Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column looking at Hockey’s Future Stars. Over the next week or so, we will be previewing the 2014 World Junior Championships, a tournament that will be played in Toronto and Montreal from December 26, 2014 to January 5, 2015. As always, you can check out the previous Top Shelf Prospects articles here.
Today we preview the Swedish Team and take a look at ten players to watch in this year’s tournaments. The Swedes have won one gold and two silver medals in the last three tournaments, showing the strength of their development program. As usual, they come into the 2015 tournament with a strong lineup and will be a contender for the medals.
Note players must be born on January 1st, 1995 or later to be eligible for the tournament. 1994 birthdates are not eligible. Players are listed by position, and then by alphabetical order of last name, with one exception. That exception is Andre Burakowsky as no one is quite sure if he will be loaned out for the tournament or not.
Prior to the selection camp rosters being released; I looked at Team Canada’s Forwards, Defence and Goalies; Team USA forwards, and Defense and Goalies . Click the links to check them out. Now without further ado, on to Team USA.
Sweden World Junior Team Preview: 10 Players to Watch
Jonas Johansson: Drafted 61st overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2014 NHL Draft, he has outstanding size listed at 6’4″. He doesn’t really use that size as well as he could though. While Johansson is often well positioned for a shot, he seems to play deep in his crease and doesn’t really cut down angles. Despite that he tracks the puck well and goes side to side extremely well. He also has quick legs and a very good butterfly technique. Johansson takes away the bottom of the net extremely well, however does need to work on his rebound control going forward. Johansson has good athleticism, so he recovers quickly and gets himself square to the shooter on rebound attempts. A strong glove hand takes away the top of the net. His strong skating and the fact he plays deep in his crease allow him to be very good on deke attempts, breakaways, and shootouts. Mature for his age, Johansson doesn’t let a bad goal get to him, and avoids giving up two or three quick ones in a row by dwelling on the last one. He’s also shown to be a leader for his International teams, being someone they can lean on when the pressure is on. Johansson isn’t the type of goaltender who comes out of his crease to handle the puck, and that’s probably a good thing, as it’s not a strength for him.
Julius Bergman: A second round pick of the San Jose Sharks in the 2014 Draft, Bergman has excellent vision and hockey sense. He makes very strong passes; both in the breakout and in quarterbacking the powerplay. He also has strong stickhandling ability to carry the puck out of danger or to lead the rush. His mobility is excellent as he is a quick skater on both directions, and has good agility and edgework. Defensively, Bergman is good at keeping forwards to the outside and plays a solid positional game. He steals pucks with a quick and active stick, and is more likely to poke check than to throw his body around.
Andreas Englund: A second round pick of the Ottawa Senators in the 2014 Draft, Englund is a solid defensive defender. His game isn’t fancy, but it is effective. He has very good size and loves to throw his weight around as he can be extremely physical and throw some bone crunching checks on the back-end. He has a real mean streak. He clears the front of the net, and is always battling for the puck in the corners. He has a good active stick, cuts down passing lanes and is willing to block shots. Englund is very difficult to beat one-on-one, and should be a key penalty killer for the Swedes. Englund is a has very good mobility for his size. He is a smooth skater with good speed in both directions. He is also solid on his skates, showing good balance, which helps him to win his battles on the boards.
Robert Hagg: A second round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2013, Hagg is an excellent skater with a smooth, powerful stride. He loves to get involved offensively either by leading or joining the rush, and his excellent skating allows him to recover quickly and get back to his defensive position. He has great edgework and agility, and covers a ton of ice defensively, and is able to make quick lateral movements to open up passing and shooting lanes in the offensive zone. Hagg has a hard and accurate slapshot which he utilizes as a trailer off the rush or as a point man on the powerplay. It is his playmaking that really makes him a strong offensive prospect, however. He rarely is pressured into making a bad pass and shows poise and maturity beyond his years in setting up plays, whether it is making a crisp first pass out of his own end of the rink, setting up teammates off the rush, or quarterbacking the play from the blueline.
Oliver Kylington: A potential top five pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, he made himself a regular in the SHL with Farjestad at just 16 years old. An outstanding two-way defenceman, Kylington is a strong skater who can rush the puck and get back into position defensively. He has an excellent stride, which gives him great speed and acceleration in both directions. Excellent agility, edge work, and pivots give him the mobility to cover all areas of the ice. Kylington shows good passing skills and excellent vision. Defensively his game relies on strong positioning, and a quick stick to take the puck off opponents and start the transition game.
