He's a leader. He's the Swedish David Backes. He's fantastic at both ends. He plays a 200-foot game. He'll make the Canadiens out of training camp. He oozes potential.
Until Jacob de la Rose plays a game in North of America, exactly what Jacob de la Rose is as a hockey player is up in the air.
To say that de la Rose's North American debut is highly anticipated would be a bit of an understatement. I'll put it this way, Jacob de la Rose could never play a game for the Canadiens and he'd still be the most memorable 34th-overall pick the franchise has made to date, although his competition is Martin St. Amour and Kelly Greenbank.
Mirroring his club's jump to the Swedish Elite League, the Leksands forward jumped from 17th in 2013 to 10th at mid-season. De la Rose now appears on this list solidly at number seven and joins some of the more coveted pieces in the Canadiens' prospect cupboard.
De la Rose grabs the attention of Habs followers because no one really knows for sure what he can bring to the lineup/organization. He's young. He's performed well on the international stage. He has size. He's played in a league above that of his peers. And of course he's mysterious - as in he's European. It's not like Martin Reway where we've seen his game in a North American context. (Please permit me the worst joke in EOTP history) The bloom hasn't fallen off de la Rose.
It's clear to see that everyone on the EOTP panel sees de la Rose as a top-10 talent on the list. No one has him lower than tenth and higher than fifth. Jacob de la Rose's inability to break past fifth more than likely stems from the fact that de la Rose has yet to play a season in North America. While we've seen him excel in international tourneys, he's still somewhat of an untested quantity when it comes to the North American game.
An obvious strength for de la Rose is his size. He's a 6'3" skill player with above-average skating ability. If you're able to package that size with smooth skating and speed, you will always have teams willing to give you a shot. Thankfully, de la Rose isn't just simply the Great Khali with a decent set of wheels.
De la Rose has good offensive skills that stem from his speed, size and checking ability. His willingness to initiate contact in the offensive zone, coupled with his speed, not only creates space for linemates, but also allows him to duck defenders, get into scoring position, and capitalize on mistakes.
The Swedish forward has been typified as a leader and throughout his brief career he's shown a willingness to play defensively, accept responsibility, and assume whatever role is thrust on him. De la Rose will add to a great burgeoning group of future Habs leaders in Hamilton including Morgan Ellis, Charles Hudon, and Greg Pateryn.
Size, speed, leadership, above-average ability at both ends of the rink, and a penchant for hits, de la Rose has a lot in his toolbox. His willingness to accept a defensive role as well as embracing the forecheck bode well for the future, as these talents should only improve in North America.
For all the offensive skill that de la Rose has, goal scoring does not come naturally to him and is not the strongest part of the game - it's probably not even the second strongest part of the game and that will probably hurt him in the eyes of Montreal fans who are drooling over this young Swede. Goals are going to be slow in coming at first for de la Rose, especially as he transitions to a new, young, low-scoring team in Hamilton. If you're only looking at goals and offensive production next season, you may not view de la Rose as a top ten talent. That part of his game will develop, but it will never be what defines him as a player.
De la Rose's weight (190 lbs.) relative to his height (6'3") is a minor temporary concern. It's not odd for a teenager entering his first professional camp to be slightly undersized. De la Rose has the height to put on some weight and add some strength which will undoubtedly help his already strong physical game and may improve his goal scoring opportunities as well. The good news is he isn't Alfie Turcotte (5'9") and subsisting on a diet of milkshakes and hamburgers for the summer, the kid has room to grow.
Let's hope that Jacob de la Rose enjoys the Hammer more than Magnus Nygren did because de la Rose is heading to B.A. Johnston's hometown. Depending on what happens out of training camp, de la Rose should find himself either on the first or second line in Hamilton.
It's hard to predict exactly what sort of production we should expect from Jacob de la Rose. The last two NHLers that Leksands produced were Philadelphia Flyer left wing Michael Raffl and Nashville Predators centre Filip Forsberg, both of whom played for Leksands when the club was in the second tier of the Swedish hockey system. Raffl was a nice surprise for the Flyers after leading Leksands in scoring in 2012-13 with 46 points in 49 games and Forsberg transitioned decently enough to Milwaukee and the AHL after scoring 33 points in 38 games with Leksands as an 18-year-old. In that same season de la Rose tallied six goals and six assists in 38 games as a 17-year-old.
Forsberg's game is a lot more offensively creative than de la Rose's and Raffl has the benefit of maturity and experience in his favour, so it's not likely that de la Rose will produce quite at their clip just yet.
This past season, in the Swedish Elite League, de la Rose posted 7-6-13 totals in 49 games playing most third/fourth-line minutes against men. If de la Rose put up numbers at a similar clip in Hamilton without losing too much of what I like about his game (the responsibility, the hits that create open ice, the speed), I'd consider it a win. The Habs can afford to bring de la Rose along slowly so while his stats may not always reflect the hype, he will eventually turn into a solid defensively aware NHL forward.