GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA - APRIL 23: Sweden's Erik Brannstrom #14 and Canada's Jordan Kyrou #25 battle for the puck during semifinal round action at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)

Jimm Hamrin reports from Sweden on NHL prospects Erik Brannstrom, Kristian Vesalainen, Jesper Boqvist, Olle Eriksson Ek, Jonathan Dahlen.

A note on the 20-80 scale used below. We look at five attributes (skating, shooting, puck skills, hockey IQ and physicality) for skaters and six for goalies (athleticism/quickness, compete/temperament, vision/play reading, technique/style, rebound control and puck handling). Each individual attribute is graded along the 20-80 scales, which includes half-grades. The idea is that a projection of 50 in a given attribute meant that our observer believed that the player could get to roughly NHL average at that attribute at maturity.

Erik Brannstrom 2017 Draft Eligible
Position: D, Shoots L H/W: 5-10", 175 lbs
Stats to date (GP-G-A-PTS-PIMS) HV71, SHL (35-1-5-6-2)
  HV71 J20, SuperEilit (18-3-13-21-16)
GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA - APRIL 23: Sweden's Erik Brannstrom #14 and Canada's Jordan Kyrou #25 battle for the puck during semifinal round action at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)

GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA - APRIL 23: Sweden's Erik Brannstrom #14 and Canada's Jordan Kyrou #25 battle for the puck during semifinal round action at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)

Skating: Tremendous skater. Great lower body balance with long strong strides. He has good top speed and he is both quick and agile. He does not seem to need to use much energy to get up to top speed. He is not big in size but rarely falls down on the ice when bumped by opponents. His skating abilities help him in the transition game and in joining in on offensive rushes. His balance on his skates also helps him along the boards. Grade: 65

Shot: Brannstrom has a really good wrist shot and is a good goal scorer for a defenseman. His shots are accurate and fast. He is more an accurate shooter than a hard shooter though, but at junior level he can score from far out even if the shot is announced. He is dangerous from the point and is good at one-timing slap shots. Grade: 55

Skills: Good puck control and he makes both long and short passes. He is also almost always successful in his breakouts from the own end. His stickhandling in the offensive zone and across the blue line is strong. He moves the stick fast and can keep his eyes on what is happening in front of him at the same time. He has the puck handling tools to become an effective offensive defenseman in all three zones. Grade: 65

Smarts: His decision making is good, especially for a young offensive talented defenseman. He still makes mistakes at times and his defensive positioning abilities need more experience with high level hockey. For now, he is most effective with a more stable partner but he rarely loses his game in such a way that he becomes more of a problem than contributor to his team. He can make a safe play when it is needed. In his offensive game, he reads the play well and shows good vision. He finds open teammates with hard long passes or makes easier shorter passes to open up the play as well. A strong breakout player from the defensive zone. Grade: 60

Physicality: Brannstrom is smaller than the typical NHL defenseman but my assessment is that he has a good enough balance on his skates to overcome that. He is strong for his size and the size has not been a big issue for him playing in SHL, one of the best senior leagues in Europe. He does not play a particularly physical game without the puck but with the puck he does not shy away from physical contact and receives hits well, rarely losing his balance. Grade: 50

Summary: I believe that Erik Brännström has the potential to become a top 4 defenseman in the NHL, maybe even a top pair defenseman. He will not turn 18 years old until September but already plays good minutes in the SHL for HV71. He has gotten more and more ice time through the course of the season and handled it well. He has all the tools to become an effective modern defenseman who is successful in his breakouts and contributes offensively in all three zones. His defensive game is not top notch yet but with more experience I believe that he has the smartness to show good progress in his positioning without the puck. The knock on him for the upcoming draft will probably focus on his lack of size and that could scare some teams off, but with that said, strong skating and skilled defensemen that can drive the play are not easy to come by either. From what I have seen and read about this year’s draft class I expect him to be picked in the first round, maybe even as high as in the first half of the first round.

