One of the biggest risers in the last few months is Swedish defenceman Erik Brannstrom, who checks in as the 23rd ranked prospect in the Nation Network consolidated rankings.
The left handed defender had an extremely impressive U18 tournament that vaulted him about the rest of the defenders in the same range. He can skate, he shoots, and plays a well round defensive game. There is some concern over his size, but we’ve seen players of the same ilk make it and succeed in the NHL.
Brannstrom has all the makings to be another successful one, so with that let’s look a little deeper.
- Age: 17-years-old, 1999-09-02
- Birthplace: Eksjo, SWE
- Position: D
- Handedness: L
- Height: 5’9″ (Combine)
- Weight: 179 lbs
- Draft Year Team: HV71 (SHL) & HV71 J20 (Superelit)
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NHL teams who favour a smart possession game will love Brannstrom. Undersized by traditional standards (5-foot-10, 179 pounds), but moves the puck great. At the Five Nations Tournament he played like every shift was his last and tried to make something happen every time he was out there. Scouts noticed.
He (Brannstrom) has good experience internationally, having played in the U18 World Juniors and the Ivan Hlinka tournament last summer. He does it extremely well. He’s outstanding in every game on U20 level. He’s all-round, good at skating, and quite tough for his age. There’s a big load of potential here.
A diminutive, but highly skilled offensive blueliner…a smooth skater who is mobile and able to escape pressure…has great poise with the puck and tremendous vision…makes great outlet passes and has the ability to run a PP…a good puck-mover who can skate it up ice himself and he also boasts a heavy point shot… extremely smart…makes great reads at both ends and knows when to get involved offensively…able to keep up with the quicker skilled opponents not only because of quickness but because of his awareness and smarts…defensively positions his stick and body well to contain opposing players and angle them wide and away from the net…he is very strong and able to successfully separate players from the puck…able to find success despite being smaller…possesses a great understanding of the game…projects as a solid top-four two-way contributor or better.
Brannstrom is a defenceman that I have been keeping a close eye on throughout the season as someone who would’ve been a good bet for the early second round. But it appears that he has done enough over the season to make it seem impossible that he will make it past the first round. He brings that skill set that is impossible to replicate or teach. Brannstrom is all over the ice making an impact, giving everything he got.
He is an extremely smooth skater who has powerful strides that allow him to get into position quickly. He has the ability to run a powerplay as he carries the puck up, distributes and shoots (a lot). He has a tool box of attacks that keeps opponents guessing.
The Eksjo native is on the smaller side, measuring in at 5’9″ at the NHL combine, and that has to be taken into consideration, but Brannstrom does his very best to avoid putting himself into positions where he might be over powered. He also doesn’t get manhandled if those situations arise, he is able to move and adapt to change what he is doing while maintaining control of the puck. Which is his strongest attribute. He is a puck possession wizard who doesn’t easily give up the puck unless it’s going towards the opponents net or his teammates stick.
His tireless work ethic is apparent – he may be one of the smallest guys on the ice, but he is going to make sure that he is the hardest worker out there.
Another defenceman grabbed most of the headlines for their U18 performance, but Brannstrom had a very strong showing for Sweden. Although he didn’t lead the tournament in scoring, what stood out were his shot rates:
Timothy Liljegren and Brannstrom ran away with the shooting numbers, and when you look at them on a per game rate, the difference is even more startling:
Aside from his partner, Liljegren, Brannstrom averaged 2 more shots per game than the next closest comparable. He ended the tournament with six more shots then the highest forward. Obviously with any short tournament, the results have to be taken with a grain of salt but it just reaffirms his penchant to shoot.
Brannstrom was always carrying the puck and creating speed through transition.
Early last month, I talked about something called the 51% rule. Which in short is a success rate for teenagers playing in the SHL and Allsvenskan. Just being in either league during your NHL draft year is a good sign for your development, but registering a certain PPG thresholds holds even more value. Brannstrom makes an appearance as the second highest draft eligible defenceman to play in the SHL.
He spent the majority of the season in the SHL and handled himself extremely well. That alone is a good sign.
Lastly, he enters the draft as one of the youngest players, missing the cutoff by 12 days. That is 351 days younger than top prospect Nolan Patrick. For draft eligible players, that is a huge difference and should be taken into consideration.
Despite only having one match in pGPS, it was a much closer comparable than the other two thus the percentage sky rockets. Obviously given the size of the players, the percentage is a little more volatile. With more smaller players ‘making it’, that will help with probabilities.
One match with first pairing upside
Another statistical angle is using SEAL (Adjusted scoring, acronym stands for Situational, Era, Age, League), to see how Brannstrom stacks up. It also provides a very digestible way to look at the defender:
There is still some debate on where Brannstrom will be selected. Craig Button raved about his game throughout the U18 tournament, but then still ranked him as the 45th best prospect in this draft. While others, such as Corey Pronman, have him ranked in the middle parts of the first round.
Obviously when he originally caught my eye, the expectation was that he would still fall into the second round. Despite his size, he has done everything possible to push himself into the first round, and that’s likely where he gets selected. Statistically, there is a lot of indicators of future success and then using an ‘old school’ scouting eye backs up those positives.
With the need for mobile defenceman who can transition, move the puck and keep possession are becoming a premium. Size is no longer a huge concern, as there have been a track record of players who are the same size that have made an impact in the NHL.
Brannstrom started the season as a good value bet in the second round, and now he clearly is a first round selection.