Jacob de la Rose: A second round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 2013 NHL Draft, de la Rose has been part of the last two Swedish entries at the World Juniors. De la Rose is a dynamic skater with great speed, and excellent acceleration. He is very explosive and his ability to change speeds, and that extra gear he has allows him to beat defenders to the outside and cut to the net. He’s also quick at getting in on the forecheck, and de la Rose takes advantage of this as he just to put pressure on the defence. He has great stickhandling and very soft hands. He goes to the net and can score goals in tight on rebounds and tip ins. He also has a good wrist soft, and his release is decent. He’s an absolute beast on the boards and just loves physical contact, often being the initiator. De la Rose has shown good vision and passing skills on occasion as well. He put up 6 points in 7 games in last year’s tournament and will be relied upon again for offence again this season. De la Rose’s defensive game is excellent and he will likely be used to match up against the other team’s best line.
Adrian Kempe: Taken by the Los Angeles Kings with the 29th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, Kempe plays the game like a bull in a china shop. He drives the net hard, not caring who he has to run over to get to the areas he wants to go. He is first in on the forecheck, and just loves to punish defenders in the corners. He is remarkably effective in winning board battles. He protects the puck very well on the cycle and is a menace down low. His wrist shot is very hard and heavy. It also features a good release. Adrian Kempe also has decent vision and passing skills which he uses out of the cycle. His stickhandling is okay, but he certainly plays a North-South game, and takes the direct route to things, instead of trying to use too many moves to try and get by a defender. Kempe plays a strong defensive game. He is an industrious forward who never stops skating and his physical and gritty nature is apparent in all three zones of the ice.
William Nylander: The Toronto Maple Leafs first round pick, 8th overall, in the 2014 NHL Draft, Nylander is incredibly skilled. He is an outstanding skater. He has very good top end speed and excellent acceleration and change of pace ability. Nylander uses this to fool defenders off the rush and to open up passing and shooting lanes by quickly changing speeds. He also shows very good agility and the ability to get around defenders one-on-one. His balance is good, but he could use more core strength in order to avoid getting knocked off the puck by bigger defenders. In the offensive zone, Nylander shows off outstanding hands, and incredible stickhandling ability. He can control the game with the puck on his stick, and protects it well. He is an outstanding playmaker with great vision, and can pass the puck through the eye of a needle. His shot features a quick release, and good accuracy. Nylander will be a go-to player on this team, and with the Swedes playing their group stage games at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, he will be heavily scrutinized in the tournament.
Lucas Wallmark: A fourth round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2014 after going unndrafted in 2013. A strong season in the SHL and a good showing with 8 points in 7 games at last year’s world juniors had scouts taking a second look. He is a play making centre with good vision and hockey sense. Wallmark has good stickhandling and controls the play, slowing things down so his teammates can get open. He is also a strong two-way player with good face-off skills, and can kill penalties. His skating is his weakness, as he has a short, awkward stride and poor acceleration and while it is improving, is still a bit of a sore spot. He does have top notch skill in the other areas though, and could be a key contributor with the right wingers.
The Question Mark: Andre Burakowsky had a tremendous start to the NHL season with the Washington Capitals. However, he has cooled of late, and the 19-year-old was even made a healthy scratch by coach Barry Trotz recently. He is on Sweden’s preliminary roster for the tournament and obviously they would love to have him. As for the Capitals, they haven’t yet made an announcement as to whether or not he will be loaned out for the tournament. A decision will need to be made before the NHL roster freeze goes into effect on December 19th.
Burakowsky has played both centre and wing for the Capitals and has 4 goals and 13 points in 26 games this season. He is an outstanding skater. When he hits top speed he can really fly and seperate himself from opponents. His edgework and agility are also well developed and combined with excellent stickhandling, this can make him a real dangerous player off the rush. He has the ability to go wide on defenders and cut to the net. He can also pull up and create space to shoot or make a pass to a teammate. In this way he’s highly skilled and highly unpredictable. Burakowsky is also highly skilled in the offensive zone. He combines his stickhandling with good passing skills and vision to be a real offensive threat. He is poised and patient working the puck on the side boards on the powerplay and looking for opportunities. He also is very good at finding open space and getting himself into good scoring areas when he doesn’t have the puck. Burakovsky’s greatest strength is as a goal scorer. He has a very good one timer, and an outstanding wrist shot and quick release. He also has the ability to drive the net, and the skilled, soft hands to score in tight. In short, he’s what teams look for in a skilled sniper and would be a real boost if available for Sweden.
Check back tomorrow as we continue to go through the players to watch at the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championships.
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