BLOG: Helge Grans top prospect in J20 Elit Continuation Series
It’s time for another update!
Today I will continue with what I started in my last post. For those of you that missed it, I went through the teams in J20 SuperElit, and started with those that qualified for J20 SuperElit Top10 (if you want an explanation of how J20 SuperElit’s system works you can find it in my last text). Today I will continue to go through the teams, but now it is time for the teams that did not qualify for J20 SuperElit Top10, and will have to play in J20 SuperElit “Fortsättningsserien” (the Continuation series).
I will start with the teams from the southern division.
With three games remaining of J20 SuperElit South Rögle had it all in their own hands, their last three games were a back to back against Örebro, the team that they were fighting for the last spot to J20 SuperElit Top10 against, and one game against Färjestad. Rögle only managed to get one win in those games and with that they were eliminated for contention for a spot in J20 SuperElit Top10.
One of Rögles main issues has been their lack of leading offensive players, they have had plenty of games where they have been just as good as their opponents, but no one has stepped up and made the difference offensively. Their best point producer is 2019 draft eligible Karl Påhlsson with his 21 points (11 goals and ten assists) in 26 games but other than Påhlsson there is only one other player in Rögle with more than 15 points, which I find quite telling for their situation. It also has not helped them that their team captain, defenseman Jakob Bondesson, has been called up to the SHL-team for a big chunk of the season. Despite not putting up a lot of points, and at times looking both very cautious and hesitant on the ice, 2019 draft eligible Slovakian prospect Michal Mrazik has showed some intriguing skills and if he is gets more comfortable, he could be one of the much-needed offensive pieces that Rögle is missing. In Rögle’s net Calle Klang, who is one of the most interesting Swedish goaltenders for the 2020-draft, has split the job with Isak Ragnevad.
Even though Rögle doesn’t look like the strongest and most skilled team on paper they should have a reasonable chance to fight for one of the six spots to the playoffs, compared to many of the teams that they now will play they have been quite consistent with their performances through the regular season and even when they have lost their games has been very close and tight.
Michael Mrazik 1-0 mål för Rögle mot Växjö 14:e November 2018. #J20gifs #J20SESödra pic.twitter.com/dudBLaePbY
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) January 11, 2019
Färjestad might have been this season’s biggest disappointment in the southern division, they missed the Top10-series with eight points. So, it was no surprise that they made some staff changes during the Christmas break, they hired former NHLer Andreas Johansson as one of their new coaches. One of the players Johansson now will coach is his son, Wilson Johansson, who is eligible for the 2019 draft and has been one of Färjestad’s best players so far this season. Johansson has played a lot on a line together with -00 born Carl Berglund, who joined Sioux Falls Stampede in USHL after J20 SuperElit South finished, and another 2019 draft prospect, Oscar Lawner, who has been a bit of a disappointment offensively so far with his 11 points (seven goals and four assists) in 22 games. At times -00 born Carl Jakobsson, who has shown good progression after not being selected in the 2018-draft, has played on Lawner’s spot but when Färjestad’s SHL-team has had injury problems, Jakobsson was moved up to the SHL-team and seem to have taken the chance and earned himself a spot on their roster.
On the blueline Färjestad has one of the most interesting defenders coming out of J20 SuperElit for the 2019 draft, Albert Johansson. Johansson finished third in points on Färjestads team, and second in scoring among defenders in the southern division with 19 points (three goals and 16 assists) in 22 games, while still playing a solid two-way game.
Färjestad has struggled a lot with consistency, which is quite common for teams in J20 SuperElit to be fair. They have been able to both compete against and beat the top teams in the southern division, but has mixed that with losses against Malmö (who only won three out of 27 games), and getting blown out by Frölunda (1-6 loss), Hv71 (1-9 loss) and Linköping (2-8 loss). It is safe so say that there is a lot of work that needs to be done, but the potential is there, and they have many interesting players to work with. If they get it all together Färjestad should have a good chance to grab one of the top6-spots to get to the playoffs.
Albert Johansson 3-1 mål för Färjestad mot Frölunda. #J20gifs #J20SESödra pic.twitter.com/mAy5TAc8el
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) November 17, 2018
If you like high scoring games Södertälje, together with Hv71, would have been the team to watch in J20 SuperElit South, Södertälje’s games averaged more than 6,5 goals per game. Södertäljes main issue was that a lot of those goals were scored on them, and not by them, their 100 goals conceded was only surpassed by last placed Malmö (103 goals against).
When it comes to prospects it is one name that really stands out in Södertälje – Lucas Feuk. Feuk has been one of J20 SuperElits best players so far and finished third in scoring in the southern division with his 29 points (14 goals and 15 assists) in 27 games. Feuk plays on a strong first line together with two new -99 born players from Leksand, Emil Lind and Daniel Nilsmats. They have been one of the few bright spots on Södertälje’s team so far. At the start of the season there was also Hugo Gustafsson, who has had nice progression after being passed upon in last years draft, but he has been moved up to Södertälje’s team in HockeyAllsvenskan and performed well there, so the J20-team shouldn’t count on him moving forward.
