BLOG: Swedish Junior SuperElit season summary
Greetings! It’s time for the next update!
The last rounds of J20 SuperElit were played this past weekend, so I wanted to take a closer look at some of the things that has happen since the Christmas-break and to summarize J20 SuperElit’s regular season. Just like last time I will split it in half and start with the Top10-series and the have a follow-up text with “Fortsättningsserien” (the Continuation series), will try my best to give a good overview of them both, and bring up a few players that I feel have performed well on each team. If you want a full explanation of how J20 SuperElit’s system works you can find it here (https://www.eprinkside.com/2018/12/31/blog-a-deep-dive-into-the-swedish-under-20-development-leagues).
At the bottom of this text there will be a section where I will go through how some of the top prospects, for both the 2019 NHL Draft and the 2020 NHL Draft, has fared in J20 SuperElit this season. I will try to leave the top prospects out as much as possible when going through the teams in order to leave some room to mention a few of the lesser known players.
J20 SuperElit Top10
Frölunda started the Top10-series strong, with two away wins against Hv71 and Linköping, and they quickly ran away with the first place. They only had two games with zero points during the 18 rounds played, one to second placed Djurgården and another to fourth placed Växjö, both at home ice. Frölunda finished the Top10-series with 45 points and a goal differential of +23, twelve points ahead of second placed Djurgården. When you write about Frölunda it is almost obliged to make it all about Lucas Raymond, but since there will be more focus on him further down, I’d instead like to mention Raymond’s partner in crime, 2019 NHL Draft-eligible Karl Henriksson. He had a great showing in the Top10-series, lead the scoring race for quite a while, and overall stepped up his game as the opponents got tougher. He ended up with 20 points (four goals and 14 assits) in 18 games played. Another player that I believe deserves a mention is Frölunda’s goaltender Erik Portillo (-00 born), he won 11 out of his 12 starts, had an SVS of 93.75% and had a goals against average of 1.73. He was passed over in the 2018 NHL Draft but has been superb for Frölunda this year, played a big part in that they allowed the least goals against in the Top10-series (35), and could very well be picked in this year’s draft.
Djurgården had a bit of a bumpy start to the Top10-series, with four losses in their first seven games, but they managed to recover well as the season progressed and secured the second place in the last round when they defeated Växjö 6-1 at home. Djurgården’s main strength has been that they often have had three lines that can run the show and get the puck deep and spend a lot of time in the offensive zone, their width when it comes to both forwards and defenseman is among the best in all of J20 SuperElit and they top it off with some of the best players in the league on each position. Alexander Holtz lead the team in both goals and points (14 goals and 21 points) but I would say that Tobias Björnfot was their leading player, but more about them later. Besides Holtz and Björnfot, Felix Carenfelt (-00) has had a very strong performance and finished third in team scoring with 13 points (six goals and seven assists) in 14 games, Carenfelt has recently committed to Merrimack College and will play in the NCAA next season.
I’ll be the first to admit that Leksand was way better than I had expected, they really stepped up their game from how they played before the Christmas break. They were probably the toughest team to play against in the Top10-series, they played solid defensively, made very few mistakes with the puck, rarely took unnecessary penalties and seem to be in “playoff-mode” from the get-go. They only allowed one more goal than Frölunda (36), much due to having the Top10-series best goalie-tandem in Jakob Hellsten (-00 born, 12 games, 93%, 1.94GAA) and Viktor Rönnqvist (first time eligible for the Draft -00 born, 6 games, 94,38%, 1.46GAA) but also by how well structured they were defensively. Offensively much revolved around three -00 born players, Nils Åhman (three goals and 14 assists), Dennis Finn Olsson (nine goals and eight assists) and defenseman Axel Bergkvist (eight goals and seven assist). Bergkvist lead all defenseman in the Top10-series in points as well as goals.
Last years champions were probably the most entertaining team to watch in this year’s edition of J20 SuperElit, they scored more goals than any other team in the Top10-series (60) and often dictated the pace of the game with their skilled forwards and overall offensive mindset. They had a rough start to the Top10-series with zero points in their first three games, but they recovered and was only two points from taking the second place. Besides the obvious mentions of Zion Nybeck, eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft, and Simon Holmström, eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, both Anton Heikkinen (-00) and team captain Max Wennlund (-99) stood for strong performances in the Top10-series. Heikkinen finished tied for second in points in the league with his 21 points, and his 12 goals was enough for third place in the league. Wennlund had seven goals and 10 assists in the 17 games he played while providing solid play defensively as well. They are two players that could be late round picks in this year’s NHL Draft.
