Lucas Raymond. Photo: Bildbyrån/Ola Westerberg
Scouting Reports

BLOG: 2019 eligibles and NHL prospects leading the way in Swedish J20 Playoffs

Hello again! The eight finals of J20 SuperElit are finished and the teams have made their picks for the quarterfinals, so it is time for the next update of the blog!

As expected, we got to see a few upsets as early as this round and knowing how the playoffs usually goes, we should expect a few more upsets before it is all said and done. In this update I want to go through the eight finals and make a short preview of each of the quarterfinals.

Before I start, I’d like to go through how the eight finals works. Out of the 16 teams that qualify for the J20 SM-Playoffs the highest ranked teams, starting from first place and then downwards, get to choose freely which team among the bottom eight teams. Each eight-final is played in a best of three, with the highest ranked team playing Away-Home-Home. When a game is tied it is followed by 10 minutes of 4-on-4 overtime, which is then followed by a best of five penalty shootout if neither team scores. The same rules apply on the quarterfinals and semifinals. With that said, let’s start going through this year’s eight finals!

J20 SM-Playoffs, Round of 16

Frölunda HC (1st) – IF Malmö Redhawks (15th)

In advance this looked like the most one-sided eight-final, and when Frölunda won the first game quite comfortably with 7-2 after going up 5-0 in the first period it seemed like this would be an easy journey for them towards the quarterfinals. But Malmö, led by Marcus Sylvegård, didn’t throw in the towel for the second game, even though Lucas Raymond (top prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft) gave Frölunda an early lead. Sylvegård scored twice to put Malmö up 3-2 in the third period, but Elmer Söderblom (first time eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft) tied the game with less than 10 minutes to go. The score was tied after the full 60 minutes but Frölunda only needed a minute and a half before Eric Engstrand scored the game winning goal and sent Frölunda to the quarterfinals. Despite the early exit I think Malmö should be proud with their season, they recovered after a rough first half of the regular season and put up a good fight against a clear favorite in the playoffs and they have a lot of promising players that have gained valuable experience moving forward.

Djurgårdens IF (2nd) – Brynäs IF (16th)

This was another eight final that, on beforehand, seemed like a sure victory for the higher ranked team. Djurgården also won the first game (3-1) according to plan, but to the second game Brynäs came out as a new team, and with Victor Söderström (top prospect for the 2019 NHL Draft) added to their line-up, and they managed to win 4-2 after scoring the last goal in the empty net. The deciding game was the closest of the three, but Djurgården was given the early lead when Emil Svartbro scored shorthanded on a breakaway after a strange bounce in Djurgården’s zone. The two goaltenders, Oscar Walldén and Tobias Forsgren, kept the score 1-0 until about halfway through the third period when William Eklund (first time eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft) scored Djurgården’s second goal of the game. Abbe Broberg reduced Djurgården’s lead to one shortly after, but Djurgården managed to fend off Brynäs attacks and earned their spot in the quarterfinals. Alexander Holtz (top prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft) is still injured and did not play for Djurgården during the eight-finals. Brynäs has had a disappointing season overall, but they got to go out after a good performance in the playoffs and they pushed one of the gold-favorites to their limits.

Leksands IF (3rd) – AIK (10th)

Leksand, quite surprisingly, choose AIK as their opponents for their eight finals. AIK had finished higher than Leksand in J20 SupElit North earlier in the season and AIK had also won three out of five games against Leksand during the regular season. AIK won the first game of the eight finals after a fantastic performance from August Hedlund, who saved 36 out of 39 shots when AIK won 4-3. Hedlund, who were phenomenal in J20 SuperElit North but had struggled during the Top10-series, seemed to have regained his form from before the Christmas-break just in time for the playoffs and continued to save his team in the second game. Leksand shot 41 shots on goal in the second game but Hedlund saved them all, and Lukas Macklin’s 1-0 from the first period was enough to give AIK the win and thus eliminating Leksand from the playoffs. Leksand looked like a contender during the Top10-series and their loss in the eight finals was surely a huge miscalculation for them, but they made a dangerous pick when the choose AIK as their opponents instead of one of the teams from “Fortsättningsserien” and AIK’s advancement to the quarterfinals was far from a big upset.

HV71 (4th) – Södertälje SK (12th)

The reigning champions, HV71, had one of the strongest teams on paper in J20 SuperElit and they won all three games during the regular season against Södertälje, two were blow out games that ended 5-1 and 6-1. HV71 also won the important first game when they turned 0-2 into 3-2 when Karl Smedberg scored the overtime-winner. Södertälje lost Hugo Gustafsson, who were supposed to be their leading player, in the first game after a he received a hit to the head by Jacob Grönhagen.  But Södertälje still managed to bounce back, their Czech goaltender Adam Wolf had an amazing performance in the second game which gave his team a chance to win, and Niklas Frödén scored the game winning goal with 28 seconds to go of the third period. Game three was just as close as the first two games, Emil Lind put Södertälje up 3-2 late in the third period but HV71 received a late 5-on-3-powerplay and Anton Heikkinen tied the game with 37 seconds left to force game into overtime.  HV71 pushed for the win but Södertälje’s dangerous first line managed to set up one long attack and Emil Lind scored his second goal of the game to eliminate last year’s champions and cause this year’s playoffs, so far, biggest upset.