Södertälje is in desperate need of both secondary scoring and an improved defensive structure. As it is now, they rely on their first line to score enough to win them games, I think it could be tricky for them to make the playoffs if they do not get more support in the future.
Lucas Feuk reducering för SSK till 2-1. #J20gifs #J20SESödra pic.twitter.com/aHhYskUSwg
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) November 24, 2018
There was no big surprise that Karlskrona did not make the J20 SuperElit Top10, they finished dead last in the southern division last season and this year they only managed to increase their point total with three points. They also “lost” Linus Karlsson (drafted #87 overall by the Sharks in the 2018 Draft) , who scored 52 points (27 goals and 25 assists) in 42 games last year, to their team in HockeyAllsvenskan, so it was expected that their offense would struggle this season.
With their 65 goals Karlskrona scored the second least of all teams in J20 SuperElit, they probably had hoped that 2019 draft eligible Lucas Edmonds would somewhat fill the hole that Karlsson left after him, Edmonds looked very promising last year and had 17 points (nine goals and eight assists) in 25 games in J20 SuperElit but his progression has not really taken off and he only has 13 points (five goals and seven assists) in 22 games so far. Except for their scoring leader, -99 born Whim Stålberg, there is no player with more than 13 points after the 27 rounds of J20 SuperElit, if Karlskrona aims to have a chance at a playoff-spot in they need more players to step up offensively.
Lucas Edmonds reducerar för Karlskrona mot Växjö till 3-1. #J20gifs #J20SESödra pic.twitter.com/KNiYWf1fkz
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) November 28, 2018
Malmö doesn’t have the strongest team on paper, but it still was a bit of a surprise that they finished last in J20 SuperElit South, and only managed to get three wins and 18 points in 27 games. They scored the least amount of goals of any team in all of J20 SuperElit (59) and conceded the most goals among teams in the southern division (103).
When it comes to prospects, 2019 draft eligible Hampus Henriksson was moved up from the J18-team and got the chance to play with the J20-team in a few games before the break and looked very promising, and Alexander Ternblad looked quite decent before receiving a nasty hit to the head in October. Besides them we have to look at the 2020 draft to find interesting players on Malmö’s roster, Helge Grans looks to be one of the top defenseman prospects coming out of Sweden and has been excellent for Malmö so far in J20 SuperElit, and has a big role on their powerplay sometimes even playing double shifts. Oskar Magnusson also looks to be a player to keep an eye on for next year’s draft, he has also taken the step from J18 to J20 this year and played together with Hampus Henriksson in what looked to be a very interesting line moving forward before the Christmas break.
There is some talent on Malmö’s team, but they haven’t been able to put it all together so far and I think it is a team that shouldn’t have very high expectations moving forward, they should first and foremost aim to avoid the last two spots in J20 SuperElit Fortsättningsserien, but with the amount of younger talent knocking on the door they could be one of the teams that improves the most to next season.
Helge Grans reducering för Malmö till 4-1. #J20gifs #J20SESödra pic.twitter.com/zHhHb3ejMJ
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) November 28, 2018
From the northern division the following teams missed J20 SuperElit Top10, and will have to play in Fortsättningsserien: Timrå IK, Brynäs IF, Västerås IK, Skellefteå AIK and Mora IK
Timrå had a great start to the season, and begun J20 SuperElit North with three consecutive wins, they also finished off strong and won their four last games. But during the middle part of the season they struggled, especially in their own end, and they had a rough patch of games where they conceded 5,25 goals per game over a span of eight games, which in the end that was what hindered them from securing a spot in the Top10-series.
Timrå does not have a lot of interesting first-time eligible players for the upcoming draft, but one player that really has stood out on their team is Pontus Englund, who went undrafted last year. The hard-shooting defenseman has had fantastic development from last year and scored 20 points (12 goals and eight assists) in 26 games, which placed him third in defenseman scoring in the northern division, and third in team scoring for Timrå.
Timrå has enough talent to fight for a playoff-spot, even though they lost their top scorer, Emil Lindblom, to AIK during the break. They need to find consistency between games and don’t have any more stretches of games where they concede too many goals and they should have a good shot at taking a top6-finish to secure a playoff-spot.
Pontus Englund utökade Timrås ledning till 2-0. #J20gifs #J20SENorra pic.twitter.com/C0qAJEF1a8
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) October 13, 2018
Brynäs almost always have a strong team in J20 SuperElit, the past three seasons they have finished first in the northern division every single year, and besides a hiccup in the 2014/2015 season they have made the J20 SuperElit Top10 every single year since the junior system was changed in 2004/2005. So, it is safe to say that they cannot be too happy with their 7th place in the northern division this year. Brynäs had a good chance to make the Top10 with a few games to go but lost their five last games of J20 SuperElit North, several games which were against opponents that they directly were fighting for the last two spots to the Top10-series against.
Another thing that is a little bit different in this year’s Brynäs junior team is the lack of prospects for the draft, Victor Söderström started the season in the J20 team but was quickly moved up to the SHL team and he hasn’t been giving them a single reason to send him down again, so it is highly unlikely we see him in SuperElit unless Brynäs J20 team makes the playoffs and their SHL-team is eliminated. Besides Söderström there isn’t much to get excited about when you look at Brynäs roster with the draft in mind.
