On June 4, the Los Angeles Kings signed 2020 second-round pick, Helge Grans to a three-year, entry-level contract (ELC). After spending last season in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) with the Malmo Redhawks, Grans is going to continue his development in North America with the Ontario Reign. He is still a few years away from cracking the NHL roster, but fans should still be very excited about this player.
Grans’ 2020-21 Season
It was a mixed bag for him in his first full season of professional hockey. His league-worst minus-21, tied with HV71 center Axel Holmstrom, is concerning no doubt, but shouldn’t be a cause for too much panic. It’s important to remember that a lot was asked of the young defenseman. Playing against men at 18 years old is difficult for any player, but it’s even more difficult for defensemen. I think to properly judge his season it’s only fair to judge against his peers. When doing that, his season looks solid. He led all U-19 defensemen in points and was sixth in points for U-21 defensemen. His stats don’t just look good against other defensemen either — his 12 points place him fourth in U-19 scoring, only behind top-end prospects William Eklund, Alexander Holtz, and Lucas Raymond.
It’s clear that Grans had a fine season offensively, but he seriously struggled in his own zone. Along with his abysmal plus/minus, he also only registered five hits and 20 blocked shots. He still has a lot of development left, but his first season of professional hockey should excite fans.
What to Expect Moving Forward
For anyone who enjoys watching the Reign, it’s going to be a blast watching this kid develop. He has all the tools to be an effective top-four defenseman. He’s a rangy player with good footwork and impressive offensive instincts. Despite his struggles defensively, especially at the pro-level, he did show a lot of positives defensively when playing for the Malmo U-20 team. When playing against his own age group he was very good at using his long reach and stride to keep a tight gap on forwards before dispossessing them. He showed good defensive positioning, but also a tendency to lose focus, causing him to get caught out from time to time.
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When at his best, he is a confident player with the puck who can beat forecheckers with ease through his skating and passing. Reign coach John Wroblewski will be hoping to hammer out the kinks in Grans’ game while taking full advantage of his offensive upside. He will be joining a young Reign roster and will hope to establish himself as an impact player early on. If he’s playing his best hockey, we will likely see him spend significant time on the power play, where he has shown great poise and a fantastic point shot in the past. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take over as the quarterback on the Reigns’ power play by the end of next season. He will also be looking to make a big impact at the 2022 World Junior Championships, with his home country Sweden hoping to win the tournament on home soil.
If he can fulfill his potential, the Kings will have a dynamic second-pairing defenseman who can quarterback the power play. He would be a perfect partner for either Mikey Anderson or compatriot Tobias Bjornfot. He’ll likely never be an elite defender, so pairing him with a player who’s very responsible in their own zone will be smart. I’ve heard people compare him stylistically to Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton — while I find it unlikely Grans turns out that good, he does play a similar game to that of Hamilton. His development will likely be a long process, but if he can reach his full potential it will be well worth the wait for Kings fans.
More Positives for the Kings Future
The Kings signing Grans to his ELC might not have an immediate impact on the team, but it shows more positive development for the Kings’ future. In the coming years, we will hopefully see him round out his overall game in Ontario before making the jump onto the Kings roster. He has the potential to be a very effective player at the NHL level and fans should be excited by the prospect of a dynamic defenseman that will consistently bring fans to their feet.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.