The 2020 NHL Draft is once again full of skilled Swedish players. For a country that has just a little over 10 million people, they sure can pump out NHL talent. Last year there were 26 Swedes drafted and 13 of them were selected within the first three rounds. In total, 113 of them played at least one game in the NHL last season, and at least half of them were key players on their respective teams. There’s definitely something in the water in Sweden!
Related: THW 2020 NHL Draft Guide
So who could join them from the 2020 NHL Draft? Without further ado, let’s start the countdown of the top-10 Swedes that will be selected this year.
10. Emil Heineman – LW
At the beginning of the 2019-20 season, Emil Heineman was not on many people’s radar as one of the top Swedish players for the 2020 NHL Draft. Now, after an insane regular season that saw him score 26 goals and 41 points in just 29 games with Leksands IF of the SuperElit league, he is part of a top-ten list.
Heineman’s major strength is his hockey IQ and veteran savvy. If you didn’t know any better, you would think that he was 21-years-old, not 18. His poise on the ice is exceptional and he’s a fierce forechecker as well. However, Heineman’s totals do not mean that he’s an elite goal scorer or offensive producer.
Heineman’s 26 goals in 29 games in the SuperElit may paint a picture of an elite goal-scorer but that’s not the case. He does have a great shot, especially his one-timer, and very good scoring instincts. But he benefited a lot from playing with one of the best playmakers in the league in Nils Åman. Heineman is also one of the oldest players in his draft class, and his maturity level helped things tremendously.Jokke Nevalainen – Dobber Prospects
Regardless, Heineman will be an interesting name to follow when the draft gets underway. Look for him to get selected somewhere in the second or third round.
9. Daniel Torgersson – LW/RW
Just like Heineman, Daniel Torgersson’s most valuable asset is his hockey IQ. He also is a proficient skater with a great shot and already has an NHL frame at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.
Size is still an asset for a lot of organizations, so he will be a highly sought after commodity for any team that is lacking that kind of presence in their pipeline. As THW’s own Eugene Helfrick stated in his profile, if he were a centerman instead of a winger, he probably would be projected as a second-round pick rather than a third-round selection.
Torgersson had a productive season in the SuperElit league with Frolunda’s J20 team as he posted 26 goals and 44 points in 39 games. Those may look like elite numbers, but similar to Heineman, he was surrounded by a lot of talent. His size also helped him out against the much smaller forwards in his age group. Like many Swedish players, he also is a great two-way forward capable of playing up and down a lineup. Overall, he should be a great pickup for the team that selects him.
8. Theodor Niederbach – LW/RW
Theodor Niederbach is an interesting player going into this draft. He was a bit of an unknown for many scouts at the beginning of the 2019-20 campaign due to a knee injury that cost him almost the entire 2018-19 season. Despite that, he bounced back quite well scoring 15 goals and 48 points in 40 games playing in the J20 SuperElit league. He has continued that dominance into the 2020-21 season, posting 3 goals and 11 points in only six games. That early production may bump up his stock even more going into the draft next week.
Niederbach has all the offensive skills to be a productive top-six player in the NHL. His strength lies primarily in his exceptional playmaking abilities, but that doesn’t mean he can’t score goals. He’s not the most dangerous player from distance, but he has quick hands in close which could make him an effective piece of an NHL power play unit.
His size could be an issue at the highest level, but his vision, smarts, and playmaking skills should make up for it in the end. He’s basically the definition of a high risk, high reward prospect. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team take a chance on him in the late first-round or early second round.
7. William Wallinder – LHD
The first defenceman to appear on this countdown is William Wallinder. Lots of teams are going to come for his size but stay for his mobility. At 6-foot-4 and 192 pounds, he has the ideal frame for the NHL. However, that’s not enough anymore with all the speed and skill in today’s game. You need to have at least average mobility if you hope to have a long career in the NHL.
Wallinder is more than average in that area as he’s a great skater for his size and can accelerate up the ice in a hurry. As Matt Cosman of THW stated in his profile,
One of the words scouts often use to describe the towering Swede is ‘raw’. You’re not going to walk down the street and see too many 6-foot-4 17-year-olds, but what makes Wallinder stand out, in particular, is his ability to accelerate and make plays at a high pace for such a big body.
Wallinder also has great hands, a strong point shot, can quarterback a power play and kill penalties with his size and strength in front of the net. He basically has the skills of a complete defenceman. If he can polish up his raw toolkit, his ceiling is that of a top-four blueliner.
6. Zion Nybeck – C
One of the smaller forwards in the draft, Zion Nybeck makes up for it with shifty feet and insane speed. He also has an endless toolbox of offensive talent and a motor that never quits both on the forecheck and the backcheck. Despite his 5-foot-8 stature, he’s still able to battle along the boards with the bigger forwards due to his low center of gravity and 176-pound build.
Nybeck is simply a wizard with the puck on his stick, utilizing everything from give-and-gos to creative stick handling and playmaking. He even attempts things the average player wouldn’t even think of trying. With all the skills he possesses, I can’t see him falling out of the first-round.
