2019-20 Team: Malmö Redhawks (#2)
Date of Birth: May 10, 2002
Place of Birth: Ljungby, Sweden
Ht: 6-foot-3 Wt: 192 lbs.
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2020 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 6th (among EU skaters)
- Future Considerations: 35th
- Craig Button (TSN): 69th
- Andrew Forbes (The Hockey Writers): 101st
- Josh Bell (The Hockey Writers): 50th
- Larry Fisher (The Hockey Writers): 42nd
- Cam Robinson, Dobber Prospects: 29th
While much has been said regarding the forwards available for the 2020 NHL draft, the same cannot be repeated for the defensemen. Beyond Jamie Drysdale and Jake Sanderson, the group lacks high-end talent, and it’s anyone’s guess as who could be the third defenseman selected in 2020. However, it could be the rangy Swede Helge Grans. Ranked 21st among Europeans by Central Scouting (CSS) at the midterm report, he jumped up to sixth on the final list, making him one of the most intriguing potential first-rounders heading into the final months before the draft.
Grans’ biggest strength is his offensive skills. He was dominant with the Malmö Redhawks of the Swedish U20 SuperElit league this season, scoring 27 points in just 27 games. Despite playing at least 10 games less than his competition, he still was seventh in defensive scoring at the season’s end. He spent the rest of his time in the Swedish Hockey League, playing another 21 games with the men’s league Redhawks, gradually earning more minutes and coming away with a goal and two assists in 21 games. Draft eligible Swedish defenders William Wallinder and Emil Andrae, also potential first-round picks, had 10 games and zero points combined in the SHL.
Although Grans proved he could be a regular in the Swedish men’s league, his full talent was on display in the junior league and gave scouts a good idea of his potential. He possesses incredibly soft hands when it comes to picking out teammates with long passes, but he also has the speed and skating ability to carry the puck up the ice himself into the offensive zone. To top it off, he also possesses good size. Standing 6-foot-3 and 192-pounds, he was one of the biggest players on the U20 Redhawks while also being one of the youngest.
Thanks to his impressive combination of size, speed, and skill, Grans was a natural on the power play. Of his 27 points with the U20 Redhawks, 14 came from the power play alone. With the man advantage, he showed great poise under pressure and was able to easily create space with his long reach and quick feet. His powerful, right-handed shot also adds another intriguing aspect to his game, despite it not being the most accurate and will likely need some more work.
However, scouts have not been able to come to a consensus on him. He currently is ranked all over the board and has been placed as high as a low-first rounder all the way down to the middle of the third round. Teams love his physical tools, and they’re arguably some of the best at the draft, but his lack of physicality and defensive liabilities are cause for some concern. Despite his size, Grans is not an intimidating presence on the blue line, often looking for the puck and the breakout instead of trying to shut down the opposition. In fact, there is little physicality to his game at all, which could be a problem when transitioning to a North American style.
Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide
Grans also struggled with decision making and vision this season, often making baffling mistakes off the puck. He has shown to be competent in the critical defensive skills, but can still be a liability on defense. On offense, his mistakes are far less common, but not nonexistent. He sometimes appears to have limited vision while on the attack, making passes to those only within his immediate area. His inconsistency from one end of the ice to the other is prone to hurting his team and has raised questions about his long-term potential.
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Helge Grans – NHL Draft Projection
Grans has been projected to go anywhere within the first three rounds. With a lack of high-end defensive talent, some might overvalue his skills and he could be taken higher than expected by a team with several high picks and a need for defensive depth. Still, it’s more likely that he ends up in the second round, hopefully going to a team that can afford to be patient with a player who needs time to develop in Europe and in the minors.
“Smooth-skating, transitional defender. Enjoys activating off of the rush and owns a big point shot. Isn’t as advanced defensively but has the physical tools to get there. Can make questionable decisions with and without the puck. Someone may jump early.” Cam Robinson, Dobber Prospects
“When all aspects are humming, Grans can be the best player on the ice well beyond simply taking the puck for a skate or slinging pucks on net. Granted, he holds a significant size advantage over most teenage opponents and plays in a league not necessarily known for a physical forecheck. In the Superelit, however, Grans has shown incredible poise under pressure and is consistent in the amount of times he faces an oncoming forechecker, only to leave him in the dust within a matter of seconds.” Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst
“With many high-level forwards from Sweden, it’s easy to overlook Grans’ abilities from the point. The big 6-foot-3 defender skated in five SHL games last year with Malmo (the second 2002-born player in the league), showing great poise and confidence for a young kid playing against men. While Grans isn’t overly creative with the puck, he’s extremely smart defensively and can move the puck well enough to control a power play. He was a heavy minute-muncher with Malmo’s U-20 team and should play the majority of the season at the level again while throwing his name into the World Junior Championship conversation later on in the year.” Steven Ellis, The Hockey News
- Size and reach
- Offensive skills
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Defensive game
- Decision making
If Grans ends up in the right system, he could become a very good power play quarterback and a top-four defenseman. However, he is a project and it will take time to get him there. It’s more likely that he’ll end up a capable middle-pairing defenseman with the potential to run a power play.
Risk – 4/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 8.5/10, Defense – 6/10
Grans appeared on the U17 Swedish team at the World Hockey Challenge in 2018-19 and the U18 team in 2019-20 a the Hlinka Gretzky Tournament. Both teams took home a bronze medal.
An elementary teacher by day and an avid hockey fan, Dayton joined The Hockey Writers in 2019 and currently covers the Ottawa Senators, World Juniors, and NHL Entry Draft.