The Toronto Maple Leafs took Timothy Liljegren with their first pick at this year’s draft. They took Eemeli Räsänen with their second. A Swede and a Finn. Always good to keep a balance, like putting salt and pepper on your fries.
I looked at the Finns who will be at development camp along with Räsänen here, today it’s time to look at the Swedes.
We begin with Liljegren, and I refer you to the two excellent draft pieces on him:
Joining him are:
Gustafsson is a smallish centre/right wing who plays for Örebro in the Swedish system. He doesn’t score a lot, is only 18, and is only just moving onto the men’s teams. The only thing of note I can find about him is that after his set of games in the SHL, he went back to junior, played in the playoffs and scored the most goals of anyone.
The other connection to Toronto, flimsy, is that his brother was a defender with Frölunda, who is now with the AHL team of the Chicago Blackhawks. This has to be scouts at work here picking out this guy out of a sea of undrafted players I don’t see a lot of indication he was passed over by NHL Central Scouting in error though.
Stridsberg is from the HV71 club originally, is 22 now and is a defenceman. A few years ago, he came to America to play in the NAHL, a junior league. Not just America though. He played in Fairbanks, Alaska. After two years there, scoring a rather high number of points, he went to college at Arizona State for NCAA hockey.
This is a hell of a journey, even if all he gets out of it is an American education.
One note on his junior career: The NAHL seems to be a high-scoring league and in his last year there, three of the top four forwards by points were on his team. Regardless, it’s important to have a man from Arizona in every Leafs development camp.
Engvall is a Leafs draft pick whose rights expire next year, so it’s decision time on him. At 21, he will start his first full season in the SHL soon. He was signed to HV71, a very good team, after his most successful year ever in the Allsvenskan.
Engvall played one unremarkable game on the Marlies this spring.
Kozhevnikov plays out in the East Conference of the Russian system for Yugra Khanty-Mansiys. He’s 18, a good sized forward who can score okay in the MHL, and he was just taken by the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL import draft. The Spits are owned by Warren Rychel, if you’ve forgotten.
He’ll be an interesting guy to watch in the OHL, and see if he is a good prospect who went a little under that radar playing in a Siberian oil town. His home town is about halfway between that of Vladislav Kara and the country of Kazakhstan.
Speaking of Kara, who is originally from the very far north in Russia above the Arctic Circle, he is not coming to this camp. The KHL and other Russian league seasons start much earlier than North American hockey. The first KHL games are usually in the last week of August. It’s a bit of a surprise to see any Russian players at this camp other than Nikita Korostelev, who Seldo profiled with the rest of the OHLers.
Chebykin is one of the surprises, as he plays in the Dynamo Moscow system. He will likely play on the VHL team full time this year, and his goal has to be making the big club. If he can’t, and he is only 20, so he’s not at crunch time quite yet, he will still be signalling that an NHL career is very unlikely.
What he needs to do at camp is show that he has the fundamental game beyond his very poor points pace so far in his hockey career.
Bobylev, who you’ll also see on the WHL profile list, is at the turning point of his career. His rights expire next summer, and since he came back to play junior hockey, he can either play an overage junior year if his team wants him or he can move onto the Marlies on an AHL deal if the Leafs are offering. He’s just 20 as well, but short of returning to Russia, those are his options right now.
If the Leafs aren’t giving a contract to Dominic Toninato, then they aren’t to Bobylev or any other camp invite. Not right away, at least. They would need to thin the ranks with a trade first. So for many of these drafted players, they are in limbo and won’t get any immediate reward for their play at this camp.