Kristian Vesalainen 2017 Draft Eligible
Position: LW/RW, Shoots L H/W: 6-3", 205 lbs
Stats to date (GP-G-A-PTS-PIMS) Frolunda HC, SHL (26-1-5-6-2)
  Frolunda HC J20, SuperElit (8-0-0-0-14)
  HPK, Liiga (9-1-0-1-0)
  Finland U20, WJC (6-1-1-2-0)
GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA - APRIL 14: Czech Republic vs Finland preliminary round - 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)

GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA - APRIL 14: Czech Republic vs Finland preliminary round - 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)

Skating: Powerful skater with good “wheels”. Vesalainen has good top speed and balance. The strides could be longer for a more effective stride but he is hard to contain when gets up to top speed. He relies on his upper body strength to keep balance. He lacks a bit in agility and does not have quick surprising moves and needs to beat opponents more with pure speed. Grade: 55

Shot: Vesalainen shoots hard but is not an effective goal scorer. His slap shot is very hard but he rarely seems to get the room to use it. His wrist shot and snap shot are fine as well. He uses his body strength well and gets a lot of power in his shots. His shot totals need to get up for him to be more effective. In the SHL, with limited ice time, he does not even average one shot per game and in SuperElit, where he really should be able to prevail, he only gets about 2-3 shots on goal per game. Grade: 55

Skills: Good puck control and a good passer of the puck. Vesalainen controls the puck well when at top speed and is hard to take the puck away from. He covers the puck well when he transports it. When he sees open teammates in high speed he can deliver precise passes. He lacks a bit in standout stick handling but the control is good. Grade: 55

Smarts: He is defensively smart in the way that he is an effective checker both in forecheck and backcheck. He works hard, especially in the offensive zone, to create chances and room for himself and others. The hockey sense is not elite, though. He is more of a simple playing power forward than a creative wizard. Often, he tends to play more for himself and has a hard time when trying to create good offensive chances. He seems to be more effective in senior hockey than in junior hockey where he plays a simpler game. Grade: 55

Physicality: Vesalainen is very strong for a 17-year-old. He is big and can battle hard in the tight areas. When his game is up he can be a big force for his team. He can deliver good hits and he does not shy away from blocking shots or working hard all over the ice. Vesalainen is tough to contain and is hard to knock the puck from. His balance is strong, mostly due to his upper body strength but with strong legs as well. Grade: 60

Summary: This has been a tough season for Vesalainen. The early to mature physical stature helped him in to get to senior hockey as a 16-year-old last season but he has not been able to prevail very often this season which leaves a question mark for the upcoming draft. The Finnish winger has good offensive potential if he figures out how he can use his hard shot and his teammates more effectively. He is a power forward and should be regarded as such. I believe that he has tools to make it in to the NHL in various roles. For now, I would say that he is more of a strong bottom six forward in potential but I can also see him helping out in a top role giving room for elite skilled players. For the draft I would say that he is a typical borderline first rounder or early second rounder.

Jesper Boqvist 2017 Draft Eligible
Position: C/LW, Shoots L H/W: 6-0", 180 lbs
Stats to date (GP-G-A-PTS-PIMS) Brynas IF, SHL (15-0-6-6-2)
  Brynas IF J20 (15-10-5-15-6)
  Timra IK, Allsvenskan (19-3-9-12-0)

Skating: Boqvist stands out with his quickness. He is fast and agile and can be all over the ice during a shift. The balance is okay but he needs to get stronger to be able to hold off big opponents. He skates with ease and does not need many strides to get up to top speed. Grade: 60

Shot: He is more of a passer than a shooter and does not shoot particularly hard. He has a nice touch, though and a quick release. He is good at getting shots away in traffic. His quick stick handling helps his goal scoring and makes him hard to read for goalies. His goal scoring comes more out of quickness than power. He rarely scores from outside the slot. Grade: 50

