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2018 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25: #22 Lukas Vejdemo

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Vejdemo maintains a spot in the Top 25 as he prepares to begin his North American journey.

SHL
SHL
Bobbo Lauhage/Kamerapress.se

The Montreal Canadiens signed Lukas Vejdemo directly after the SHL season finished. Still, Vejdemo rises just a single spot in this year’s ranking.

There’s no doubt a lot of it has to do with the centre depth currently in the organization, his point production in the SHL, and, most likely, the unknown quantity that is Vejdemo, with next to no coverage in North America.

Djurgården finished second in the league over the regular season and fell in Game 7 of their SHL semi-final. A significant factor leading to that elimination was Vejdemo’s absence, as he was knocked out of action in Game 5.

“Djurgården’s game changed completely with Lukas out of the lineup,” one coach of a playoff team said to me. However, it was not only in the playoffs where Vejdemo’s game stood out.

Image credit: EliteProspects

Former Canadien René Bourque believed the Canadiens would “really like him,” when speaking with Eyes On The Prize in November of 2017 after Djurgården’s quick start to the season. “He will be an NHLer for sure.”

During that start, Vejdemo was used on the top line by head coach Robert Ohlsson, due to a few injuries on the roster. Vejdemo was producing offence at the same level as Artturi Lehkonen did in his last season before joining the Canadiens.

Vejdemo pushed offensive play for his team in a somewhat new role, but still held on to his usual strengths: his hockey IQ, skating, and being defensively responsible. He was trusted in the important situations at the end of the game when Djurgården needed to score, and he delivered some important goals.

The net presence that Vejdemo started to have was made possible by the weight he added, and thanks to growing confidence, as showcased below a few seconds into a game against Färjestad.

As players returned to Djurgården’s lineup, and with the success of Axel Jonsson-Fjällby and the Davidsson brothers in the World Junior Hockey Championship, Vejdemo was thrust back into his normal role with the team: the shutdown centre and penalty-killer.

That is where his game really excels. Numerous times during the season he played a good game to cancel out the top line of the other team, maybe no better than against the eventual champion Växjö Lakers, neutralizing the playoff MVP and Rookie of the Year, Elias Pettersson, in a game in early February.

Voting

Vejdemo received ballots ranging from 10th to 37th — one of the larger ranges in the series — once more showing that there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the player from the capital of Sweden. The EOTP readers had him at 23, more or less where Vejdemo ended up in the final rankings.

Top 25 Under 25 History

While it is a bit up and down for Vejdemo through the years, it’s not a rollercoaster ride but rather an undulating cruise through the countryside, having entered the project in his first year of eligibility at number 21 in 2015, and this year he still climbs a spot to number 22 compared to last year’s position.

Strengths

Vejdemo’s skating is top-notch. He brings a great awareness and is smart on the ice. He is, in many respects, a coach’s favourite, able to be placed in any role on a team and succeed.

Thanks to his skating and tactical acumen, he is rarely out of place when on the ice. Coach Ohlsson has used Vejdemo in all short-handed situations, and Vejdemo rises to the challenge in those circumstances.

His vision is what usually stands out the most. He reads the game well and usually chooses the right move in a zone exit or zone entry, able to gain separation for both with his skating. He has been used to anchor lines with rookies, giving them a stable presence when nerves might otherwise get the best of them.

The most critical improvement of this past season was the offensive output that Vejdemo generated when he got the chance in the opening months of the season. He broke his SHL high in points with ease, and it would have been a better record were he kept in the same role for the full season.

Weaknesses

It is almost like a broken record. From the first time Vejdemo entered the Top 25 Under 25, it has been the same mantra: “Work on your shot.”

Vejdemo knows it himself, and it seemed to have given him a boost in the early part of the season. It still does not come naturally to him, and it seems it will be more tip-ins or snapshots that will be scored from Vejdemo’s stick, even if he isn’t afraid to pull off a dangle when the opportunity arises.

Projection

Vejdemo showed promise at the start of the season to be that offensive player who wanted to carry his team when needed. However, with breakthroughs from other young players with a skill set different from Vejdemo’s, he was pushed into his old role; one he still performed very well in.

It was clear that Vejdemo has widened his game. He improved in the areas where he needed to improve, and he continued to develop in the areas he was already strong.

With an improved centre depth in the Montreal organization, Vejdemo will have to battle hard for a chance to stake out the role he wants to have going forward. He has played professionally for three full seasons in arguably one of the top-four leagues in the world, and will be up to that challenge.

Vejdemo has played on the wing before, even though he is a natural centre, and this versatility makes him valuable. He will most likely have to fight another Swede for the roster spot in Montreal this year, but Vejdemo has confirmed that he will stay in North America whether he takes that spot or not.

It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff and GM choose to utilize his skill set, because as Vejdemo has shown in the SHL, he has all the tools to become an effective player.