Quite a few players in this year’s draft hail from Sweden. While focus has been on predicted first overall Rasmus Dahlin and the defender that broke Erik Karlsson’s record in the U20 SuperElite, Adam Boqvist, a few have been able to learn their trade in the shadows.
One of these players is Skellefteå AIK’s Jonatan Berggren.
Birthplace: Uppsala, Sweden
Date of birth: July 16, 2000
Weight: 183 lbs.
Youth team: Enköpings SK, Sweden
Pro team: Skellefteå AIK, SHL
Berggren is a winger who led the SuperElite in scoring this season with 62 points (18G, 44A) in 64 games. In international play, including the Under-18 World Championship, he posted 23 points (11G, 12A) in 20 games.
What makes him such a productive player, even if he faltered a bit at the senior level? He has a great hockey IQ and vision for the game that allows him to outsmart his peers. He has a good shot, but he doesn't rely on it as much. He is instead known for being able to constantly deliver the puck to teammates in high-danger areas.
His skating is top-level, too. This makes him dangerous as he can drive toward the net with speed or go on the cycle and draw defenders off their assignment, setting up teammates in open ice. The speed and skill while on his skates also makes him elusive and hard to check for defenders — something that Berggren is keen to exploit. He can make an opponent look foolish by turning him inside out with his mobility, and has deft hands to occasionally make exceptional moves to set up a scoring chance.
Jonatan Berggren wears #48 with Skellefteå AIK and #17 with Sweden's U18 team.
With a high grip on his stick, Berggren has his head and torso up at all times, enabling him to quickly find passing options after waltzing through traffic.
The clip below is another good example of Berggren's talent and setup abilities.
On the wall, sliding away from the scrum after having won the puck for his teammate, Berggren expects to receive the puck back. He makes a quick shoulder check to locate a passing target, sees his other linemate in front of the net, catches the puck on his backhand — attracting the defender as he turns his back to the play — and makes a rapid and precise feed to the now uncovered slot to set up the goal.
Because of his vision and physical play, and his low centre of gravity and excellent balance that make it tough to force him off the puck, he has drawn weak comparisons to Peter Forsberg.
The leg strength of Berggren is good, or even very good. But from the waist up, he needs to add muscle in order to play at the top level in Sweden next season. While he doesn’t flee from contact, he can avoid it thanks to his excellent skating when playing against his peers. Stepping up to the SHL level will mean more experienced, stronger and faster players, ones who will be able to force him off the puck easier, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the professional game.
While Berggren stands at 5’10’’ or 5’11’’ (depending on your source), he is still considered undersized. Quite a few NHL players today have had success while being shorter than he is (e.g., Krug, Marchand, Arvidsson, and Gaudreau), and there appear to be more players fitting that description in the draft each year.
Berggren has something of a double-edge sword to him as well. He is very passionate, and leads from the front for his team. However, sometimes when things don’t go his way, he has been known to complain a bit too much to the referees, causing him to lose focus on the game.
Future Considerations: #44
The Hockey News: #36
ISS Hockey: #30
McKeen’s Hockey: #28
NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters): #30
The last two players with numbers similar to Berggren in the SuperElite were Lias Andersson (NYR) and Jesper Boqvist (NJD), and that bodes well for his continuous development and projection.
Berggren only had a 10-game stint in the SHL this season, but it should not be held against him that he didn’t get to play more in Sweden’s top league; Skellefteå was stacked with good players, and made a run into the SHL Final in the end. Instead, Berggren more or less destroyed the competition in the SuperElite, where he had five more points than the second best player in four fewer games.
Berggren is a leader who will not shy away from responsibility, and this is something that quite a few NHL GMs would want to capitalize on. You would have to presume that he will be able to rein in his temper when he doesn’t have to lead at the next level directly from the start.
He is also sound in the defensive zone. He will put the work in, but can sometimes try the fancy move to pick the pocket of the opponent in order to counter-attack faster, rather than to play the full defensive game. This is another thing that will be adjusted with experience. If Berggren works out hard and gains that upper-body strength to support himself more in the puck battles, there is a great chance that he will exceed his draft position by miles.
Berggren will need about two seasons to mature in the SHL before taking a step over to North America. I have seen a few complaints about him signing a four-year contract with Skellefteå, but I would not be worried. These contracts have an NHL clause in them as standard. If he is drafted in the first round, the CBA would solve that problem too.
The question is what Montreal would do if he is still there at 28-32 where some draft rankings have him. Trade up? Yes, they should.