2018 NHL Draft prospect profile: Isac Lundeström is a diamond in need of polishing
The Swedish centre’s game will translate very well to the NHL, and that makes him a top prospect in the upcoming draft.
In his second season among the pros, Isac Lundeström took another step forward as he moved to the centre position in Luleå. Being another of the Swedish players who have stood in the shadow of Rasmus Dahlin this year, Lundeström’s progress is clear, working hard to be better in the faceoff circle and his physical play.
Lundeström centred Sweden’s top line in the World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo, and he did it very well. He has become more defensively aware, and while the opening round of the draft is light on centres, Lundeström is a good option for a team that has need of a player to play in the middle on a second line. While he isn’t the flashiest player, he does the small things right and is the kind of player you like more the more you watch him play.
Birthplace: Gällivare, Sweden
Weight: 185 lbs.
Youth team: Malmbergets AIF
Team: Luleå Hockey
With the move to centre and an added year of growth, Lundeström performed well in his draft year, playing 42 games for SHL team Luleå, scoring 15 points (6G, 9A) and playing 16:04 per game throughout the season, getting time in all situations.
He has a big body and isn’t afraid of throwing it around along the boards and behind the net, creating turnovers and taking the puck to the danger area to cause havoc for goalkeepers. His is relentless in his forecheck, and he can change tempo on the ice in a way that few players his age can achieve.
However what stands out is Lundeström’s vision. While he has a good shot when he decides to unleash it, he often looks for a pass even when he should shoot, instead setting up teammates for a chances.
His zone entries are strong, and he has quick hands that keep up with his top speed. He is, however, known to take the risky play rather than the safe option. This is sometimes visible in the mentioned zone entries where a massed tangle of bodies and sticks won’t deter the Swedish centre from trying to go through everyone, more often that not without success.
This kind of play shows how rough around the edges Lundeström is, and he will need a bit of seasoning before he is ready for the next step. However, his versatility made him a favourite for WJC coach Tomas Montén as he was used extensively on the junior squad in this year’s tournament.
His passing is usually sharp and accurate from, and to, all positions on the ice, and his play with the puck really is his strength. The play without the puck needs to be improved, and it seems that the coaches in Luleå are using the penalty kill as their development tool. Defensive reads and gaps in the defensive zone are the main areas for improvement.
Still, his defensive game can’t be qualified as bad, it is just not up to the level of his offensive strengths. The fact that he went from -5 to a +7 with an increased role and a new position in his second professional season in the SHL points shows that the improvement has started already.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
ISS Hockey: #20
Future Considerations: #21
McKeen’s Hockey: #11
NHL Central Scouting: #8 (EU Skaters)
Hockey Prospect: #20
The team that selects Lundeström is taking the safe bet on a player that will most certainly reach the NHL in a few years. While being a bit rough around the edges, his strengths are there for everyone to see, and while there are weaknesses, Lundeström is keenly aware of them and is working hard to improve his defensive game.
He is not detered by defenders; he actually seems to cherish the challenge, and will take the shortest road possible toward the goal in a more North American style of play, which also should make a transition to the NHL and the smaller ice easier.
The fact that he can play in all three forward positions will make Lundeström an interesting target in the mid to late part of the first round come the 2018 NHL Draft.