Växjö Lakers HC (5th) – Karlskrona HK (13th)

Växjö and Karlskrona met in a thrilling quarterfinal last year, all three games went to overtime and in the deciding game Karlskrona seemed destined to go through to the semifinals when they were up 4-0 late in the third period but Ludwig Wistén scored three straight goals in the last five minutes of the game to tie the game. Växjö only needed 15 seconds in the overtime before they scored the series winning goal. This year’s eight final was Karlskrona’s chance at payback, and just like last year this match-up was a close one. Both teams had players from their men’s teams participating, among them were Marcus Westfält (picked #205 overall by the Flyers in 2018) and Linus Karlsson (picked #87 overall by the Sharks in 2018, rights belong to Vancouver) for Karlskrona and Dominik Bokk (picked #25 overall by the Blues in 2018) for Växjö. Karlskrona was heading towards a victory in the first game but Otto Henell scored the equalizer with nine seconds remaining of the third period. Neither team scored in the overtime and the game was decided by a shootout, where Karlskrona’s Melwin Sundén was the only player that managed to find the net. In the second game it was Karlskrona’s turn to tie the game late, Hampus Karlsson scored the 3-3-goal with less than a minute to go in the third. The overtime was once again scoreless, and the game had to be decided by shootouts. Karlskrona’s Marcus Westfält was the sole player to score, which meant that Karlskrona went through to the quarterfinals and last year’s silver medalists were done for the season, after a very dramatic series.

Linköping HC (6th) – Färjestad BK (11th)

Linköping against Färjestad seemed to be one of the closest eight finals on beforehand, but since Linköping’s SHL-team missed the playoffs they could send down four players to their J20-team. Adam Ginning (picked #50 overall by the Flyers in 2018), Simon Lundmark (first time eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft), Olle Lycksell (picked #168 overall by the Flyers in 2018) and Johan Södergran (picked #165 overall by the Kings in 2018) all joined Linköping’s J20-team just in time for the eight finals to start. Linköping also comfortably won the first game 6-2, after the players sent down from the SHL-team were involved with four out of five goals (their last goal was an empty netter). The second game was a lot closer, Linköping scored 1-0, shorthanded, about half way through the game when Ludvig Östman received a breakaway when he came out of the penalty box after Linköping had killed a 3-on-5 boxplay. Färjestad, lead by Wilson Johansson and Albert Johansson (both first time eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft), had several chances to tie the game and were pushing for an equalizer but Linköping managed to protect their lead and scored two empty net goals to secure their second win of the series. It was a lot of bad luck for Färjestad to run into a team that was heavily boosted by the elimination of their SHL-team at this stage. After a rough start to the season it seemed like Färjestad really had turned things around when Andreas Johansson had taken over as head coach after the Christmas-break and they would have had good chances at reaching the quarterfinals if they had faced another opponent.

Luleå HF (7th) – MODO Hockey (9th)

Luleå and Modo met in last year’s quarterfinals, a series which Luleå won much due to the fact that Isac Lundeström (later picked by the Ducks) and Nils Lundkvist (later picked by the Rangers) had been sent down to the J20-team after Luleå was eliminated from the SHL-playoffs. This year Lundkvist was again in Luleå’s line-up, he had been recovering from an injury and it seemed like Luleå wanted him to get fit in the J20-team. Modo’s team in HockeyAllsvenskan were done for the season and they sent a bunch of players down to the J20-team, among them were Lukas Wernblom (-00 born, undrafted), Mattias Norlinder (-00, undrafted), Victor Berglund (picked #195 overall by the Bruins in 2017) and Sebastian Walfridsson (picked #151 overall by the Capitals in 2017). Modo ran Luleå over in the first game (6-0) and Luleå returned the favor in the second game (6-2). The third, and deciding, game was tied after the first period but in the second period Modo stepped their game up and would have run away with the game if it wasn’t for Jesper Wallstedt (top prospect for the 2021 NHL Draft) in Luleå’s net. Modo still managed to score twice and Luleå never fully recovered, and Modo could quite easily close out the game to secure their spot in this year’s quarterfinals.

Örebro HK (8th) – Rögle BK (14th)

Örebro against Rögle seemed like a series that should have been quite even, and when Nils Höglander (first time eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft) joined Rögle’s J20-team it seemed like they should have a good chance at reaching the quarterfinals. Höglander also scored the series first goal but it was to no avail, Örebro took over, and looked a lot like they did last year when they were the playoffs Cinderella team and won the bronze after going into the playoffs as the 16th seeded team. Örebro scored three goals in the third period to win the game 3-1. In the second game Örebro was clearly the better team and managed to turn a 1-2 deficit into a 7-4 victory in the third period, much thanks to a hattrick from Viktor Lodin, he scored 2-2, 4-2 and 5-2. Lodin, who was one of last year’s playoffs best players, managed to score seven points (three goals and four assits) in the two games he played in the eight finals and leads the playoffs in scoring after the first round. It was an impressive series-win by Örebro, where they once again proved that they can step up their game when it matters the most.