Växjö Lakers HC
Växjö might have been the most inconsistent team in the Top10-series, one day they could win 5-1 against a strong opponent and the next day lose 1-5 against one of the weaker teams in the league. They often played their best against stronger opponents and seemed to struggle at times when they were supposed to be the offensive team against weaker opponents. Växjö had seven players that scored 10 or more points, which is the most of any team in the Top10-series together with Luleå. On the other hand, they only had one player with more than 13 points, and that was Jakob Heljemo (first time eligible last year with a late -99 birthday) with his 21 points (eight goals and 13 assists) who joined Växjö this season after spending the last four years in Frölunda’s organization.
Linköping was one of the bigger disappointments in the Top10-series and finished sixth after winning the northern division prior to the Christmas-break. The loss of Gustav Lindberg, who returned to Västerås’s organization during the break, and the fact that Nikola Pasic was loaned to HockeyAllsvenskan and also spent some time in the SHL hampered their offense. Linköping scored the least goals of any team in the Top10-series (43) and didn’t have a single player with more than 11 points, and only three players with 10 or more points. Linköping’s SHL-team finished 12th, and thus missed the playoffs, which means that the J20 team could get much needed reinforcement in form of Adam Ginning (#50 pick by the Flyers in the 2018 NHL Draft), Simon Lundmark (-00 born first time eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft), Johan Södergran (#165 pick by the Kings in the 2018 NHL Draft) and Olle Lycksell (#168 pick by the Flyers in the 2017 NHL Draft) just in time for the playoffs to start which would turn them into a real contender moving forward.
Luleå continued to play an offensive style of hockey in the Top10-series, just like they had done in J20 SuperElit North, and was the team that saw the second to most total goals scored in their games (117). Many of their games were very back and forth, with a lot of goal scoring chances for both teams and a lot of odd man rushes going both ways. As mentioned earlier Luleå had seven players with more than 10 points, which is the most in the Top10-series. They had five players with more points than any player in Linköping, that placed just above them in the standings. Besides Noel Gunler two -00 born players, Nils Thomasson and Viktor Edström, had good showings in the Top10-series. Edström’s 18 points (10 goals and eight assists) was the most on the team and Thomasson was just behind with 17 points (six goals and 11 assists). Highly touted, and 2021 NHL Draft-eligible, Jesper Wallstedt started 10 games and while his stats (90,37% / 2.79 GAA) might not be as impressive as last season one has to take into consideration the style of hockey the team in front of him played when you evaluate his performance. He surely has the potential to be a difference-maker for Luleå in the upcoming playoffs.
Örebro had a horrid start to the Top10-series, they started with a 1-4 loss followed by a 2-9 loss and a 2-8 loss before winning their fourth game. Their defensive struggles continued as the season progressed and they had many games where they needed to score at least three goals in order to have a chance to grab a point. They conceded 72 goals, which was the second most of any team in the Top10-series. Örebro also struggled offensively, and only scored 46 goals. But Örebro shouldn’t be counted out so easily, they showed that last season, and their SHL-team were eliminated in the eight-finals so it would be no surprise if we see one of last year’s playoffs best players, Viktor Lodin (-99), end the season with the J20-team.
Modo managed to finish second to last in the Top10-series while having a positive goal differential, which is unheard of even for a league like J20 SuperElit where anything seems to be able to happen. Seven (six, plus one with an ENG) out of their 10 losses at full time were with one goal, two others were with two goals and one with three goals. At the same time, they only won two games at full time with one goal (+ one ENG in each game), they seemed to struggle to come out on top when the games were close and that is an issue that can prove to be costly moving into the playoffs. If we look at positives Tobias Åhström (-99) won the scoring race in the Top10-series with his 25 points (14 goals and 11 assists) and 2019 NHL Draft eligible Max Wahlgren has also had a very good performance and ended up with 15 points (five goals and 10 assists). Modo’s team in HockeyAllsvenskan has one game remaining but they are eliminated from the SHL-qualifications and there is a bunch of players that can be sent down to the J20-team, among them are Lukas Wernblom (-00, undrafted), Mattias Norlinder (-00, undrafted) and Victor Berglund (#195 pick by the Bruins in 2017). With the addition of the players from the men’s team Modo could become a tough opponent for most teams in the playoffs.
