Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! Today we bring you our Tom Willander Scouting Report.
Tom Willander had a strong season in Sweden but it was his performance at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship that really turned heads and has him rising up draft boards. He was outstanding, playing around 25 minutes a night for a strong Swedish team and helping them to a silver medal. Willander put up three goals and five assists for eight points in seven games. Willander also won a silver medal at the Hlinka/Gretzky tournament. He put up two assists in five games at that event. He also won a silver medal at the Under-19 World Junior A Challenge, scoring two goals and two assists for four points in six games. Willander was also named to the Tournament All-Star Team.
Willander plays his club hockey in the Rogle BK system. He made his SHL debut this season, playing two games. Willander spent most of the season playing in the Swedish J20 league. He scored four goals and 21 assists for 25 points in in 39 games this season. He also put up a goal and three assists for four points in six playoff games. Willander helped Rogle win the J20 Championship.
Tom Willander Scouting Report
Right Defence — shoots Right
Born February 9th, 2005 — Stockholm, Sweden
Height 6’1″ — Weight 180 lbs [185 cm / 82 kg]
Willander is an outstanding skater and this becomes the basis of his strong two-way game. He has very good speed and acceleration in both directions. His long stride allows him to generate speed quickly. Willander can take a defender to the outside and cut back to the net. His speed also allows him to join the play in the offensive end and get back defensively.
Willander has excellent edgework and agility as well. This allows him to move laterally, opening up passing and shooting lanes. It also helps him to keep defenders in front of him and maintain good gap control. He has excellent pivots. Willander is able to transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. His ability to change directions allows him to cover a ton of ice. Willander is also strong on his skates for his age. He wins battles on the boards and in front of the net.
Willander’s skating ability is the base of his offensive game. He combines his skating with quick hands and the poise to make plays even when moving at top speed. Willander is great in transition. He can lead the rush or join in as a trailer. Willander is a good, but not great, playmaker. His vision and passing skills allow him to create off the rush. He can also quarterback the play from the point. He likes to keep the puck moving and will make many good, simple plays to create offence. However, he is not a risk-taker. Don’t expect him to thread the needle through a narrow passing lane to set up a scoring chance. Willander makes the smart play though and this can contribute to longer offensive zone time and scoring chances.
Willander could stand to work on his shot though. His slapshot is just average. He is more likely to sneak in from the point and try to use his wrist shot from the top of the circles. His wrist shot has good accuracy but again, he could improve the power. He also does a good job of joining the rush as a trailer, using his wrist shot if the puck is passed back to him. His release is decent and can surprise goalies. Improved upper-body strength may help him generate more power as he matures.
Willander is advanced defensively for his age. His strong skating makes him tough to beat in one-on-one situations, especially when defending against the rush. He does a good job of maintaining good gap control, forcing attackers to the outside and away from high-danger areas. Willander keeps himself between his man and the net. His long stick is good at poking the puck away from an opponent as well as cutting down passing lanes. With his speed, Willander is able to retrieve loose pucks quickly and get the puck out of his end. When a turnover is created, he is quick to transition to offence. He is able to skate the puck out of the zone or make a quick first pass to a teammate.
Projection and Comparison
Willander is committed to coming to North America and playing for Boston University this season. This will help him to adjust to the smaller ice surface and also play a weekend-focused schedule, giving him time to bulk up during the week. Willander can stand to improve his shot and his creativity offensively. With his strong two-way game, he could become a top-four defenceman in the NHL if he continues to develop. He should spend at least a couple of years in college and then some time in the AHL though. Willander’s game is reminiscent of Anton Stralman. However, this is a stylistic comparison only, non one based on his skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Tom Willander that are available on youtube and Twitter.
13 goals from Tom Willander in his draft year.
Good movement to use screens on his wrist shot and a couple of great jumps to get back door finishes.
— 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 Faber 🔥🎙 (@ChrisFaber39) May 17, 2023
Tom Willander’s point shot sneaks through and Sweden has tied the game! #2023NHLDraft
— Elite Prospects (@eliteprospects) April 29, 2023
A few Tom Willander (2023) clips from the previous viewings.
Still remains one of my favorite prospects in this class. Easily an above-average skating projection, strong defensively both against the rush and in-zone, relatively mistake-free on breakouts. #2023NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/tMZcwqPTqf
— Lassi Alanen (@lassialanen) February 22, 2023
Tom Willander has had an excellent season in the J20 Nationell in the shadow of Axel Sandin-Pellikka's dominance.
— Jacob Smeds (@Scouting_Jacob) December 19, 2022
Check back later for our next NHL Draft Article.