With the 2016 NHL Entry Draft right around the corner, the main public interest tends to draw toward the top three, top ten or first round prospects. However, in the periphery of the names that regularly make the lists, a lot of potential future stars hide.
In Sweden, where NHL teams seek and find great and many talents every year, this becomes particularly clear. Therefore, with this list, I aim to shed light on a few of those players who rarely get mentioned in the talks prior to the draft. These are players which I, from my perspective of following Swedish hockey up close, believe have a good chance to reach the NHL, but for some reason are not talked about.
Although, it is still possible that the players which I have included in this list will wind up drafted earlier than expected – or not at all. My list is almost entirely based on the information and predictions which have circulated in various media leading up to the draft.
Vilmos Galló, LW/RW
The hungry Hungarian, Vilmos Galló, moved to Sweden to play hockey in his early teens – so, he can almost be viewed as half-Swedish. After his move, he got picked up by Linköping HC where he has blossomed to become one of the SHL’s most exciting young forwards.
Galló is only 19 years of age, but nonetheless played a prominent part in the national team of Hungary’s participation in the World Championships not long ago. He even broke the scoring column with one goal in seven games.
So what does hungry Vilmos bring to the table? Well, he may not be a player with great physical strength, seeing that he just reaches 6’0” and 187 lbs, but the rest of his game, as I see it, does not suffer any disadvantage because of that. Galló stands out with his fluid and loose puck technique and speed, making him incredibly hard to stop in the offensive zone, as well as with his hard work at both ands of the ice.
Christopher Mastomäki, C
Out of everyone on this list, Christopher Mastomäki is the one I would vote “Most likely to reach the NHL”.
He is the kind of player that every team would, or at least should, want to have on their roster. Mastomäki is a tall (6’3”) center that uses his size efficiently on the ice. Not unlike Joe Thornton, Mastomäki is heavy and clever – isn’t that a wonderful combination, by the way? – in the offensive zone, and disciplined on his way back to the opposite zone.
I think many of us can’t help but wonder why Mastomäki is not regarded as highly in this upcoming NHL draft as he should be. What’s his catch? The truth is, I can’t really find it. Of course, the Stockholm-born 19-year-old, has a lot of work to do, but so does everyone in his age. I guess that many scouts or managers in the NHL might get discouraged by the center’s seeming inability to score a lot of goals. That is, however, something that can be polished, and when it comes to Mastomäki, people should look past that.
Sebastian Aho, D
I wrote about Sebastian Aho for The Hockey Writers not long ago. The story focused on the fact that nobody wants Aho, and nobody knows why. Even in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, that seemed to be the case. In Sweden, the Skellefteå defenseman has been praised as one of the top five talented young players in the country for years. The echo of those tributes, on the other hand, has not resonated in other countries.
Aho’s size has often been the deciding factor, and it didn’t help that he was unable to show off his talent at the last World Junior Championships due to an injury. But when it comes to offensive ability on the defensive line, Aho is your boy. Not to exaggerate, but I am confident that Aho has the potential of becoming as offensively skillful as John Klingberg, or even Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He just needs to find a team that believes in him. No, let me rephrase that: he just needs to find a team.
Sebastian Ohlsson, C/LW
Rooted in the same club as Sebastian Aho, Sebastian Ohlsson has gone from the new kid on the block to everyone’s new favorite. Since he made his SHL debut at the age of 17, Ohlsson has excelled at a pace and range that few dared to hope for. To put things in perspective: Skellefteå AIK has, during the last three-four years, been by far the best team in Sweden. Despite that, Ohlsson has conquered the tough competition within the roster and earned his spot in the lineup.
The center, who can also play as a left-winger, however, suffers from the same disadvantage as Mastomäki. He does not find the net very often. While being promising defensive two-way players, scoring is something that both Ohlsson and Mastomäki need to improve in order to get recognition in the NHL.
Ohlsson also has something else that speaks against him, and that is something he shares with his teammate Aho in this case. He only measures 5’9” and 176 lbs. Surely, that can be seen as a problem by a lot of teams, and I sometimes wonder how good Ohlsson would be in a different, bigger body.
Fredrik Forsberg, RW
Yep, that’s right, another Forsberg is coming. This time it is actually the brother of the Nashville Predators’ sniper Filip Forsberg, Fredrik, that earns the credit. The similarities between the brothers, on the ice, are rather uncanny. They are both right-shooters, forwards and around the same size (Fredrik is a bit shorter). But perhaps the most astounding parable is that Fredrik is as much of a sniper as his brother, although on a lower level right now.
The younger Forsberg, now 19 years old, made quite the impact during his junior years in Leksands IF. For the last two seasons there, he had an average of at least 1 point per game, and about half of them were goals. So, naturally, Forsberg now plays for the senior team, and next season he will play for them in the SHL – the top league. I am really excited about what we will get to see from him. Seeing also that he missed a big chunk of the last season due to an injury, I believe he will come back stronger than ever. But before that, he should get drafted by an NHL team.
And, yes, if you want to know, Fredrik Forsberg used to wear the number 21, but now owns the number 12 in Leksand. The combination of Forsberg and 21 have proven quite successful before…
Freelance sports journalist settled in Malmo, Sweden. Author on the official site of the Swedish Hockey League. Cover Swedish prospects on their road to the NHL, and Swedish players making it in the NHL.