Draft Numbers: Scandinavia and the First Round

As the Draft Numbers series starts to wind down it’s time we tie up some loose ends.  Today we’ll be taking a look at the forwards playing in the SM Liga as well as the forwards and defensemen playing in the three major Swedish leagues (Swedish Hockey League, Allsvenskan, and SuperElit) in an attempt to get a better idea of how some of the top players in this year’s draft class fare by the numbers historically.

Quick refresher: what we’ll be doing is looking at the players from these leagues
drafted in a specific range of the first round since 2005.  Then we’ll be plugging in the top players from this year’s draft class playing in those leagues to see what sort of
company history puts them in.  From there, we’ll see if we can start to
come to any meaningful conclusions about the top players from those leagues from this draft class.  Here we go:

SM LIGA FORWARDS TAKEN IN THE FIRST ROUND

There are so few forwards taken in the first round out of the SM Liga since 2005 that we are just going to bundle each and every one of them together.  This of course has implications for top prospect Mikko Rantanen, who is highlighted in yellow:

Fin1stround

This is a good list to be a part of.  Granlund is a top-six forward on a good Minnesota Wild team, Barkov has first-line center potential, Armia is a solid prospect for the Winnipeg Jets (albeit one with limited upside), Teravainen looks like he’s on his way to becoming a legitimate second-line center, and Kapanen is a good, highly skilled prospect in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.  Rantanen fits right in the middle of this group, closest points-wise to Armia and Teravainen.  Given that he’s also 6″3′, Rantanen continues to project well as a potential top-six forward.

SWEDISH HOCKEY FORWARDS TAKEN BETWEEN 11TH AND 20TH

Below is a list of every player drafted out of Sweden, between 11th and 20th overall, since 2005.  We can see where Joel Eriksson Ek fits in here, who is highlighted in yellow.

Also keep in mind we won’t be looking at Swedish hockey forwards taken top ten, since nobody from this draft fits that criteria.  But it’s a small and pretty elite group that includes Nicklas Backstrom, Elias Lindholm, Mika Zibanejad, William Nylander, and Magnus Paajarvi.

SweFtop20

It doesn’t look like points per game does much of a predictive job here.  More than anything, it looks like the very fact that an NHL team likes you enough to take you in this range of the draft is a relatively strong predictor.  The list here is pretty good, with virtually all of these players either established NHLers or top prospects.  Eriksson Ek is right on the cusp of being drafted here, so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.  If he were to be drafted in this range, he’d be in good company.

SWEDISH HOCKEY FORWARDS TAKEN BETWEEN 21ST AND 30TH

Below is every forward drafted out of Sweden, between 21st and 30th overall, since 2005.  Once again, Eriksson Ek, who very well might be drafted in this range, is highlighted in yellow:

Swetop30

*: played 1 game

Certainly not as good a list as the last one we looked at, but it’s not a bad one either.  Once again it doesn’t look like points do much of a job predicting success here.  This is likely because ice-time can vary widely for young players in a league like the SHL where they are playing with people twice their age.

Tedenby, Bergfors, and Gustafsson didn’t really work out, but Tedenby and Bergfors both did play NHL games and looked promising for a time.  Johansson, Berglund, and Backlund, I would say, all classify as middle-six forwards.  Pastrnak and Burakovsky saw significant playing time in the NHL this season and look like they are on their way to becoming top-six forwards in the NHL.  Kempe is a B-level prospect for the L.A. Kings.

This is the range Eriksson Ek is most likely to be drafted in.  It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but that’s to be expected when you get to the later stages of the first round anyways.  We can’t draw any solid conclusions about Eriksson Ek here, but we can at least presume he’s got a decent chance at becoming an NHL player in some capacity.

SWEDISH HOCKEY DEFENSEMEN TAKEN BETWEEN 15TH AND 30TH

Similar to players out of the SM Liga, the sample of defensemen coming out of Sweden drafted in the first round since 2005 is relatively small.  No player that fit this criteria is expected to go in the top fifteen of the draft, which is too bad because that list of players is very good.  The defensemen drafted out of Sweden taken in the top fifteen of the NHL draft since 2005 are: Victor Hedman, Adam Larsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Hampus Lindholm, Jonas Brodin, and Erik Karlsson.  I’d say that’s a pretty good list.

But alas, nobody appears to fit into that group.  So here are the players drafted out of Sweden taken in the second half of the first round since 2005.  The players from this year’s draft class with a real good chance of being taken in this range are highlighted in yellow:

SweD1530

Once again, points per game doesn’t do much of a predictive job at all here.  It’s also not a great list to begin with: Dennis Persson never played an NHL game, Tim Erixon is on the brink of a short and unsuccessful NHL career coming to an end, and David Rundblad has played sparingly since coming over to North America, having already played in 4 different NHL organizations all before his 25th birthday.  Klefbom looks like the saving grace of this group, as he appears to be on his way to being a good player for the Edmonton Oilers.

It’s a little tough to imagine none of Carlsson, Kylington, or Larsson will have a successful career.  Based on sheer probability one of them at least will probably turn into something good.  Nevertheless, it’s a pretty disheartening group of players.  At the same time, the sample is so small that teams should go ahead and draft any of these players if they like them enough (like Kylington, who was ranked 17th by us here at TLN).

WRAP-UP AND CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

I think it’s interesting that the players drafted out of Finland or Sweden, for the most part, have a pretty high rate of success.  There might be something to that in the sense that teams get less exposure or viewing opportunities for these players, so if a team feels strongly enough about someone coming out of these leagues to draft them as high as in the first round, it could be a pretty good indicator that a player is, well, pretty good.

This seems to be especially true for SM Liga forwards and Swedish forwards/defensemen taken in the first half of the first round.  Things were less conclusive when looking at the group of Swedish defensemen taken in the second half of the first round, but it was admittedly a small sample size.

That seems to be the biggest predictor of future success in this range, not points per game.  That’s interesting because that wasn’t what we found for the other cohorts we looked at.

Nevertheless, these numbers bode well for the likes of Mikko Rantanen and Joel Eriksson Ek.  Things are more murky for Oliver Kylington, Gabriel Carlsson, and Jacob Larsson, but they are still talented players in their own right and deserve to be drafted sooner rather than later.

That wraps up this little exercise of comparing certain players with certain levels of production drafted in a certain range.  I hope you enjoyed it and I hope, in some small way, it helped provide you with some clarity on this year’s draft class.

And make sure to check out the other articles from this series: