The 2016 NHL Draft has concluded, but there are still many questions as to who the new faces in the Red Wings organization are. Many of those questions revolve around 4th-round pick defenseman Alfons Malmstrom, and 7th-round pick forward Mattias Elfstrom, both of which hail from Sweden.
When the picks were announced, I scurried through a basic Google search to try and find any information on these newcomers, but failed to find anything that told me what kind of players they are. Even looking through scouting notes and draft guides surrendered zero results. That’s right, Ken Holland went way off the grid for these kids. Why? One can only assume that Swedish super-scout Hakan Andersson saw something in these kids that not even the NHL Central Scouting Service saw. Thankfully, I had some time to speak with Andersson and pick his brain about what he sees in these two mysterious Swedish athletes. The results were, enlightening, to say the very least. Andersson’s knowledge on European hockey is so rich and complex that I feel you could spend a week by his side, watching and scouting players throughout Europe, and not even learn a quarter of what he knows.
Alfons Malmstrom - Defenseman
Weight: 190 lbs
While his numbers are not staggering by any means (two goals, six assists in 41 games with Örebro in SuperElit), according to Andersson, their objective in this draft was to acquire a kid who could end up being a hopeful elite puck-moving defenseman. Malmstrom was the contrary to this objective. "I think he’s a Mattias Ekholm kind of player. The kind of category of player is a big defensive defenseman that has good compete level, and he blocks shots, and he plays physical." Now, that’s not exactly the most high of praises in the eyes of most Red Wings fans, but Andersson did mention his fantastic mobility for a growing kid who will be pushing 6’4" in the coming years. If you ask me, I’m not as high on this pick as the team is. It really sounds like Jonathan Ericsson 2.0 when you hear stuff to the tune of "we just want him to be safe with the puck, he doesn’t necessarily have to be creative."
Defensemen like this are quickly becoming obsolete in the NHL. If I was a betting man, I would say Malmstrom isn’t really a clear part of the future unless he develops his game with a new dynamic. However, the next player really intrigues me...
Mattias Elfstrom - Forward
Weight: 194 lbs
Elfstrom is a big power-forward kid who can play both center and wing. Unlike his fellow countryman in Malmstrom, he’s shown a ton of upside with his offensive abilities. In the 2015-2016 SuperElit season, he notched 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists) in 43 games and had four points in three playoff games with the Malmo Redhawks. "There is a player in Windsor, Logan Brown, who went early in the first round, he is that type of player." Brown was drafted 11th overall by the Ottawa Senators, who plays in the OHL, a league that could be argued as lesser competition than the one Elfstrom is in. "He is a tall, big forward with a lot of skill and hockey sense." Mind you, Elfstrom was also left off of the NHL CSS rankings completely, so it is highly likely that no NHL teams had him on their radar.
From what Hakan Andersson told me, he was pushing for Elfstrom to be drafted earlier than he was - "[Tyler Wright] kept saying to me, ‘do you think we can play the draft a little bit? Do a lot of people know about him?’ and I had to admit, no they don’t, but when you like someone you need to grab them, but this worked out great for us." Andersson obviously talking about what a steal Elfstrom is at 197th overall. What’s even more awesome is that when asked if other teams knew about him he said, point-blank, "nope." That’s how good Hakan Andersson is at his job. He can find those highly-skilled diamonds in the rough, and turn them into late-round sleeper picks. In fact, Andersson had him in his top-ten on the Red Wings’ European list. Sounds like Red Wings may have found yet another late-round gem because of their Euro-scouting master, Hakan Andersson.
While Malmstrom doesn’t sound appealing, the team’s heavy emphasis on defensemen in this draft gave them a handful of different players, with all different styles of playing. While none of the names jump out at you, there is a lot of raw skill that has high potential of being developed into something special one day. Say what you want about the Red Wings’ 2016 Draft class, but I think they did quite well for themselves.