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A short analysis of NHL prospects in the SHL

Looking deeper into the statistics of NHL prospects playing in Sweden's top professional league.

Frolunda HC

Several players drafted by NHL teams in recent years are developing in the SHL this season, including Montreal Canadiens selections Artturi Lehkonen (2013) and Lukas Vejdemo (2015). Looking at their scoring rates, we can see who is making the most of their professional ice time.

By using points-per-60 minutes (all situations) and goals-per-60 minutes (all situations), we factor out the actual ice time for the players within the group, as the points-per-game statistic might be very misleading due to usage.

The SHL website leaves some things to be desired, and I had no information with regard to power play and penalty kill time, so I could not subtract this information from the data and was therefore left with all-situations tallies.

I went through the top 100 point scorers in the SHL (as of Tuesday, November 24) and had a look at players under 21 years-of-age in that list, with a minimum of 250 minutes played to remove any outliers from the conversation. I added Vejdemo from a strictly Montreal perspective, thereby creating a top-11 rather than a top-10.

Points per 60 minutes (all situations)
Name

P/60

Position Age SHL TEAM NHL TEAM
Lucas Wallmark 3.6 Centre 20 Luleå Carolina
Artturi Lehkonen 3.0 LW/Centre 20 Frölunda Montreal
Andreas Johnson 2.9 LW 21 Frölunda Toronto
Axel Holmström 2.5 Centre 19 Skellefteå Detroit
Victor Olofsson 2.4 LW/RW 20 Modo Buffalo
Niklas Hansson 2.2 Defender 20 HV71 Dallas
Gustav Forsling 1.9 Defender 19 Linköping Chicago
Joel Eriksson-Ek 1.8 Centre 19 Färjestad Minnesota
Lukas Vejdemo 1.8 Centre/RW 19 Djurgården Montreal
Emil Pettersson 1.4 Centre/RW 21 Modo Nashville
Jacob Larsson 1.1 Defender 18 Frölunda Anaheim


In regards to points-per-60, Lucas Wallmark, a fourth-round draft pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in his second year of eligibility in 2014, comes across as the clear leader. The Frölunda duo of Lehkonen and Andreas Johnson are neck-and-neck, but with more time on the power play for Johnson, Lehkonen still manages a better performance. (Lehkonen also plays on the penalty kill whereas Johnson does not.)

Axel Holmström, last year's Swedish junior rookie of the year, who also beat the Sedins' record for most points by a junior in the playoffs last year, is in fourth after what has been considered a slow start to his season, going the first 16 games without scoring a goal.

The surprise of the list is Victor Olofsson of Modo, a Buffalo seventh-round draft pick in 2014, and what might right now be considered a steal of the draft. To put up these numbers on a team like Modo which is in a free-fall of a decline is really impressive.

Goals per 60 minutes (all situations)
Name G/60 
Position Age SHL TEAM NHL TEAM
Artturi Lehkonen 1.39 LW/Centre 20 Frölunda Montreal
Andreas Johnson 1.29 LW 21 Frölunda Toronto
Emil Pettersson 0.87 Centre/RW 21 Modo Nashville
Victor Olofsson 0.80 LW/RW 20 Modo Buffalo
Joel Eriksson-Ek 0.78 Centre 19 Färjestad Minnesota
Lukas Vejdemo 0.77 Centre/RW 19 Djurgården Montreal
Niklas Hansson 0.64 Defender 20 HV71 Dallas
Jacob Larsson 0.56 Defender 18 Frölunda Anaheim
Lucas Wallmark 0.44 Centre 20 Luleå Carolina
Axel Holmström 0.42 Centre 19 Skellefteå Detroit
Gustav Forsling 0.38 Defender 19 Linköping Chicago


Looking at goals-per-60 minutes, the Frölunda duo is head and shoulders above the rest. It might not be that difficult to understand why the two offensive talents are thriving: Frölunda has scored 78 goals in 20 games, 10 more than the closest team.

Still Lehkonen and Johnson are half a goal ahead of any other player in the top-11, and that really does imply that they are up to par. Interestingly Johnson is on the first power-play line whereas Lehkonen is on the second, and gets a little bit less time in a situation that you would expect to increase your performance.

Niklas Hansson, who has had a breakout year in HV71, is once again impressing with high numbers, and it seems that the Dallas Stars may have a new Swedish defender in the lineup in the near future.

Oddly, there are only two first-rounders on this list: Joel Eriksson-Ek and Jacob Larsson, both taken in the 2015 draft. Johnson and Olofsson were taken in the seventh round, Wallmark and Vejdemo were passed over their first year of eligibility, which means that there seem to be a lot of possible late-round steals in the draft when it comes to Swedish talent, as there is a bit of influx of foreign players in youth teams all over Sweden. The Finns were the trailblazers for that trend, but now has expanded with Hungarian, Czech, and Dutch players coming into the system.

One prospect I realised I missed out on was Peter Cehlarik (Boston Bruins) with a relative low TOI of 14:41 per game. The Slovakian has four goals and three assists for a total of seven points, giving him a 1.4 P/60 and 0.82 G/60.

I also ran the numbers for Lehkonen's former linemate Christoffer Ehn (Detroit Red Wings), but with two assists in 78 min of play time so far during the season he is at 1.5 points per 60 minutes in all situations, Ehn's data should stabilize itself, considering he is playing regular minutes with Frölunda's third line now (he played 48 seconds Tuesday night), but for now they have to be taken with a grain of salt.

16n-year-old Finnish prospect Kristian Vesalainen has only played four games with a limited total ice time of 22 minutes, but he would be up to 2.7 points per 60, but obviously 22 minutes of  total time on ice is an incredible small sample size. He is an interesting prospect to keep an eye on, as playing in the SHL at such a young age is no small feat. It will be interesting to see what happens with him next year.

The Habs prospects

The three Montreal Canadiens prospects currently playing in the SHL are posting excellent numbers.

Lehkonen really shines versus his peers in this case as he is currently under the radar for many in the Canadiens community. This analysis should help highlight his skill in a very good league.

It seems clear that the young Finnish player has taken a huge step forward this year, and, even with a workload that spans the entire ice surface, he is performing much better than previously thought. Being top two in both tables with the kind of usage that Lehkonen receives should not be underestimated.

Vejdemo has had a hot streak lately, and his numbers are obviously a bit inflated by this, but it also points to the fact that Vejdemo has adapted to the SHL. He also seems to have gained the coaches' confidence, recently also playing on the power play. It seems Christer Rockström knew what he was doing when he highlighted Lukas Vejdemo in the draft.

Djurgården's third line has been a positive surprise for a team that has punched way above their weight so far this season. It is great as a Montreal fan to see the steps forward that Vejdemo has taken in such a short time.

The skipper of Färjestad, Magnus Nygren, has the same points per 60 minutes as Vejdemo, mostly as Nygren plays more: he has played the third-most minutes in the SHL so far, with an average time of 23:44. But as Färjestad has been struggling recently, Nygren's point production has gone down. Färjestad is in fifth place in the SHL while most had them as a top contender (yours truly included). It seems the team needs to gel a bit more before the playoffs arrive.

Disclaimer: I know this isn't a perfect list, to scrape data from the SHL website with it's limitations is not perfect, I might have missed a prospect, and I might have been a bit to selective of the data. But this should give us a better understanding of the prospects that are performing in the SHL this season, and get to know some new names.