2022-23 Team: Rögle BK J20 (Nationell)
Date of Birth: Feb. 09, 2005
Place of Birth: Stockholm, SWE
Ht: 6-foot-1 Wt: 179 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2023 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 12th (among EU skaters)
- Future Considerations: 61st
- Elite Prospects: 32nd
- Peter Baracchini’s April Rankings: 29th
- Logan Horn’s March Rankings: 63rd
- SMAHT Scouting: 54th
- Bob McKenzie’s Rankings: 46th
- Dobber Prospects Mid- Season Rankings: 39th
- Recruit Scouting: 51st
While fellow Swedish defenseman Axel Sandin Pellikka is getting most of the attention as the top Swedish defender in the 2023 NHL Draft, Tom Willander is definitely next in line as he continues to impress and move up draft boards. He was extremely productive at the J20 level for Rögle BK, finishing the regular season with 25 points in 39 games and his impressive play has continued into the World U18 Championship.
Willander is a very confident, steady and mobile two-way defender who can do it all in any situation. He’s an extremely effective defender offensively with his vision and mobility and possesses great situational awareness. He knows when to take his chance to jump into the rush and lead an attack without putting his team in a bad spot, while having the mindset to back off and defend against the rush. He displays a great sense of composure and confidence as the situation unfolds and shows no panic to his game on both sides of the puck.
Willander is very smooth in transition with his long stride and strong foot speed. As a result, he can easily lead an attack through the neutral zone and create the separation between the opposition. If he finds a lane, he will take it and it’ll be tough to contain him when he enters the offensive zone. He has a decent shot and does a great job to get pucks on net effectively for second or third scoring chances. He’s also a very crisp and accurate playmaker, especially when breaking out of his zone and connecting on a long stretch pass. He’s great at exploiting holes in the opposition’s game and makes them pay when he puts the puck in a great spot for his teammates.
While Willander may not be as flashy as Sandin Pelikka, Willander has great patience and puck control, being deceptive at times with his movements. He’s quick to activate and jump into the play and on the cycle in the offensive zone. He possesses strong edges and pivots to evade pressure when dealing with tough situations in tight spaces and usually comes out of them maintaining possession. Given his size, he shields the puck extremely well in order to maintain control, bide some time and spot a passing lane to get a play going.
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Defensively, Willander has great gap control and has the ability to cut off players quickly with his speed. He’s quick at taking away the puck carriers time and space, knowing when to be aggressive and make his move. He’s extremely strong when defending against the rush, using his long reach to break up plays and is strong in one-on-one coverage in front of the net to block forwards out. As a result, he can quickly get the inside edge, regain possession of the puck and quickly transition to offense.
Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide
As he continues to take strides offensively, Willander possesses a well-rounded game that many teams would love to have and build their defense for the future. Since he’s committed to Boston University, that should help with his development and adjustment to the North America ice surface.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Tom Willander- NHL Draft Projection
Willander may have started off his draft year as more of an underrated name. As the season progressed, he started to gain the attention of many in the scouting world. Because of his style and consistency to his play, his draft stock improved. At the moment, he can easily be an early second round pick, but don’t be surprised to hear his named being called late in the first round.
“Fleet-footed and rangy, Willander can skate circles around opponents to find a lane to exploit. He is reliable on the breakout, and solid defensively — both off the rush and in his own zone. His puck skills aren’t anything to write home about, but he gets shots on net and opens up the ice laterally for his teammates with the occasional change of sides.” – Hadi Kalakeche, Dobber Prospects
Latest News & Highlights
“The young Swede has produced at a moderately good rate at the J20 level. He diffuses oncoming rushes by closing the gap and dislodging the puck with his stick before quickly moving the puck to his forwards up ice. Willander shows intelligence in generating zone exits, whether with his feet or passing ability.” – Tony Ferrari, The Hockey News
“He displays very good vision with the puck on his stick, able to identify passing lanes through the neutral zone effectively or make plays with the puck when joining the attack from the offensive blue line.” – Brandon Holmes, FC Hockey
- Quiet, but effective
- Gap control and defending against rush
- Speed and mobility
- Active stick
- Breakout passing and transitional pla
Under Construction- Improvements to Make
- Offensive production
- Add physical element
- Improve power in shot
Based on his overall skillset, Willander definitely has the potential to be an everyday and reliable top-four defender. His play at both ends of the ice and mobility is what teams look for to add to their defensive depth. He can be a major factor at even strength, while seeing time on the power play and penalty kill. He needs some time to develop, but he can definitely reach his potential given the upside he has.
Risk- Reward Analysis
Risk- 1/5, Reward 3.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense- 6.5/10, Defense 7.5/10
Willander helped Sweden to a silver medal at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He also won a bronze medal at the World Jr. A Championship, while being named to the All-Star Team.