Swedish hockey is taking a massive step forward this year. It has always been a powerhouse hockey country, but this season, it is on another level. In my rankings, there are seven Swedes projected to go in the first round. Of those seven, one forward by the name of Simon Robertsson sticks out. He has made quite the impression with DobberProspects, who most recently ranked him eighth overall. Meanwhile, draft expert Bob McKenzie, who has been historically accurate with his rankings, has him placed 28th. Currently, I have Robertsson almost directly in the middle, at 17th overall.
Simon Robertsson Can’t Be Overlooked
Robertsson, born on February 5th, 2003, in Pitea, Sweden, is an 18-year-old right winger playing primarily in the SHL. The 6’0” and 190-pound winger on Skelleftea AIK scored one goal and one assist for two points in 22 SHL games. When playing in the J20 Nationell with Skelleftea, Robertsson produced nine goals and 11 assists for 20 points in 15 games. Finally, playing an additional seven games in the HockeyEttan with Pitea HC on a loan, he produced two goals and one assist for three points.
What the Experts Are Saying About Simon Robertsson
From Alex Appleyard of Smaht Scouting: “For a young player who sees limited minutes in a pro league Robertsson does something that not many 18-year-olds can say. He looks the part. Not only does he have a broad “man-sized” frame, but his grit, strength and motor mean that even if he only sees five shifts a game there is no thought of him being a junior player. It might seem like a back-handed compliment, but when tuning into Skellefteå games this season – were it not for his cage – you would think that he was a career SHL bottom-sixer who had years under his belt.”
From Mikael Holm of DobberProspects: “You should never judge a prospect on their points in a men’s league, especially when that league is the third-best league in the world. Simon Robertsson is a great example of that. He had a productive start in J20 Nationell and was promoted early on to Skellefteå’s SHL team where he took on more of a bottom-six role and has greatly improved his defensive game and the pace to his game. He’s got some silky hands that can create space for himself, he reads the game well, got a great motor and he’s got one heck of a wrist shot, possibly the best one in this draft class. His shot is able to beat goalies clean from the blue line, that’s a rare talent.”
Simon Robertsson Deep Dive
Like the Stanislav Svozil piece I wrote earlier this month, I watched three of Robertsson’s most recent games. Those three recent games were the quarter-finals, semi-finals and bronze medal games of the U18 World Junior Championships. Here is what I gathered from these three World Juniors contests.
Simon Robertsson is a strong transitional player overall. In the three games I tracked, Robertsson had a 54.55% controlled exit percentage, meaning he cleared the defensive zone with possession on 54.55% of attempts. He was involved, on average, in four possessional exits over those three games. As for entries, he had a controlled entry percentage of 66.67%, though that number is a little deceiving considering I do not account for offsides. While that may seem like a small issue, and his ability to convert at that high of a clip while averaging 6.67 controlled entries per game, is impressive. However, there’s a big reason why offsides would make a fairly decent difference.
On several occasions, Robertsson would hesitate right before the blueline, leading a teammate with momentum to go offsides. In fact, three separate times over the course of three games, Robertsson made a poor decision, delaying a clean entry, leading to an offside. There were several other rushes where Robertsson slowed down and hurt the momentum his team could’ve had, had he made a quick read to make a pass or simply continued skating to at least gain the offensive zone first. Seeing him struggle when the gap is even remotely tight, leading him to delay countless times, is definitely concerning. However, he is still an excellent transitional player overall. He attacks with speed and has strong puck-carrier vision. Robertsson also knows how to get the puck to a teammate with momentum in stride. He just needs to show that more consistently.
A reason I mentioned transitional abilities before talking about his skating, is because he attacks with speed through the neutral zone, he really does not possess a very high-end top speed. Simon Robertsson has a very sound stride technically speaking. He keeps his knees over his toes, has strong ankle flexion, and good knee bend. The one thing he lacks, however, is a lengthy extension. Watching him closely, his strides can be choppy at times, especially when accelerating.