5. Emil Andrae – LHD
Now we get into the top-five with slick moving blueliner Emil Andrae. It is the age of small and skilled defencemen in the mold of 5-foot-10 Quinn Hughes and 5-foot-11 Cale Makar, so it’s no wonder that he is a highly rated prospect coming into this year’s draft. A lot of his skills are similar to the mighty-mite twins dominating the NHL right now, so I have no doubt that he will become an impact defenceman one day.
The one thing Andrae has in his arsenal that both Hughes and Makar don’t have is a bite to his game. For a 5-foot-9 guy, he isn’t afraid to muck it up in the corners and throw his body around. Don’t be fooled by that aspect of his game though, he’s clearly an offensive defenceman capable of burning you with a quick stretch pass or dash up the ice. With how important mobility is in the NHL right now, expect him to go higher than most outlets are projecting. I honestly see him as a mid-range first-round pick.
4. Helge Grans – RHD
We go from one highly skilled offensive defenceman to another. If you found Andrae impressive, you will be blown away by Helge Grans. Unlike him, he has the size to along with his elite skating abilities. He also is a right-hand shot, which is obviously intriguing to many teams. However, he’s not the most physical blueliner, which is concerning considering his size.
Grans also needs to work on his defensive game, but that can be taught. What can’t be taught is hands, hockey IQ, and speed, and he has all of them in spades. He also appears to be a natural on the power play, as he accumulated 14 of his 27 points in that situation. The fact that he has the size to go along with the above skills will probably get him selected ahead of the aforementioned Andrae. Regardless, the team that picks him will be getting a very skilled defenceman that is built for the modern-day NHL.
3. Noel Gunler – LW
Now we get to the cream of the crop, the trident if you will. Starting with Noel Gunler, who probably would be guaranteed as a top-ten overall pick if not for his questionable consistency and work ethic. His offensive skills are off the charts as he possesses an elite tool kit and by our resident draft expert Josh Bell’s account, one of the best shots in the draft.
What sets him apart is his offensive ability. He has the skill to make room for himself in the toughest of situations and he then can whip out his incredible shot. If he ends up going in the top-10, it will largely be due to this shot, which might just be the best in the draft (or one of them at least).
If Gunler can find a way to stay consistent and come to play every night, someone will get a dynamic top-six winger with the ability to be a difference-maker every time he’s on the ice.
2. Alexander Holtz – LW/RW
The first of the terror twins is the uber-skilled Alexander Holtz. Unlike Gunler, he has the work ethic and battle level to match his elite offensive skills, that’s why he’s in the number two spot and not him. As I mentioned in his profile, he’s everything you want in a top-line winger from his natural goal-scoring instincts to his dynamic playmaking, he is the complete package when it comes to offence. His shot alone will make him a deadly presence in the attacking zone.
Holtz is also hard to knock off the puck and his hockey IQ is beyond elite, which just adds to his potential. He still needs to work on his defensive game, but the fact that his battle level is so high, that shouldn’t be a problem for long. He is a natural talent that could play in an NHL lineup right away, that’s how good he is.
1. Lucas Raymond – LW/RW
We finally get to number one, and it’s none other than Lucas Raymond. He is one of the big five in this year’s draft along with Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield, Tim Stutzle, and Marco Rossi. He probably won’t usurp Lafreniere and Byfield, but I would be shocked to see him drop out of the top-five. In fact, I see him going third overall.
Raymond is the complete package in both offence and defence. You would be hard-pressed to find a weakness in his game as he does almost everything at an elite level. He can score goals, be a playmaker, and provide a solid game in all three zones of the ice. The team (Ottawa Senators) that snags him will be getting someone that can step into their lineup right away and be an impact player.
Everything is different this year because of the draft occurring in October, so Raymond actually has a game on his schedule on draft day. Obviously, he won’t be in the lineup, but the fact that he’s playing games and showing off more of his skills could actually help push his way into the top-two. That probably won’t happen, but he’s doing everything in his power to potentially change someone’s mind. As of this writing, he has two points in two games playing for Frolunda HC in the SHL. This was after he dazzled everyone in the preseason.
Raymond has unlimited potential in the NHL. He could become one of the best two-way players in the league and an invaluable part of whichever team selects him. He is hands down the top Swede available in this year’s draft.
Sweden & the Senators Could Dominate the First Two Rounds
In addition to the elite talents of Raymond and Holtz, Sweden could have as many as five more first-round picks come out of this draft. Some of them like Grans, Nybeck, Wallinder, and Andrae are projected by some outlets to drop into the second round, but that’s still very impressive for a draft class.
For the first time since Gabriel Landeskog was drafted second overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 2011, Sweden should have a forward selected in the top-three. Raymond will likely also be the first Swede drafted by a Canadian team in that position since Henrik and Daniel Sedin were chosen second and third overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 1999. The Senators could have a similar scenario lined up as Holtz could join Raymond in the Nation’s Capital as they have the fifth overall pick in their arsenal as well.
Needless to say, Sweden is poised to dominate this year’s draft class. The Senators will probably do the same as they have seven picks in the first two rounds and 14 overall. In the end, this could be a very good year for the small country of Sweden and the large city of Ottawa.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, editor, part-time journalist, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.