AIK surprisingly finished second in J20 SuperElit’s northern division but struggled in the Top10-series and finished last, with only 16 points in 18 games and a goal differential of -30. They scored second least goals (45) and conceded the most goals (75). A big issue for AIK has been that they aren’t the most skilled team, they have a lot of big, heavy players that plays aggressive and intense hockey and they were in need to always give 100% effort or they would fall behind. So, when they went down two or three goals and their level of focus or effort went down with a few percentages they often started to get heavily outplayed, that’s why they had several big losses during the Top10-series and struggled to make comebacks in games that weren’t going this way. Even though AIK had a rough time in the Top10-seris both Emil Lindbom, who joined from Timrå’s J20-team during the season, and Carl Wassenius had good showings. Lindbom lead AIK in both goals (nine) and points (16) and Wassenius had 14 points (six goals and eight assists) and was one of the few players on the team that consistently had good performances. Philip Broberg was sent down to the J20-team during the last part of the regular season and had eight points (two goals and six assists) in eight games and looked like a difference-maker for AIK. Even though AIK had a rough time in the Top10-series they have all the needed ingredients to go far in the playoffs and could very well be one of this year’s surprises in the postseason.
If we move on from the teams and take a closer look at how some of the top prospects have done instead. I’ll start with the player eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, followed by the players eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft.
Holmström was one of the highest ranked Swedish players moving into this season but has had much of the regular season interrupted by injuries, first he had hip surgery to recover from, then he injured his thumb and then he got a concussion. He finished the Top10-series with 14 points (three goals and 11 assits) in 14 games after a slow start with three pointless games after returning from the injuries. I still believe he has shown how good he is and that his surgery did not hamper his agility and skating. Even though he has produced alright, his points still don’t do his overall play justice. Last year’s playoffs Holmström was one of the best players, and he has all the tools needed to repeat that feat this year.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) January 24, 2018
Grewe has bounced between Djurgården’s SHL-team and J20-team, and received a suspension during his time in the SHL. He only played seven games in the Top10-series but managed to get nine points (four goals and five assists) in that time, while often looking dominant on the ice. In total Grewe had 34 points (13 goals and 21 assits) in 25 games played, and 102 PIM to add to that. His 1.36PPG is the second highest in J20 SuperElit this season among players with at least 10 games played, only surpassed by Noel Gunler’s 1,48. In my mind Grewe is one of the most complete players in J20 SuperElit, and if he stays with the J20-team during the playoffs he can be the difference between a quarterfinal/semifinal and a gold medal for Djurgården.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) March 10, 2019
If I were to give out the award “best defender of J20 SuperElit” Björnfot would be my choice. He tied for second in both points and goals among defenders in the Top10-series with 12 points and seven goals but there is so much more to his game than what the stats are saying. Björnfot has been the motor of Djurgården, he sets up the play from behind and were often the mastermind behind how Djurgården approached their attacks. His defensive game has steadily improved as the season progressed and he has looked rock solid defensively during the Top10-series. Another valuable aspect of Björnfot’s game has been that he often stepped up and been a difference-maker when Djurgården needed. He is a player that needs to play his best and be healthy if Djurgården wants to go far in this year’s playoffs.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) January 20, 2019
Lucas Raymond has both met and surpassed every expectation one could have on him going into this season, he has been outstanding and J20 SuperElit’s best player this year. He finished the Top10-series with 19 points (three goals and 16 assits) in 14 games, which was the second highest point per game average among all players finishing top25 in scoring. His total of 48 points (13 goals and 35 assists) placed him fifth in scoring in J20 SuperElit, one point off the first place, and it is the most points a U17-player has ever had in J20 SuperElit. It’s four points higher than the last record, set by Sebastian Collberg (#33 pick by the Canadiens in 2012) during the 2010/2011 season. Raymond’s assist total of 35 is also he highest by a U17-player in J20 SuperElit, five more than Rickard Hugg’s old record of 30 from the 2015/2016 season. Raymond’s +/- of +27 is also the second highest among U17-players, only surpassed by Filip Forsberg’s +30 from the 2010/2011 season. In short Raymond’s season can be summarized as exceptional and historic, and then we should keep in mind that he brings so much more to the table than just points. He drives the play, he never takes a shift off and always competes hard, he is truly looking like a special player and it would be a huge surprise if we do not see him permanently in the SHL next year. This year Raymond is the player that will give Frölunda a chance to win the gold, they still have a good team but with him in the line-up they become the favorites to win it all.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) March 10, 2019
