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Tom Willander is a right shot defenceman the Leafs may select at 28th overall

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Photo credit:MAGNUS ANDERSSON / BILDBYRÅN
Michael Mazzei
10 months ago
Judging by reports and speculation from insiders, it seems that the Leafs will likely be looking to make upgrades to their blueline this offseason. While the draft won’t churn out immediate help on the back end as they need time to develop, it presents a prime opportunity to find a quality player to elevate their prospect pool and grant the team help down the line.
A Swedish defenceman who is turning some heads could be someone who could help in that department, as he is the subject of the latest post in an ongoing series doing scouting reports on prospects up for grabs in a few weeks’ time.

Scouting Profile

Tom Willander is a right-shot Swedish defenceman who most recently played for Rogle BK of the Swedish Hockey League. Standing at 6’1″ and weighing 179 pounds, he is in the upper echelon in sizer for blueliners which bodes well for his draft stock that has been on the upswing.
That’s because he is one of the greatest skaters and motors among prospects available to go along with a strong hockey vision and ability to make plays quickly. Attributes like that are not in high supply, so Willander having it at 18 has made him one of the biggest risers leading up to the draft. Strong performances for Sweden at the under-18s highlighted his relentless pursuit of pucks and being physically imposing on the opposition while never fully being out of plays because of his speed. Add to that his prowess on the breakout and confidence with the puck in general, you have the makings of a reliable two-way defender. It’s no wonder that some analysts are wondering if it’s possible he gets snagged up much earlier, much like Moritz Seider did in 2019.
One area that Willander needs to work on is his offensive game as scouts noted he can sometimes be reserved at the opposite end of the ice. That’s not to say he is unwilling to get involved, but he tends to go for the safer play when he can easily recover if things go astray which limits his capabilities. It won’t prevent him from reaching the higher levels as his strong defensive instincts will go a long way, but the lack of playmaking abilities will limit his ceiling to nothing more than a top-four pairing.
He is committed to Boston University starting this fall and should get a prime opportunity to further buff up and refine the other aspects of his game. Willander should have little trouble making an immediate impact at college hockey because of his pre-existing strengths and that makes him one of the most exciting prospects available at the draft.

What the scouts are saying

Ranked #28 by CONSOLIDATED RANKING
Ranked #23 by ELITEPROSPECTS.COM
Ranked #37 by FCHOCKEY
Ranked #17 by FLOHOCKEY/CHRIS PETERS
Ranked #29 by DAILY FACEOFF
Ranked #46 by TSN/BOB McKENZIE
Ranked #23 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #8 by TSN/CRAIG BUTTON
Ranked #12 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (EU Skaters)
Ranked #18 by SPORTSNET
Ranked #51 by RECRUIT SCOUTING
Ranked #39 by DOBBERPROSPECTS
Ranked #39 by DRAFT PROSPECTS HOCKEY
Ranked #35 by SMAHT SCOUTIN
Craig Button, TSN: “He’s confident with the puck, he’s quick. When you watch a player that can carry a game, he’s an everywhere-on-the-ice player – defensive zone, offensive zone, in transition, penalty killing, power play, against the best players.”
Tony Ferrari, The Hockey News: “A riser throughout the season, Willander is a candidate to go in the top 20 if a team falls in love with his toolset and his understanding of the game that he has the capability to play. Willander is an excellent skater who reads play at a highly efficient level at both ends of the ice. His defensive game is predicated on his combination of using his mobility to close in on attackers, his excellent stick to strip the puck, and the mindset to instantly move the puck up ice to start the offensive rush. His offensive game is reserved, but when he sees an opportunity, especially against lower-level competition, he will attack with pace and skill. While the young Swedish defender is able to make skilled plays in the offensive zone, he tends to make the safe and steady play to advance the play. Willander understands when and where to take chances more effectively than almost any other defender in the class.”
Ian Kennedy, Yahoo Sports: “An excellent skater who thrives in transition and at evading checkers, Willander is headed to North America next season to play at Boston University. He was great for Sweden at the U-18s, and was one of the biggest risers in the rankings this year.”
Steven Ellis, DailyFaceoff: “Willander’s consistency at the U-20 level was good, and I liked how confident he looked rushing the puck during the World Junior A Challenge, in particular. Willander has been one of the biggest risers in the top 60 for me, and I think he still has quite a bit of room to improve. He could be a nice pickup for a team that’s already in a contention window.”

Summary

With a high motor, a strong stick, plenty of hockey IQ, and eagerness to lead the breakout, Willander has the arsenal needed to be an impactful two-way blueliner if all goes well with his development. Not only does he have great size but he is not afraid to use it, and that will make him a nightmare for opposing teams to have to handle on a nightly basis.
His offensive capabilities put a cap on how high his ceiling can go, but the floor is so high that Willander not becoming a playmaking beast won’t be a severe detriment to his abilities as a player. Then again, he has already turned a lot of scout’s heads with his stock rising by the day and could reach even greater heights if he gains the confidence to be even more willing to contribute to scoring.
As it currently stands, he is quite the prospect worth looking at and the Leafs will be very pleased if he remained on the board at 28th overall.
Stats from Elite Prospects.

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