Acquired in January for former playoff hero Dustin Tokarski, Max Friberg was a welcome addition to a St. John's IceCaps roster that was lacking scoring forwards. With the rash of injuries in both the NHL and AHL, the roster in St. John's was rather thin, but Friberg made the most of his chances and became one of head coach Sylvain Lefebvre's most trusted forwards.
He'll be 24 years old within a few weeks of the season starting, making him one of the older players in St. John's this year. As such, it's likely we'll see him shoulder the load that was carried by former captain Gabriel Dumont. While possessing high-level skills with the puck and a relentless work ethic, Friberg has to figure out a way to up his point totals this upcoming year.
Votes for Friberg were quite spread out overall, with Stephen and Matt ranking him 15th, while Aruny and Mitch had him at 34th and 35th, respectively. It's hard to argue with the rankings across the board, as he is an older prospect who might not have the same upside as recent draft picks.
Friberg actually ended up tied with another skater, and is a co-owner of the 25th spot in 2016.
Top 25 Under 25 History
This is the first showing for the Swede in this series, as he was a member of the Anaheim Ducks organization until January, 2016.
Friberg's biggest strength is his outstanding two-way play on the ice. He's dangerous with and without the puck in the offensive zone, and his outstanding defensive acumen allows him to take crucial minutes in his own end as well. He possesses a drive that never stops in the game, making him a relentless forechecker and a nightmare for opposing teams to handle every night.
Friberg is not without offensive skills either. He's unafraid to drive the net, looking for rebounds despite his small stature. He also performs admirably as a playmaker, using his speed and deceptive movements to back down defenders and create space for his linemates.
The Swede also serves as a jack-of-all-trades for the IceCaps, able to play the powerplay, penalty kill, and anywhere from first- to third-line centre with relative ease. His ability to adapt to new lines and situations makes him an invaluable asset to a young squad still adjusting to the professional game. With a full year in St. John's looming, it's highly likely we see Friberg easily top last year's performance and possibly earn some time in the NHL if called upon.
While Friberg is consistently one of the more talented forwards on the ice for the IceCaps, he tends to suffer from slumps from time to time. This could easily be attributed to his quality of linemates shifting from Nikita Scherbak and Michael McCarron to Brandon McNally and Mark MacMillan on a game-to-game basis. If Friberg wants to crack the Canadiens roster at some point, he'll have to start proving he can carry lines, even if they aren't up to his playing level.
The other major knock is his size. Friberg stands just 5'10", but at 200 punds he's built like a small tank. He does occasionally get pushed around by the knuckle draggers of the AHL, but his speed and skills more than make up for a few inches in height.
Currently Friberg will be penciled in to take over for departed captain Dumont, mainly as the team's go-to forward in most situations. With how much Sylvain Lefebvre shuffles his lineups, it's impossible to pinpoint where he'll slot in, but rest assured he'll be playing big minutes in the top six.
There's no shortage of quality linemates for him to play alongside; whether it be fellow Swede Jacob de la Rose, or the newly signed veteran Chris Terry, there's a multitude of choices for Friberg this year. In late-season action, playing alongside de la Rose and Michael McCarron, they formed a dominant scoring line for the IceCaps; this was good for de la Rose in particular who struggled to find the net all year.
As for his chances at the NHL, there's a major logjam in front of Friberg right now, and while he may be a useful bottom six player, he's competing with a lot of high end talent right now. Players like McCarron and de la Rose, who Michel Therrien loved to use last season, the likes of top AHL star Charles Hudon, and the uber-talented Nikita Scherbak all likely stand in his way on the road to the NHL. That being said, this season is a big chance for Friberg to prove he belongs in that discussion, and with an expanded role coming this year he's got an absolutely golden chance to prove himself.