This edition of the Vancouver Canucks Prospects Report will be covering the potential of two recent Swedish free agent signings in pivot Nils Åman and former Minnesota Wild first-rounder Filip Johansson.
The Canucks have been busy adding players from overseas recently as they are also in the process of finalizing a contract with arguably the most sought-after European free agent, Andrei Kuzmenko, who has played his entire career in the Kontinental Hockey League. Let’s take a look at what new prospects Åman and Johansson will bring to the pipeline.
Canucks Add More Prospects to the Pipeline in Johansson and Aman
After signing their first prospect in Arshdeep Bains, Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford went overseas to find their next one in Åman, a Swedish center out of Leksands IF in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). Formerly a sixth-round draft pick (167th overall) of the Colorado Avalanche in 2020, he will bring size at 6-foot-2, 179 pounds and a tenacious work ethic to the rink, which is an attribute commonly associated with Swedes.
Allvin confirmed as much in a news release following his signing, saying, “Nils is a smart hockey player who plays with speed and has a strong work ethic…He possesses a good two-way game, and we look forward to seeing his continued development on both sides of the ice with the Canucks organization.”
In addition to his work ethic and two-way game, Cam Robinson of Elite Prospects also pointed out his hockey IQ and “sneaky release”. All much-needed skills the Canucks need, not only in their lineup right now but also in their organization as a whole.
In a recent article on Canucks Army, Chris Faber broke down the tape from his time in Sweden and had this to say about his game, “Aman impressed us with his board work as he consistently moved the puck up ice. He has a strong push on the boards and can leverage his body to gain better positioning. This will be very good for him in the AHL as there are a ton of four-man board scrums where this skill of his will come in handy.”
It remains to be seen if Åman plays in the NHL next season, but one thing appears to be clear, he won’t play in the American Hockey League (AHL). It will either be Vancouver or back to Sweden to play for Leksands IF. Unless Allvin convinced him to change his stance from when he went unsigned by the Avalanche, that is.
“We’ll see what happens. It’s always been a dream to go over and play in the U.S. or Canada, so of course, you’ll take that chance if you get it,” said Åman. “But I’d rather play in Leksand than in the farm league in the AHL.”
Regardless, fans and media likely will get to see Åman at Canucks Development Camp in July and the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton in September before training camp gets going on Sept. 23. Those events will be the first opportunity he will get to show that he’s ready for the NHL, rather than more development in Europe (or hopefully the AHL).
It didn’t take long for the Canucks to dip their toes back into the European free-agent waters after Åman, as they signed Johansson just a few days later. With the Wild deciding to take the second-round pick rather than holding onto their first-rounder from 2018, Allvin swooped in to add him to a defensive depth chart that needs all the talent it can get, especially when it comes to the right side.
Ranked 10th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting going into the 2018 Draft, Johansson was highly regarded by the Wild after they selected him 24th overall.
Johansson is a smart d-man with very good mobility. He moves the puck very well in transition and plays the game with a lot of poise.Brent Flahr, then-Wild Senior VP of Hockey Operations (now current Philadelphia Flyers Asst. General Manager/VP of Hockey Ops)
In the four seasons since his draft year, Johansson has bounced around the HockeyAllsvenskan, J20 SuperElit and SHL, with his most productive campaign coming in 2020-21 when he put up six goals and 11 points in 46 games for the SHL’s Frolunda HC. Although never really known for his offence, he really hasn’t progressed the way first-rounders should, especially if they have sights on the NHL. Having said that, he did have an impressive run in the playoffs this past season when he put up five goals and seven points in nine games, which included a five-game goal-scoring streak.
So, there might be more of a ceiling to Johansson’s game than we think. Throughout his development since 2018, a lot of good things have been said about his game, including a few skills that would be very welcomed on the Canucks’ blue line right now. This quote from the Wild’s director of player development, Brad Bombardir, should be enough to garner some hope for the future, “I just want him to know he’s a good hockey player, and that when he’s out on the ice, he’s a very capable player. He’s one of the best puck-movers, first-pass puck-movers, that we’ve had in our organization that we’ve drafted, so that’s his gift.” That’s exactly the type of defencemen the Canucks need more of in the pipeline.
Johansson might be a bust as a first-round pick, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still turn into a serviceable defenceman at the NHL level at some point. As a right-handed mobile blueliner with a good first pass, he fills a lot of needs in the pipeline. He also is only 22 years old with a ton of potential in his game.
Hopefully, the Wild just gave up on him too soon and Allvin and the new player development team which now includes the Sedins, Mike Komisarek and Mikael Samuelsson, can help him transform his game into something that can succeed at the NHL level. Unlike Åman, Johansson will definitely be staying over in Sweden with Frolunda HC as Allvin stated in the announcement following his signing. He will, however, be at Development Camp in July, so we will at least get to see a bit of him before he jets back to Sweden for the 2022-23 season.
That does it for another edition of the Canucks Prospect Report here at The Hockey Writers. Stay tuned for more after the 2022 NHL Draft as we will have more prospects to follow next season once Allvin and his staff make the first selections of their tenure on July 7 and 8.
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