Skills: Excellent puck control at high speed and has a good hand-eye coordination. Boqvist is a good playmaker and drives the play with his speed and creativity. His hands are very quick and he is fun to watch. He has the puck skills to become a good point producer at any level in the future. Grade: 60

Smarts: Although he is a fast and creative playmaker he needs to develop his hockey sense a bit more. He makes a bit too many easy mistakes with the puck and needs to show more understanding in when to make simple plays and when to be creative. He still has time to learn to read the situations and to make smarter decisions more consistently. Boqvist’s game away from the puck is not elite either and his defensive side of the game could use improvements. With that said, he shows good vision of the game in the offensive zone with the puck. At the junior level, he can play both wing and center but at the senior level he has more exclusively played wing so far. Grade: 55

Physicality: Boqvist tends to be a perimeter player although he has the skills to get in front of the net more often. He is not strong physically and does not play a physical game. He is fast enough to not need his physicality to be top notch but he needs to muscle up and get stronger in his balance to be able to cover the puck with his body more effectively. At present, he often gets knocked off balance and his game is not suitable for the smaller rinks. He will never be a physical force but with a stronger body he would be more effective as an offensive player. Grade: 40

Summary: A creative offensive player with quick feet and quick hands. He has NHL potential but needs to get stronger and more consistent in his decision making on the ice. If he reaches his potential it will be as a top 6 player because that is where he can contribute. His best asset is his puck control at high-top speed. He has impressively been able to produce points at any level that he has faced so far and his skill set has elite potential. For the upcoming draft, I see Boqvist as a good second round pick that has the chance to pan out well for the team that picks him. He still has a lot of ground work to do with his game and will need a couple more years of development before reaching his potential.

Olle Eriksson Ek 2016 Draft Eligible
Position: G, Catches L H/W: 6-2", 185 lbs
Stats to date (GP-GAA-Save %) Farjestad BK J20, SuperElit (29-2.17-.924)

Athleticism/Quickness/Speed: Eriksson Ek is quick in his body movements and has good reaction speed. He is quick at getting himself into the right position. His athleticism does not stand out but he has good edge work in the crease and can make saves on almost every type of shot without losing his position more than he should. He is strong in keeping his upper body up straight and can use his size well that way. All-around he is a solid athlete with the quickness and flexibility he needs. Grade: 55

Temperament/Compete: Calm and focused. He commits to his style and technique and rarely loses his game. He works hard in the net and does not give up on pucks even if he gets caught out of position. When the game is on the line he often steps up and makes the saves the team needs. Grade: 55

Vision/Play Reading: He turns his head a lot to detect danger and the opportunity for the attacker. He tracks the puck well and is helped by his vision to quickly get to the right position. Grade: 55

Style/Technique: Modern butterfly. He plays high in the crease and goes down on his knees for shots and keeps the glove in an upright position before shots and moves it downwards after the shot is fired. He is consistent in his technique and moves the same way in similar situations. When the puck is in the corners he stands up more often than he goes down on one knee. As the puck gets closer he goes down on one knee to be able to use the post to push himself sideways if needed. Grade: 55

Rebound Control: Has naturally good control of and with the puck and rarely struggles with letting bad rebounds go of him. Most often, attackers need to shoot hard and/or create traffic in front of him to create problems for Eriksson Ek in terms of controlling the puck. Shots fired at weak areas (up high, low from tough angles or when he moves sideways) give him troubles with the rebounds, as it does for most goalies. Grade: 55

Puck Handling: Eriksson Ek almost never leaves the crease and when he plays the puck on his stick it’s usually easy short passes or stopping the puck behind the net. Grade: 40

Summary: Eriksson Ek is a solid goalie prospect. He does not stand out much in his game but looks very solid. He has good puck control and is strong in his technique and upper body strength. He has been the best goalie of his age group in Sweden for many years and looks to have the tools he needs to become an NHL starter in the future. He is calm and has good vision. As always, it needs to be said that goalies are tough to scout since they require much more time to develop than skaters and Eriksson Ek will also need to improve in every aspect of his game to reach the NHL. As of now, he is one of the top goalie prospects from Europe and the best goalie prospect from Sweden for the upcoming draft. He has a chance to become a second-round pick in the upcoming draft, which obviously is high for goalies these days

