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2020 NHL Draft prospect profile: Emil Andrae packs a lot into a small package

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Can the Swede become the next small defenceman taken early in the Draft?

HV71

There was a time when being the defenceman the size of Emil Andrae would be a disqualifier at the NHL Draft. The Swedish defenceman overcomes his size to have some real buzz heading into the Draft.

Birthplace: Västervik, Sweden
Date of birth: February 23, 2002
Shoots: Left
Position: Defence
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 183 lbs.
Team: HV71 (Sweden)

His calling card is his offensive production, and he was the top defender in scoring in Sweden’s U20 SuperElit league with 11 goals and 27 assists in 40 games despite still being eligible for the U18 team. He’s been at or around a point-per-game throughout his career at various levels.

EliteProspects

Andrae also played 10 games at the senior level in the SHL, but did not earn a point. He will likely split time between the U20 team and the senior team again this season. He added 12 points in 13 games at the international level representing Sweden as the U18 team’s captain.

Strengths

For a defenceman Andrae’s size to be looked at seriously in the first two rounds of the NHL Draft, you know the offensive part of his game has to be an asset. Watching him skate with the puck is something to watch. At the junior level, he can make some plays that make your jaw drop and that other players wouldn’t even think of trying.

He’s considered to be one of the better stick-handlers in the draft class, and he doesn’t lose speed when skating with the puck. His vision is also very good, and is able to make passes and quarterback a power play without any issue.

The offensive part of his game is something you can see translate to the next level.

As captain of the U18 team, Andrae is a player who is praised for his leadership. He goes all out when he’s on the ice, and he has a lot of the attributes you want to see in a top prospect.

Despite his size, he can be considered to be a little wrecking ball. At the senior level, his offensive game was less of an asset, but there were some big hits that had scouts surprised. If you’re an opposing player, you need to be aware when Andrae is on the ice as he doesn’t shy away from the physical side of the game.

Weaknesses

Let’s be real, the size has the potential to be a real problem. There has been more defenders Andrae’s size to make the NHL, but they are more the exceptions that prove the rule. There are some things that Andrae will need to improve in his game in order to make the NHL in order to make up for his lack of size.

The first thing is his skating. For a player his size, the skating is not as good as you would want to see in order to take him very high in the draft. As mentioned, his straight line skating with the puck is not an issue, but his recovery skating is not as elite as you would want to see. The chances he takes in the offensive zone come back to hurt him as he struggles to make his way back.

There are scouts who think his skating is not an issue, but there are enough question marks from scouts that it needs to be something you look into before drafting him.

One thing you see with great junior hockey players is that their decision making needs filtering. They are often so much better than other players that their bad decisions and mistakes don’t tend to hurt them. Obviously, as they progress to the next levels that part of the game gets punished.

When Andrae played at the senior level, his offensive game didn’t stick out as much. On the whole, it’s not too much of a worry. Under-18 defenders playing with men will be sheltered and shouldn’t be expected to be dominant. If he continues to make better decisions with the puck, it will help his overall game.

While he likes the physical play, there are question marks when he plays in the defensive zone. He isn’t a very good rush defender, and his decision making in coverage can also be an issue. It’s another thing that keeps him from being seen as a potential elite top pairing defender.

Rankings

Elite Prospects: #52
Future Considerations: #42
Hockey Prospect: #62
McKeen’s Hockey: #51
McKenzie/TSN: #67
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #21
NHL Central Scouting: #15 (European skaters)

Andrae’s rankings are solidly in the first three rounds, with some rankings as high as the first round, and as low as round three. As good as his offensive game is, there are question marks beyond his size that will have teams concerned to use a high pick on him.

The trend is shifting a little bit, with players like Quinn Hughes, Samuel Girard, and Erik Brannstrom being taken in the top two rounds and becoming NHL players. Andrae is ranked more closely to Girard than the other two, but there are similar obstacles to overcome.

The fact that he does have 10 games against men in the SHL will help scouts and talent evaluators see him at that level already. His numbers don’t mean as much as the shifts he puts on tape at that level.

There is potential for Andrae to become an elite defenceman, but more likely you’re looking at a second pairing defender who will be able to contribute offensively, and especially on the power play.

There is more risk involved with this player, but there will come a point in the draft where the risk is tolerable and with some time we may look back and wonder why he wasn’t taken earlier. There’s also the potential he serves as another cautionary tale when betting on smaller, skilled defenders.