With the New Jersey Devils locked into the fourth overall pick at the 2021 Draft, it’s time to look at potential choices with the selection. First, we examined Brandt Clarke, a right-handed defenseman who is a potential top-five pick and the brother of Devils prospect Graeme Clarke. For this piece, we’ll look at defenseman Simon Edvinsson, one of the top prospects to come out of Sweden for the 2021 Draft.
Edvinsson is one of the more polarizing prospects in this class. He’s as high as second overall in Bob McKenzie’s mid-season rankings but is borderline top 10 in others. It’s not difficult to understand why there are some concerns about Edvinsson. Still, it’s hard to ignore his potential. He’ll be in play for the Devils if he’s still available with the fourth pick, but he doesn’t come without plenty of risk.
The Enigma That Is Edvinsson
There’s a lot of good and bad with Edvinsson, but let’s examine the good first. For someone who’s 6-foot-5, 207 pounds, he skates very well for his size. It’d be a stretch to call him an elite skater, but he can get around the ice pretty well. He looks smooth when skating the puck out of the defensive zone with possession, especially when he’s not under pressure.
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Edvinsson is also a solid defender, something that tends to get overrated with a defenseman his size. He’ll engage in board battles and uses his size to his advantage. He’s also a stout net-front presence and does a fairly good job of clearing out of traffic to make life a bit easier for his goaltenders. So from a defensive standpoint, he’d add a bit of something the Devils don’t have on their roster or pipeline.
Offensively, Edvinsson does some things well, but I wouldn’t say it’s one of his strengths. While on loan in the HockeyAllsvenskan — Sweden’s equivalent of the AHL — he showed some poise and offensive creativity playing for Västerås, where he had five points in 14 games. I don’t think he’ll be the offensive defenseman say Luke Hughes or Brandt Clarke will be coming out of this draft. But he does have some intriguing tools if a team can properly develop him. Here’s an example of him at his best:
Now for the bad, and this is where things get interesting. In some of the highlights available of Edvinsson on YouTube or wherever you can find them, it’s clear his decision-making raises some red flags. When pressured, he tends to panic and rushes his passes, which end up going to no one in particular in the middle of the neutral zone (that’s something Will Scouch noted in his video of Edvinsson as well). That usually resulted in the opposition forcing Edvinsson and his team to defend longer than they should have.
The other concern with Edvinsson is the lack of consistency. When he struggled, he really struggled. But his highs showed why plenty of scouting services have him as a top-5 pick in the draft too. Because of those inconsistencies, he will need time to develop. NHL organizations don’t always practice patience with high draft choices. But any team that selects him will have to be patient, including the Devils. Otherwise, he won’t get above a floor that is quite low.
Edvinsson’s Fit With the Devils
Though Edvinsson projects more as a defensive defenseman than the other blueliners projected to go in the top 10, the Devils could use that in their system. Fitzgerald spoke last offseason about needing to add size and puck-moving ability to the team’s blue line. That’s still the case, and Edvinsson does fit that bill to an extent. He clearly has the size, but the puck-moving ability isn’t always consistent.
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Also, it’s fair to wonder how much offensive upside Edvinsson has. Sure, he showed some offensive potential, but he needs refinement in that area. Compared to Hughes, Clarke and Owen Power, he probably has the lowest offensive ceiling of the big four defensemen in this class. That’s also part of the reason why he needs to go to a team that has plenty of resources in player development.
Fortunately, the Devils have spent money on adding to their player development department, even during the pandemic. They recently hired Meghan Duggan as manager of player development and have made an emphasis of it lately. Players like Jack Hughes, Yegor Sharangovich, Michael McLeod and Ty Smith wouldn’t have played as well as they did in 2020-21 if they weren’t focusing on it. So the organization should have the means to help Edvinsson grow the areas he needs for him to reach his potential.
There’s no doubt Edvinsson is a polarizing prospect, perhaps the most polarizing in this year’s top 10. Hughes, Clarke or one of the forwards would be my pick over him at fourth overall, but I can see why he’d appeal to the Devils. He has good size, skating ability and shows a willingness to compete with an edge that makes him hard to play against. He fills a need in their system, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they considered him the best player available, depending on how the top three shakes out. If that’s the case and he’s there at fourth overall, he could be their choice come July 23.
“There are flashes of high-end offensive talent but it remains just that, flashes. He shows projectability defensively, displaying the ability to close gaps quickly, get stick-on-stick, and cut angles down. As per the rest of his game, consistency is the issue. He needs to clean up some of his decision-making overall but there is a lot to like with Edvinsson if a team can stay patient.” – Tony Ferrari, Dobber Prospects
“His ability to quickly cover ground is nearly unmatched in this class. This is a very raw prospect but one that boasts incredible upside. But the awareness is a question mark at this point.” – Cam Robinson, Dobber Prospects