Just like many other teams Brynäs has a decent chance to make the playoffs. Even though they seem to lack top end talent, their main issue isn’t their offense, it is that they are conceding too many goals at equal strength and didn’t have the ability to close out or find a way to win close games, if they can fix those problems, they should have a good chance at taking a playoff-spot.
Victor Söderström kvitterar för Brynäs 3-3. #J20gifs #J20SENorra pic.twitter.com/8U9u3uB7wX
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) October 6, 2018
Unlike Brynäs, Västerås is a team that often struggle in J20 SuperElit and often must go through Fortsättningsserien to have a chance to qualify for the playoffs, and this year was no different for them. Before the season they lost Jesper Wallstedt to Luleå, the goalkeeper was Västerås biggest star last season, and he broke both the record for youngest player (as a 14 year old, the old record was set by Victor Hedman) to play in J20 SuperElit, and the record for youngest player to score in J20 SuperElit.
In todays Västerås there aren’t many interesting prospects for the 2019 draft, Eric Juhlin has had a decent season so far but with his late -01 birthday he isn’t eligible until the 2020 draft, Juhlin plays a lot on Västerås third line and with a bigger role next year he could be a player to keep an eye on.
With their inability to score goals, they only scored 74 goals which was only two more than Mora that scored the least in the northern division, Västerås could find themselves to have a rough time in Fortsättningsserien, if they do not improve their offense I would not be surprised if they failed to make the playoffs.
Eric Juhlin gav Västerås ledningen mot Brynäs med 2-1. #J20gifs #J20SENorra #BIFJ20 #VIKJ20 pic.twitter.com/yVveBfTBl4
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) September 16, 2018
Skellefteå is another team that usually have a strong J20 team, even if they have had a bit of a down period in the last few years. This year they have both Jonatan Berggren (#33 overall pick by the Red Wings last year) and Albin Eriksson (#44 overall pick by the Stars last year) on the SHL-team, which has been a huge loss for their J20-team that would have needed the offensive firepower that both Berggren and Eriksson could provide. In their absence -99 born Linus Andersson has stepped up and leads Skellefteå’s offense, with his 30 points (13 goals and 17 assists) he had more than double the points of all players on the team except for two, one of them being 2019 draft prospect Albin Sundsvik. Sundsvik has had a good season so far and put up 22 points (10 goals and 12 assists). For a while Sundsvik played together with Andersson and another player first time eligible for the 2019 draft, Markus Ruuskanen (late -00 birthday).
Skellefteå as a team has their biggest weaknesses in their own zone, they conceded 124 goals in the 27 games played had had a horrific boxplay (65.45%), so it is defensively that they have work to do if they want to have a chance at grabbing a playoff-spot.
Albin Sundsvik 1-0 mål för Skellefteå mot Brynäs. #J20gifs #J20SENorra pic.twitter.com/9BXsMYhbRM
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) December 8, 2018
Mora finished J20 SuperElit North strong, they beat the two top teams Djurgården and AIK away, and won against Brynäs at home, in their last five games. They also had a one goal loss to AIK and an overtime-loss against Västerås. If they would have played at the same level for the earlier parts of the season they wouldn’t have finished dead last, with a mere two wins and 16 points in 27 games – something that looks bad, even for a team like Mora that has not finished better than 8th (out of 10 teams) since the 2008/2009 season and have had to play in the relegation playoffs to stay in J20 SuperElit the last seven season before this one.
But there are a few good things to talk about with this year’s Mora-team, offensive defenseman Oskar Skymning (-00 born, passed upon in the 2018-draft) has shown good progression and led the team in scoring with his 18 points (five goals and 13 assists), and finished 4th in scoring among defenders in J20 SuperElit. If we look for first time eligible players Charles Eklund is the only player on Mora’s roster that has stood out so far, with his offensive instincts and puck skills he is third in team scoring with his 14 points (seven goals and eight assists) despite only playing 15 games before he was moved up to Mora’s SHL-team.
Mora will most likely continue to struggle, even in Fortsättningsserien, anything else would be a huge surprise. They lack both high and talent and depth on their roster. If they manage to avoid the relegation playoffs, which are the last two spots, it should be seen as a huge success for them.
Charles Eklund's 2-1 mål för Mora mot Västerås 29:e September 2018. #J20gifs #J20SENorra pic.twitter.com/f8wHM1OlWU
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) January 11, 2019
A common issue for most of the teams that did not make J20 SuperElit Top10 is often that they struggle defensively, and this year the same can be said about most of the teams. This means that we can assume that there will plenty of high scoring games and that some of the top prospects will produce even more points than they did before the Christmas break. What I find highly interesting with this year’s “Fortsättningsserien” is that most teams has a decent chance to qualify for the playoffs, it will most likely be an exciting race to the end for both the last playoff-spots and to avoid the relegation playoffs.
That’s it for me for this time, I hope you enjoyed the read!