Down below is how the top prospects for the 2019 and 2020 NHL Drafts performed in the first round of the J20 SM-playoffs:

  1. Lucas Raymond, Frölunda HC 2GP 2G 2A 4P 0
  2. Simon Holmström, HV71 3GP 1G 2A 3P +2 (eliminated)
  3. Noel Gunler, Luleå HF 3GP 0G 3A 3P -1 (eliminated)
  4. Nils Höglander, Rögle BK 1GP 1G 0A 1P 0 (eliminated)
  5. Philip Broberg, AIK 1GP 0G 1A -1
  6. Victor Söderström, Brynäs IF 2GP 0G 1A 1P 0 (eliminated)
  7. Albin Grewe, Djurgårdens IF 3GP 1A 0A 1P +2
  8. Zion Nybeck, HV71 3GP 1G 0A 1P -3 (eliminated)
  9. Helge Grans, IF Malmö Redhawks 2GP 0G 0A 0P -1 (eliminated)
  10. Tobias Björnfot, Djurgårdens IF 3GP 0G 0A 0P -3

Alexander Holtz, Djurgårdens IF – (injured)

J20 SM-playoffs, Quarterfinals

The teams made their picks for the quarterfinals this Sunday evening, down below I will give a few comments on each of the series and a mention few of the most interesting players in each of the match-ups.

Frölunda HC (1st) – Södertälje SK (12th)

Södertälje impressingly eliminated HV71 in the eight finals, can they repeat the feat and end Frölunda’s season aswell? It’s a possibility, but Frölunda still goes into this series as the clear favorites. Lucas Raymond is the obvious player to keep an eye on, and Södertälje needs to find a way to neutralize him and his collaboration with Karl Henriksson. Södertälje’s chances would greatly improve if Hugo Gustafsson returns to their line-up and Lukas Feuk (first time eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft), who lead the team in points during the regular season, didn’t have a single point in the eight finals for Södertälje and is someone that needs to show up in the scoresheet if they want to move through to the semifinals. The goaltending match-up between Adam Wolf and Erik Portillo will be an interesting one, both had very good performances in the eight finals. Frölunda won all three games against Södertälje during the regular season (7-3, 6-3 and 3-0).

Djurgårdens IF (2nd) – Karlskrona HK (13th)

Djurgården and Karlskrona are two teams that were involved in two very closet eight finals, and this could potentially be another very close series. Karlskrona has improved their defense as the season has progressed and Djurgården’s chances would greatly improve if they could get Alexander Holtz back in their line-up. Djurgården clearly has more depth and skill on their roster and even without Holtz on the ice they have a good enough team to win this series unless Karlskrona stays on top of their game. For Karlskrona it is important that their offensive players step up, it is quite likely that they will have to score more than one or two goals a game if they want to have a decent chance at winning against a Djurgården filled with good offensive players. On beforehand it looks like Djurgården has an advantage in net, Oscar Walldén has been one of J20 SuperElit’s most stable goaltenders this year while neither of Karlskrona’s goaltenders have looked very convincing this season. Djurgården and Karlskrona have not played each other this season.

Linköping HC (6th) – AIK (10th)

This quarterfinal can potentially be the closest one, but also as one that could end 2-0 to either team. Linköping, with the reinforcements from their SHL-team, looks like a team that can win it all, they have great depth and some very good high-end players on each position. AIK, on the other hand, showed during the first half of the season that they can match any team in this league and when August Hedlund is on top off his game, he is the best goaltender in J20 SuperElit. AIK will also have Philip Broberg (top prospect eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft) in their line-up moving forward, since their team in HockeyAllsvenskan is done for the season. AIK’s Carl Wassenius was an absolute monster in last year’s playoff (then in Örebro), if he can reach the same level in this series, he will be a tough player to deal with for Linköping’s defenders. With the amount of aggressive players that likes to play physical and throw hits on both teams I can see that this series easily becomes rough and very intense with very physical hockey. The teams won one game each, both away, during the Top10-series (4-2 to AIK and 5-4 to Linköping).

Örebro HK (8th) – MODO Hockey (9th)

Örebro and Modo are two teams with very high high’s but also with very low low’s, and consistency will be key for either teams in this match-up. Modo has more skill and difference-makers offensively in their line-up, and with the additions they received from their team in HockeyAllsvenskan they also have superior depth defensively. But Örebro’s strength hasn’t been skill, flair or individual stand-out players, they are a team that truly is a team and when they win games it is usually by outworking their opponents and that all players put full effort in, something that Modo has struggled with through the season. In Viktor Lodin Örebro also got their game-breaker, he can win games on his own at this level and is a player that Modo needs to keep an eye on both at equal strength and on the powerplay. Worth nothing is that both teams have below average goaltenders, so it wouldn’t be very surprising if we see a lot of goal throughout the series. The teams split the wins in the Top10-series (Modo won 8-2 and Örebro 4-3).

That’s it for my preview of this year’s quarterfinals, I think it will be four good series with a lot of great and entertaining hockey. I’ll be back with another update once the semifinals are set.

Thanks for reading and take care!

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