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Top 25 Under 25: Axel Holmstrom checks in at 24

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New prospects, who’s this?

NHL: Preseason-Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Vitals

Position: Center

Shoots: Left

Born: June 29th, 1996 (age 22)

Birthplace: Arvidsjaur, Sweden

Height/Weight: 6’1” / 219 lbs

Drafted: 2014, 7th Round, 196th Overall, Detroit Red Wings

Number 24 on our 25 Under 25 prospect list is Axel Holmstrom - and as every article about him must legally mention, he is not related to Tomas Holmstrom.

Axel was selected by the Red Wings in the 7th round of the 2014 NHL Draft so he has been on our radar for a while and is under contract through the 2018-2019 season.

It’s always nice to be excited by a 7th rounder in the modern era, but all has been quiet on the Axel Holmstrom front the past year. Not much chatter about him since injury updates in early 2017.

Due to aforementioned knee injury (and concussion during the playoffs), this past season was his first full season with the Griffins.

How’d that first full AHL season go?

He did what we like our Centers to do - scored some goals, but more often set up goals and fed his wingers. He had 19 assists and 7 goals in his first year campaign, comparable to Elite Faceoff Specialist Hometown Hero and All Around Nice Guy Luke Glendening(™) and his short time in Grand Rapids.

Is it a good thing to pace by Glendening? Well, a 7th rounder isn’t that much better than being undrafted...

Strengths

Axel Holmstrom has hockey smarts, fer sure. It’s encouraging to see him have more assists than goals (but still a solid goal total) because it shows that he isn’t afraid to take the shot but he’s seeing how he can develop the play and is adjusting to the North American #style.

Easy to over-speculate because I want him to succeed, but next season will be a big one.

Not to say he’s all vision and no HUSTLE. He will dig into the corners and fish out the puck to create those scoring opportunities, but isn’t gooning it up and taking penalties even when he is camped out in the Tomas Holmstrom Office.

His special hockey sense isn’t just heightened on the ice, but also off it. He knows what he needs to work on and is putting in the effort to continue improving. A strong work ethic is not uncommon, but the perception of a player’s work ethic by management has proven to be a factor in decision-making.

Weaknesses

Holmstrom needs to continue working on his skating ability, he’s improving but isn’t all the way there yet. This is especially important as the Wings are stocking up the cupboard with faster forwards to the point where Helm looks slow - and not just because he’s getting old.

Axel bulked up a bit, adding on ~20 pounds since last summer. This isn’t a red flag, but it may be a burnt sienna flag as the area of his game most in need of improvement is his skating. Maybe he just added some thunder thigh muscles but I worry that it is actually 20 pounds of GRIT.

He doesn’t have to be a super speedster, but he does have to make sure he’s smart enough to see the future and be in position so he doesn’t have to sprint.

There’s also some concern about injury with him, he has a history of knee injuries although the two past injuries to the same knee weren’t actually the same part of the knee (which is good news) and all indications are that he is still feeling 100% and ready to go.

It’s something to keep an eye on because knees are tricky, but he’s young enough to bounce back without having problems down the road.

Looking Forward

Should Zetterberg retire (SHUT UP), the Wings will be looking a little thin at center. Which is not an unusual situation for the Red Wings, and is a good situation for Axel as this could mean someone - be it new kid or well seasoned Griffin - gets promoted to the Wings and Axel gets more time in the spotlight for Grand Rapids.

He’s not going to be a top line center, but he could potentially slide into a 3rd line role for the Wings in the near future. The big howevers are does he impress enough to get another contract after this season and what happens when we’ve dropped significant deadweight cap burdens to set up the 2021-2022 season?

Bottom Line

Axel isn’t particularly flashy, and neither is he a GRIT machine, which may make him somewhat forgettable now that we have shiny new prospects to talk (yell) about.

While it feels like he may experience the Grand Rapids Logjam so many of our forwards have gotten stuck in, or head back home to Sweden, don’t count him out of the Winged Wheel just yet.

Poll

How do you feel about Axel Holmstrom at 24?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Too high
    (95 votes)
  • 19%
    Too low
    (132 votes)
  • 66%
    Yeah, that’s about right
    (458 votes)
685 votes total Vote Now

Here’s the ranking so far...

24. Axel Holmstrom, Grand Rapids Griffins
25. Jack Adams, Union College