Last but certainly not least, we have Erik Brännström claiming the number one spot in our top 10 Ottawa Senators prospects series. After much debate, Brännström just edged out Drake Batherson to earn himself the top spot. The defenseman is the lone player on this list to come via trade when the Senators traded Mark Stone to the Vegas Golden Knights. Getting a phenomenal prospect in return has definitely helped ease the pain of trading a superstar winger in Stone.
Here’s a full list of our series if you’ve missed a few segments:
- #10 Shane Pinto
- #9 Jonathan Davidsson
- #8 Mads Søgaard
- #7 Lassi Thomson
- #6 Jacob Bernard-Docker
- #5 Alex Formenton
- #4 Josh Norris
- #3 Logan Brown
- #2 Drake Batherson
After being selected 15th overall in the 2017 NHL draft, Brännström has quickly made a name for himself amongst the scouting community and is currently considered one of the best defensemen outside the NHL. He split last season playing in 41 games for the Vegas Golden Knights’ AHL affiliate amassing 28 points (7 goals, 21 assists) during that span, as well as playing nine games with the Belleville Senators where he managed four assists.
He also saw some action in Ottawa as he was called up for a two-game stint late in the season where he averaged 18:04 minutes of ice time. His confidence was on full display even though he was held pointless in those contests.
A few things stand out when watching Brännström play, but none more than his exceptional skating ability. I’ve rarely seen a player possess the edges he displays on a night-to-night basis. The fact that he’s a defenseman as well makes it that much better for his transitional game coming up the ice. He’s not afraid to lead the rush or even make the risky hail mary pass from his own zone. But that’s what makes him such a special player, his confidence with the puck on his stick.
“Brännström does a lot well. He’s a high-end skater and puck distributor. He can skate pucks up the ice or stretch the ice with his breakouts.”Corey Pronman, (from ‘2019 NHL farm system rankings: No. 12 Ottawa Senators’, The Athletic, 23/08/2019)
His puck control is something to behold and has become an integral part of his game at the pro level. His stick seems like a magnet for pucks at times, especially as he walks the blue line. He’s just puck hungry every time he’s on the ice and it shows.
Brännström is also a leader both on and off the ice as he’s captained a few of his Swedish teams, most notably Sweden’s U20 squad at last year’s World Junior Championship where he tallied four goals in five games. This was surely one of the characteristics Pierre Dorion was looking at when scouting him, as he’s looking for young leaders to help the Senators contend for the playoffs within the next year or two.
Areas of Improvement
Obviously, for a young defenseman of Brännström’s size, there are bound to be defensive mistakes. However, I laud his effort in his own zone as he always plays his heart out and isn’t afraid to take a hit to make a play.
“He’s 5-foot-10, so there will be concerns on how well he can defend NHL players with size, speed and skill. So far he’s been fine defensively as a pro, albeit not amazing.”Corey Pronman
He could also stand to work on his decision making, especially when jumping into a rush, as he can sometimes get stuck in the opposing end.
Projection and NHL Comparison
Brännström projects to be a special player who can make a big difference every time he steps on the ice. A top pairing defenseman who can run your powerplay with ease.
Given that he models his game after arguably the best player in Senators franchise history, we have to compare him to Erik Karlsson. Those are extremely high expectations for the kid and I don’t think he will ever reach what Karlsson has done. But if he can put it all together, he could come close.
Brännström has also been compared to ex-NHL player Kimmo Timonen who played a total of 1,108 NHL games amassing 571 points in the process.
Expected NHL Debut
Brännström will become a special player in the NHL, it’s just a matter of when that happens. With Wolanin’s recent injury in which he’s expected to miss a minimum of four months, I do expect Brännström to claim a spot right out of camp. I think it would have been beneficial for him to start in the AHL and eventually get called up. Ottawa has done this in the past with superstar defensemen Erik Karlsson and Thomas Chabot when they were 20-year-old prospects. Karlsson started the 2009-10 season with the Binghampton Senators playing in 12 games before getting his Ottawa call-up. As for Chabot, he started the 2017-18 season down in the AHL with the Belleville Senators playing in 13 games before cementing his job in Ottawa.