When he does not utilize crossovers, he can lose some ground quite quickly. Several times over the course of those three games, I watched as a back-checker caught up and pressured Robertsson. He could become a really good skater if he can work on his stride extension and top speed in a straight line. Another issue that Robertsson had was his edgework and agility. He tends to lose speed when turning and tends to take wide turns as opposed to sharp turns or stopping on a dime. This is the part of his skating that will likely hold him back the most.
Simon Robertsson’s Offensive Game
Simon Robertsson, overall, plays a very simple offensive game. Off the rush, depending on the situation, he will fill in as support for teammates. Whether that’s setting up in the corners to be ready for a cycle pass, or alongside the boards ready for a teammate to rim it up to him. On occasion, he will drive the net. But, again, it depends on how his team attacks and where he is located when they are attacking. Once possession is established in the offensive zone, meaning his teammates have space and moving the puck well, he will set himself up right in the mid-to-low slot areas. In other words, being a net-front presence.
Over the three games tracked, Simon Robertsson attempted 25 passes, completing 22, for an 88% completion percentage in the offensive zone. Of those 25 passes, seven were sent to high-danger areas, and five of them were completed. Overall, Robertsson showed strong vision and passing ability, with a knack for working the puck into the slot area. However, there were several occasions where he completely missed a simple pass. This was due to pressure and overall not the best shot selection, to fire the puck towards the net. All of those occasions where he was pressured and missed an open pass failed to hit the net and were from low-danger.
Simon Robertsson’s Shooting Ability
Overall, he fired 11 shots, with eight hitting the net, including one from high-danger. For his shot, he features a very quick release. His ability to change the positioning of his hands and the release point of his shot makes him very deceptive. However, his shooting form is not the best. Robertsson does not do the best job at transferring power from his back foot into his stick for power. If he can work on his shooting form, pair it with his deadly quick release and good accuracy, Robertsson could have strong goal-scoring potential.
Defensive Zone Ability
Simon Robertsson is a strong two-way presence. He has the strength to provide help defending against the cycle. Second, he has the positional awareness that allows his teammates to focus on their assignments and not worry about his side of the ice and cover up any mistakes. Third, Robertsson possesses a strong active stick, which he pairs with his aggressive approach when attacking his point man. There were several situations throughout the three games tracked where Robertsson found himself in a net-front battle. This allowed his teammates to focus more on a puck battle or simply to assist his teammate in said net-front battle.
That is not to say that Robertsson does not have his weaknesses, however. There are times where Robertsson stands straight up, one hand on his stick, and not moving his feet. He looks totally and completely uninterested in playing defence. That happened a handful of times in the three games tracked, and every time he did that and the puck was sent to his half of the ice, he was late to the race and lost the battle. Finally, one last negative which is not so much a concern but a small detail in his game, is how offensively-minded he is. There are times where he cheats up ice way too early. It leads to his teammates being outnumbered in the defensive zone.
Simon Robertsson’s NHL Comparison and Potential
Robertsson could quite easily wind up as a top-six winger at the NHL level if things go correctly in his development. His high-end upside could be a 30-goal and 60-point producer, based on his shooting abilities. That, along with his knack of getting into high-danger areas. With his sound two-way game and really good transitional abilities, Robertsson likely could wind up as a middle-six option. That comes with special teams potential.
Based purely on playing style, Robertsson reminds me a lot of Los Angeles Kings forward, Dustin Brown. From the 2007-08 season through to the 2012-13 season, Brown scored or was on pace to score, over 20 goals in 82-game seasons. He provides strong value with his shot and was effective while doing so. Brown also has been a very strong transitional presence over the last four years, per CJ Turtoro’s A3Z Player Comparison Tool, based on stats gathered by Corey Sznajder. Pairing that knowledge with how Brown is constantly hounding the puck and getting into the dirty areas, it’s clear where the stylistic comparisons lie.
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