Photo Credit: Nick Barden

ON’s Top Prospects Countdown – No. 7: William Lagesson

William Lagesson has always flown under the radar.

Back in 2018-19, Lagesson had an excellent rookie season in the AHL, posting 27 points over 67 games with a plus-25 rating. Despite that, it was the performances of other members of the Bakersfield Condors, like Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody, that garnered attention.

Beyond that, Lagesson is also buried behind a wealth of interesting names on the Oilers’ blueline. Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg are the franchise’s bluechip prospects while Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones were the ones to graduate from the AHL to the NHL in 2019-20 when the Oilers needed defenders.

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With Oscar Klefbom injured for the entire season and Broberg likely not quite ready for NHL action, Lagesson will have a chance in 2021 to finally make a name for himself.

William Lagesson

Position: Defence
Shoots: Left
Nationality: Sweden
Date of Birth: Feb. 22, 1996
Drafted: 2014, No. 91 overall (EDM)
Height: 6’2″ / 189 cm
Weight: 207 lbs / 94 kg

Lagesson’s path has been unique. The Oilers drafted the defender in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, just their second pick of that class after taking Leon Draisaitl with the No. 3 overall pick, from Frolunda’s junior team.

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In 2014-15, Lagesson crossed the pond and played in the USHL for the Dubuque Fighting Saints. He then joined UMass Amherst’s NCAA program, where he would play two seasons. Lagesson also made two appearances for Sweden’s World Junior team in 2015 and 2016.

In April of 2017, Lagesson inked a three-year, entry-level deal with the Oilers. Instead, of staying in North America, though, Lagesson returned to Sweden where he would play with Djurgardens of the SHL. He recorded 13 points in 49 games. Solid production but nothing to write home about.

It was in 2018-19 that Lagesson really hit his stride and put himself on the map as a prospect. In his rookie season in the AHL, Lagesson put up 27 points in 67 games, and his plus-25 rating was the highest on the team among defenders.

Lagesson’s 2019-20 season featured only 25 games in the AHL because he spent quite a bit of time on the Oilers’ roster as the team navigated injuries on the blueline. He looked solid in his eight-game sample size but obviously didn’t make much of an impression.

As I said earlier, Lagesson really flies under the radar. When you talk about the Oilers’ young defencemen, you hear names like Broberg and Bouchard, the future top pair everyone is hoping for, or names like Jones and Bear, the guys who seamlessly stepped into the NHL last season. Despite really strong play in the AHL (an 82-to-58 even-strength goal differential over two seasons), Lagesson’s name doesn’t seem to generate much excitement.

This is likely because Lagesson’s game isn’t flashy and he’s more of a low ceiling, high floor prospect. At the big-league level, Lagesson projects to be a bottom-pairing, defensive defenceman who can kill penalties and play a responsible game in his own zone. He’s very positionally sound, isn’t afraid to get in the mix physically, and has improved his skating quite a bit since he was drafted, as it was said to be one of his weaknesses back then.

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The question for Lagesson is whether or not he can find some offence at the NHL level. If he does, he can realistically develop into a top-four defender. If not, he’ll be the bottom-pairing guy I just described, which is perfectly fine given where he was drafted. But given his 27-point AHL season and 12 points through 14 games in Allsvenskan this year, there might be something there.

We should get to see quite a bit of Lagesson this year. Unless Ken Holland adds a veteran defenceman before the start of the 2021 season, Lagesson looks like he’ll be the team’s seventh defender who jumps in and plays on the third pair when needed.

It appears to be a gig that Lagesson is ready for, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can take the opportunity, run with it, and make a name for himself as a quality depth defender for the Oilers.

For reference, players who I consider to be “prospects” for this countdown are skaters who have played fewer than 50 NHL games and goaltenders who have played fewer than 25 NHL games. I’m basing the rankings on a combination of upside and the likelihood of reaching that potential. 

No. 15 – Stuart Skinner

No. 14 – Filip Berglund

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No. 13 – Cooper Marody

No. 12 – Carter Savoie

No. 11 – Tyler Tullio

No. 10 – Olivier Rodrigue

No. 9 – Ryan McLeod

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No. 8 – Tyler Benson