When it comes to points Holtz hasn’t been far off Raymond this season, Holtz was actually the first player to break Collberg’s U17-point record but he was injured against Raymond’s Frölunda in the second to last game of the season, he then missed the last game of the regular season and saw Raymond get two assists in the last round to go past him with one point. Holtz’s 21 points (14 goals and seven assits) placed him second in scoring in the Top10-series and his 47 points (30 goals and 17 assits) through the whole J20 SuperElit season placed him sixth in scoring. The 30 goals Holtz scored was not only the most out of any player in J20 SuperElit this season, it was also a new record for an U17-player, it’s four more goals than Daniel Sedin scored in the 1996/1997 season and significantly higher than third placed Victor Rask’s 22 goals from the 2009/2010 season. Holtz hasn’t been as dominant as Raymond this season, quite far from it, but he always finds a way to score a goal or two. Even when he has been invisible for the whole game, he will find a way to score at least one goal, which is a great strength to have. His overall play is good, but he doesn’t look as ready to take the next step as Raymond does and I could see Djurgården giving him some more time with the J20-team next season to improve his overall play unless he takes those steps during the offseason and preseason. If Holtz were judged only by his offensive skill, talent and goal scoring abilities he’d already be on Djurgården’s SHL-roster. Holtz’s ability to score goal will be crucial for Djurgården when they head into the playoffs, hopefully he will be back from his injury and be ready to play in quarterfinals, he isn’t a player Djurgården can afford to have outside the team for long.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) January 5, 2019
Just like Raymond and Holtz Gunler is eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft, but due to having a late 2001 birthday he has not been in contention for any of the U17-records. But his play has been excellent, and I wouldn’t hesitate to say that Gunler has been the only player this season that could challenge Raymond for the spot as best player in J20 SuperElit or the “MVP”-title. Gunler did not spend a lot of time with the J20-team during the Top10-series, he played a bit with the SHL team and also received a five-game suspension after he pushed a linesman. Gunler only played seven games in the Top10-series, in which he got 12 points (eight goals and fours assits). For the season as a whole he had a total of 46 points (27 goals and 19 assits) in 31 games, placing him third in goals and seventh in points in all of J20 SuperElit. Gunler’s point per game (1.48) was by far the highest of any player in J20 SuperElit this season, and 11th among U18-players all-time. Higher than players like William Karlsson (1,42), Henrik Sedin (1,38) and Elias Lindholm (1,36). Just like Raymond there’s a lot more to Gunler’s game than the points he puts up, Luleå has been a completely different team with him in the line-up than when he has been out of the line-up. He runs their offensive game, makes everyone around himself better and is the key to their powerplay. This season should be his last with the J20-team, he has already proved that he can play in the SHL this season and with a whole offseason to prepare for it he should be able to take the step and grab a spot on Luleå’s SHL-roster. For the playoffs Gunler is Luleå’s hope if they want to get somewhere, with him in the line-up they can challenge all teams in the league but without him they could have a rough time to even get past the eight-finals.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) January 12, 2019
Nybeck hasn’t been receiving as much attention as the other Swedish top prospects eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft and has quietly had a great season and steadily improved as a player as the season progressed. He finished ninth in scoring in the Top10-series, with 17 points (11 goals and 6 assists) in 17 games, which is a quite spectacular change from his six goals and 20 assists in the southern division before the Christmas break. He also scored a significant larger portion of his points at equal strength in the Top10-series than he did before. Behind the changes to the stats were a bit of change/improvement in playstyle. Nybeck plays more on the inside now than earlier, he heads to the net and has been deadly around the slot when he can find pucks, receive a pass or rebound or redirect a shot from the blue line. In my mind the way he has played in the Top10-series has been a step in exactly the right direction for him, he is now a more diverse threat than before. With all points added up from the southern division and the Top10-series Nybeck finished with 43 points (17 goals and 26 assists), which was one point off Collberg’s old U17-record, so Nybeck’s season has also been nothing but excellent. Nybeck is a key part for Hv71 going into the playoffs, he is among the players that needs to consistently be at their best for Hv71 to be able to defend last year’s gold medal.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) January 30, 2019
That should be all for this time! A hefty read, but hopefully interesting as well. In my next text I will continue to go through the remaining teams in J20 SuperElit, and have some information about the upcoming playoffs.
Thanks a lot for reading and take care until next time!