14 2 2 4 0 0.214 29
Allsvenskan 34 1 5 6 2 0.088 56 28
Allsvenskan 18/19 U22 Rank U22 Rank
D Rank T-71st T-63rd T-67th T-19th 20th 51st T-133rd

Taken in round four of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Häman Aktell has endured a bumpy road since then. After a draft season posting over a point-per-game in 26 U18-level appearances in Sweden, Häman Aktell began the 2016-17 season with three points in three games for Skelleftea in the top junior tier before suffering a disastrous injury. After surgery on his hip, Häman Aktell returned to the ice in January of 2018.

Since then, the defender has graduated full-time to the Allsvenskan (the second tier league in Sweden) playing 34 games for IF Björklöven last season and scoring six points as a bottom-pair defender.

Expectations for 2019-20

Häman Aktell will play full-time for IF Björklöven this season in the Allsvenskan as one of seven defenders currently on the roster—four of whom (including Häman Aktell) are returning from last season. Of those four defenders, only one, August Tornberg, produced in a larger offensive role last season. The three defenders added to the roster are veteran Brian Cooper, established Allsvenskan producer Oliver Joakim Larsen, and the draft-eligible Alexander Popovic.

Björklöven struggled last season, winning just 16 games and failing to make the playoffs—albeit just by three points. Due to this, the club reported significant financial losses last season and its equity fell below the league’s license requirement.

With the defense corps likely set, Häman Aktell should feature prominently in the top-four with potentially significant minutes on special teams. It’s an important step forward for a player with much to prove on a team that has little room for error on the ice this season.

What Does History Tell Us?

I once again enlisted the help of Bryan Bastin to visualize the success of Aktell’s peers.

(Note: To view the entire viz and experiment with the data, visit it here)

In the data above, ‘Draft Year’ is defined as that player’s draft day to June 1 the following year; ‘Draft Year + 1’ is June 1 the year after their draft day to June 1 the following year, etc.

Below are a few takeaways from the data above:

  • Between 2011 and 2016, there were 34 defenders drafted that played at least one game at the J18 (U18) level in the season before their draft. However, 27 of those defenders played a large majority of that season in the SuperElit—the top junior league in Sweden.
  • In many cases, these players appeared in single digit games at the J18 level and three to four dozen at the SuperElit level.
  • The remaining seven—including Häman Aktell—played most of that pre-draft season in the J18 Elit and J18 Allsvenskan, a notch below the SuperElit.
  • I wanted to highlight this difference above. To my knowledge, there has yet to be a defender drafted out of the J18 level that has made it to the NHL. It certainly isn’t impossible, but of this group, Robin Norell leads the way, capping out at 160 AHL appearances. /

This is all to say that, despite his obvious potential, Häman Aktell was seemingly drafted behind a somewhat-established development curve. There are many reasons why players don’t crack the SuperElit sooner and much of it can be organizational depth.

Unfortunately, Häman Aktell’s lack of experience was compounded by injury issues and over a year off the ice is incredibly significant.

At this point, it’s unlikely, in my opinion, that Nashville extends a bona fide offer to him before the season’s end.

All stats are courtesy of eliteprospects.com and hockeyallsvenskan.se.

Talking Points