The Red Wings organization have prided themselves in their ability to find raw talent in later rounds of the NHL Draft. Players like Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Gustav Nyquist, Teemu Pulkkinen, the list goes on. One of the latest findings of Swedish super scout Hakan Andersson is the 6'1" 198 lbs centerman out of Arvidsjaur, Sweden named Axel Holmstrom. The Red Wings acquired Holmstrom in the 2014 Draft at 196th overall. Having no relation to the former Red Wing Tomas Holmstrom, as an 18-year-old, Axel had a breakout season in the SHL 20 points in 44 regular season games, and a staggering 18 points in 15 playoff games. Keep in mind, players who had that sort of production at his age are that of the Sedin twins.
Axel Holmstrom can be described as a dogged two-way forward, with tenacious forechecking. The 19-year-old Swede plays with raw energy that simply rubs off on the players around him. Having just signed his entry level deal with the Red Wings in June, Holmstrom will play one more season in the SHL before making his transition to North America to start his path with the Detroit club.
Holmstrom was a prospect that when drafted in 2014, was a bit of a small name. Heck, most any players taken in the seventh round are no-namers at the beginning. It took Holmstrom little to no time to make it known that he's more than just another face in the Red Wings' deep pool of prospects. After a productive rookie year in the Swedish pro league, Holmstrom now finds himself being ranked higher than players like Anthony Mantha, the former Red Wings top prospect by folks like Corey Pronman. I guess we need to ask the question... Has Hakan Andersson done it again? Have the Red Wings found another future NHLer late in the Draft? It's hard to tell at this point, but Holmstrom appears to have all the tools to make himself a solid top-nine center.
During the WJC, I'll admit that it was a lot of fun watching him play a role with Team Sweden. He played in all situations, sitting himself in front of the goalie on the power play, and forechecking the breakout against opponents. Holmstrom really seems to be one of those true utility players who have the offensive potential to be a scoring forward in the foreseeable future.
Holmstrom boasts a favorable frame-size for a 19-year-old, but if he is to succeed at the next level, two main concerns are his strength, and his skating abilities. He isn't a bad skater by any means, I just that if he's going to be a mainstay two-way center, he's going to need a bit more speed and efficiency with his first three strides. With more training and development, the Red Wings can add the missing pieces to his game, and turn him into a true weapon that they can use in all situations.
I know it sounds ho-hum because of the Red Wings history of grabbing some very important players in later rounds, but the truth of the matter is that if you grab a guy in the 7th round nowadays and people outside your organization are still talking about him more than a year later, you've got plenty of room for optimism. Such is the case with Axel Holmstrom, the 196th overall pick in 2014. The kid with a great name went on to wow at the World Juniors alongside higher-touted Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander, then spent the following season in the Swedish men's league proving it wasn't linemates stirring the drink.
I haven't seen much of the kid play, but he's got good size and tenacity. He also seems to have a pretty good head screwed on his shoulders. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he can do after he comes over to North America, likely late this season.
For a projected 3rd line center/winger in the NHL, Axel Holmstrom has received a lot of international praise in the last year. He’s a gritty player who seems to enjoy playing a grinding game and going to the dirty areas of the ice and going to the front of the net. The smart, skilled, gritty center has good hands and hockey sense and his stock continues to rise. Last year he was the Swedish League’s leading playoff scorer and his 7 goals and 18 points broke Henrik and Daniel Sedin’s league record for playoff points by a junior. Not only did he break the record as a an 18 year old playing in the SHL (not the Junior 20 league), but he also led the entire league in playoff points and was named the Swedish Junior Player of the Year. His skating is only ok and I’m sure it’s something the Wings have him focusing on improving and that’s the most noticeable flaw when watching him play.
Holmstrom’s stock has skyrocketed since being drafted by the Wings and he could very well be the next 7th round steal/gem the Wings pick up. A lot of the hype surrounding Axel isn’t because he’s projected to be a top 6 center or forward in the NHL, but probably partly because of how late he was taken and how relatively unknown he was before being drafted. I think Axel has the potential to become a 3rd line center or potentially winger who plays a hard gritty style but who also has decent offensive abilities, good hands, and is also smart. I’m going to guess he’s 3-4 years away from being ready for full time NHL duty, in the meantime we get to ride along the Holmstrom train and see where it goes.
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The once seventh round pick has found himself among the top ten prospects in the Red Wings system after a successful rookie campaign in the SHL. With an impending move to North America coming later in 2016, Axel Holmstrom will look to continue to grow as a future part of the Red Wings blueprint. He's an exciting player, no doubt about it. Homer 2.0, FTW!