Jonathan Dahlen 2016 Draft (42nd - Ottawa Senators - trade to Vancouver)
Position: C/LW, Shoots L H/W: 5-11", 175 lbs
Stats to date (GP-G-A-PTS-PIMS) Timra IK, Allsvenskan (45-25-19-44-18)
  Sweden U20, WJC (7-5-1-6-0)
MONTREAL, CANADA - DECEMBER 26: Sweden's Jonathan Dahlen #27 skates during preliminary round action against Denmark at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)

MONTREAL, CANADA - DECEMBER 26: Sweden's Jonathan Dahlen #27 skates during preliminary round action against Denmark at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)

Skating: Dahlén is a quick and agile forward with a weird stride. He uses the inside of his skates to get power but it works well for him. He can skate past defensemen or turn a turnover into a breakaway and not get caught. As his legs have gotten stronger the more quicker he has become and his legs move with high energy and quickness. The top speed is not super but the agile quick turns makes him a dangerous skater. He has an effective move where he opens up his hips and turns his skates clockwise to fool defensemen. Good balance as well. Grade: 55

Shot: Dahlén shoots the puck often and likes to take the puck to the net. He is a mass producer of shots and he shoots from almost every angle and he can use his wrist, snap, or slap shot and be dangerous with any one. He had 180 shots on goal in 45 games playing against men in the Allsvenskan this season. He is not a very effective goal scorer though and misses a few too many big chances but his shooting percentage finished at a decent 13.89%. The mass production of shots get him goals on a consistent basis. His shot will probably keep developing well if he continues to play in the same way. Most of his goals come from in close to the net, but has scored more from far out this season than in past seasons. He shoots with a quick release and with determination. Grade: 60

Skills: He adds great hands to his agile skating and can create something out of what seems to be nothing. Dahlén seems to always know what to do with the puck and is very good at getting the puck to net or at creating a scoring chance. He can play simple when necessary and he also makes creative and simple plays that open up space for his teammates. He has above average puck control at high speed and is a good passer of the puck. He rarely makes mistakes with the puck and has creative solutions in tight areas. He has a good hand-eye coordination. Grade: 60

Smarts: He has great vision for the game, especially in the offensive end. He is good at finding open ice and getting himself into scoring positions. Most often, Dahlén seems to know where his opponents and teammates are and what they are doing. He puts himself in positions where he is easy to find for a pass. He reads the play well in both his backchecking and forechecking. When under pressure in the defensive zone he can still be a bit offensive minded sometimes but has great work ethic. He is a player that does not wait around for things to happen, he makes them happen. Grade: 60

Physicality: He is not a big player and he is not physical but he has good balance with the puck. He has developed his ability to hold off opponents while carrying the puck and he is a bit stronger along the boards and in tight areas. He cannot beat his opponents with pure strength but he has gotten better at carrying and cycling the puck for a long time in the offensive zone. He does not get knocked around as easily as in his first pro season. He is not afraid to go in to the battles to try to win the puck and he is strong on the puck in high traffic. Grade: 45

Summary: A good pickup at the trade deadline for Vancouver. He is a solid prospect that has the looks of becoming a top six player in the NHL, maybe even with top line potential. The question mark will be if he can get strong enough to keep creating as many scoring chances at the NHL level. He is a player that needs to be highly involved in the offensive game to be effective for his team. The great agility in the skating gives a premonition of a player that could become effective at the highest level as well. He has developed steady year over year and seems to be highly motived to keep developing. He has also shown leadership abilities and prevails when a game is on the line. He has been one of the best players in Allsvenskan this season but will probably need more time to develop and if he gets signed this summer he will need some adjustment time in the AHL before he steps in to the big league.

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