Swedish Players Generate Buzz at NHL Scouting Combine
By Tony Ambrogio (@SNTonyAmbrogio)
They may not be in the NHL right away, but the next wave of Swedish stars is on the way.
Depending on who you talk to, there could be four to six Swedish-born players drafted in the first round of the NHL draft this year.
Centers Elias Lindholm, Alexander Wennberg, and defenseman Robert Hagg are the most talked about Swedish players here at the combine.
Hagg is a 6-foot-2, 204-pound defenseman who played this year in the Swedish Elite League with Modo. He scored 11 goals in 28 games this year, and is considered a two-way defenseman who isn’t afraid of the physical game, and his passing is NHL caliber now.
“I always looked up to Nick Lidstrom when I was young,” said Hagg who met with 26 teams at the scouting combine. “I need to be more consistent player.”
Hagg is ranked eighth among international skaters according to NHL central scouting. He recently signed a two-year deal with Modo.
Lindholm is a two-way forward who is expected to be the first Swedish player taken in the draft. He is ranked 3rd among international skaters according to NHL central scouting.
“I’m a two-way forward, good balance, my vision is great,” said Lindhom who scored 11 goals in 48 games with Brynas in the Swedish Elite League this season. “I’m a stubborn guy who likes to compete. I grew up with a brother who is two years older and I always am competitive against him.”
His game has drawn comparisons to Henrik Zetterberg, while Lindholm admires the way Claude Giroux plays.
“If Elias Lindholm were in any other draft, he would be the first player taken,” said one scout.
Lindholm is listed at 5-foot-11, 192 pounds, and likes to play a physical game. He was interviewed by 23 teams at the combine and has one year left on a contract with Brynas.
Another Swedish player who could be a first round pick is center Alexander Wennberg who says his “hockey sense” is his biggest strength.
He takes pride in playing a two-way game, and with Djurgarden this season in the Swedish Elite League scored 14 goals in 46 games.
Wennberg is ranked fifth among international skaters according to NHL central scouting. He has signed a two-year deal with Djurgarden.
“You can’t be an all-offensive player,” said the 6-foot-2, 183-pound Wennberg. “It’s part of hockey to play both ends. I focus on that.”
Wennberg likes to pattern his game after Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom.
The Swedish junior hockey program has rebounded in recent years. Sweden won gold in the 2012 world junior hockey championship and a silver medal in 2013. They will contend for a medal again at the 2014 event on home ice, as Malmö, Sweden will play host to the event.
With players like Elias Lindholm, Robert Hagg, and Alexander Wennberg, it’s easy to see why.