Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of profiles of the top prospects for the NHL Draft on July 23-24, 2021.
For the second straight year, the Detroit Red Wings may use a first-round draft pick on a rising star from the Frolunda Indians of the Swedish Hockey League.
Last year with the fourth overall selection, Detroit took Frolunda winger Lucas Raymond, who could crack the Red Wings’ opening-night roster for the 2021-2022 season.
“I don’t expect him (Raymond) back with our team next year,” Frolunda general manager Fredrik Sjostrom said.
This year, Frolunda’s 6-5, 205-pound defenseman Simon Edvinsson could also wind up in general manager Steve Yzerman’s rebuilding plans.
Ranked second overall behind University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power in TSN draft analyst Bob McKenzie’s mid-term rankings and rated the second best international skater behind Djurgardens center William Eklund on Central Scouting’s final draft list, the 18-year-old Edvinsson has already had a “great chat” with Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson and is expected to be taken early in the defensemen-dominated draft along with Power and USA Hockey’s Luke Hughes.
The Red Wings can draft no lower than eighth after Wednesday’s NHL Draft Lottery and they have a 15.4% chance of landing in the top two spots.
“Simon has tremendous upside,” said Sjostrom, who scored 46 career goals in 489 NHL games with the Phoenix Coyotes, New York Rangers, Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs from 2003-2011. “When you have that size and reach and skate as well as he does, you’re going to go early in the draft. In today’s game, you need speed and ability. He’ll definitely be a top-pair defenseman in the NHL.”
In the SHL this year, Edvinsson played 10 games with Raymond, who nearly doubled his output from his rookie season with 18 points in 34 games. Edvinsson, who also played for Frolunda’s U20 team and second-tier Vasteras, had one assist for the top-tier team which finished with a 27-23-1-1 record and lost in the quarterfinals.
The two of them train together in Gothenburg, their mothers are both fitness trainers (“We listen to our Frolunda coaches but then afterwards I also listen to her about what we should eat at home,” Edvinsson said) and they both have aspirations to make the NHL and perhaps play on the same team together in Detroit.
“If I get drafted by Detroit, it would be great,” Edvinsson said. “I would have a lot of Swedish friends there and they have really good players on the team.
“One of them is Moritz Seider, who got the award for the best defender here in the Swedish Hockey League. I met him one time in the corner. He’s a strong guy.”
“I can’t wait to get to Detroit,” Raymond said in a text message. “I will be coming over to play in the U.S. next season and am really looking forward to it.”
As for his teammate Edvinsson, Raymond said he’s a “skilled defenseman, a good skater who is mobile with good vision.”
At the world U18 championships last month in Texas, Edvinsson showcased those skills in the bronze-medal game with a goal and a plus-4 rating in an 8-0 win against Finland.
(Sweden was the defending champion after Raymond scored three goals including the winner in overtime to beat Russia 4-3 in the gold-medal game in 2019).
In a 5-2 victory against Team USA in the quarterfinals this year, U.S. coach Dan Muse said stopping Edvinsson was part of their game plan against Sweden.
“We talked about staying up on him because he likes to get up on the rush,” said Muse, who also coaches the National Team Development Program’s U17 team in Plymouth.
“He can beat you with a fake. He’ll go the other way when he breaks out in the neutral zone. He’s a big body, good skater and you need to be aware where he is on the ice.”
Sjostrom doesn’t like to compare Edvinsson to top Swedish defensemen like Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lighting and former Red Wing Nicklas Lidstrom but says there are elements of Edvinsson’s game which compare favorably to Lidstrom.
“I was fortunate to play against Lidstrom,” Sjostrom said. “He was one of the best defensive defenseman not because he was physical but because he was smart. He positioned himself well, had a good stick and kept a tight gap with the forwards.
“Simon doesn’t get enough credit for his defensive game. He’s a very good defender and moves really well for his size. He just needs time to grow into his body, to build strength the right way. He has lots of potential to be a good two-way defenseman.”
Edvinsson said he hasn’t thought about possibly being the No. 1 draft pick overall and is looking forward to playing a bigger role next year on the veteran-laden Frolunda team, including 39-year-old captain Joel Lundqvist who has 297 points in 11 years since scoring seven goals in 134 games with the Dallas Stars from 2006-2009.
“When you sit next to someone like Joel, you learn how to be a professional in the gym, on the ice, it’s always 100 percent,” Edvinsson said. “He’s been everywhere around the world and it’s great to listen to him, to train with him and learn how to become a leader.
“I was honored to play for Frolunda. Every team in the SHL is really good. They are heavier and faster and you always need to be alert, to think one step ahead. I want to develop as much as I can this summer and get a good start to the season.”
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