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Norwegian news says Maple Leafs have talked to prospect Philip Granath

Who is Philip Granath? Good question.

Rögle BK
Generic image of a Rögle player.
Photo by City-Press via Getty images

Translated, that says that Philip Granath has had talks with Vegas and Toronto. And that’s about the whole story. Norwegian TV is doing a feature on one of their players who is doing fairly well in Sweden, and the subject of the draft came up.

Granath, who is 19 (October birthday), was ranked by NHL Central Scouting for the 2021 draft at 111th for international skaters. That puts him well outside the top 225 overall, and so it’s not a surprise he went undrafted. Now that he’s an overager turning 20 this year, he’s not ranked at all in the midterm rankings.

Before those ranking came out, he said this (Google Translate)

- How much do you think about the NHL draft to be completed in July?

- Honestly, it’s not something I think about at all. If I’m drafted, it’s really cool, but I do not think about it. I have had some conversations with different teams, he answers.

Granath has had talks with the Vegas Golden Knights and Toronto Maple Leafs, among others.

- Do you think you can be drafted this season?

- Yes, I absolutely think so, Granath replied on Wednesday.

He also has zero points in the SHL so far this year in 20 games. Why would the Leafs talk to him? As usual with prospects, there’s always more to the story than the current year’s points.

In 2018, at age 15, Granath moved to Sweden to join the well-thought of development program with Frölunda. He immediately played J18 and some J20 for them, and has some impressive point stats.

In 2019-2020, he played mostly J20 and with nine points in 31 games, might have been challenged a bit too hard. Most high-end NHL-drafted prospects are in the SHL at least part-time pre-draft. Players still in junior are usually second-round and later picks. Granath, while he was born in 2002, had another year to go before he was eligible.

Unfortunately for him, 2020-2021 was a very difficult year to make an impression in hockey. Seasons were cut short or cancelled, and he played 19 J20 games, two in the SHL and most interestingly, 18 in HockeyEttan where he had 15 points. HockeyEttan is first division Swedish hockey, so it’s a men’s league, but below Allsvenskan in difficulty. Granath seems to have been very up to the task, though.

This year, he’s moved on to Rögle, where he has split his time evenly between the SHL and J20. In junior this year, he is seventh in points per game for players with at least 10 games played. In his prior year in J20, he was 21st by that same measure. He’s turning 20 in nine months, though, so we’d like to see him in men’s hockey succeeding. His team is in first place in the SHL, though, so their desire to focus on prospects will wane as the season progresses.

Granath is 5’7” and is listed this season on the SHL site at 67 kg or 148 lb, smaller than his listed weight on the NHL Central Scouting list from 2021. And now you know most of the reason a successful J20 player of obvious skill went totally undrafted, and now unranked. He’s a right-wing, offensively focused, but is not just a passer, he scores at a good rate as well.

This video interview from Rögle, in Swedish, but with a lot of junior game action, shows you his playing style, and naturally how much smaller he is than everyone else. His coach says he has a good hockey IQ, and has a nose for the net. When you watch him, you see deep edge-work, great agility, and some decent straight speed skating — not something a very light player can achieve easily.

If you’re reminded of Nick Abruzzese, so am I. He’s too small for the NHL now, but he’s intriguing, and not all players are exactly positioned in their development to get drafted at 18. That’s why free agent signings often work out so well.

So, will the Leafs draft him? They almost certainly will have their seventh-round pick, and Granath likely has more skill than most of the other choices in that round, but they might not have to draft him. They might be able to, should they chose to, sign him post-draft.

Oh, and number 88 up there in the photo? He played for Rögle for 17 games in 2013-2014 when they were in Allsvenskan. He had eight points in 18 games at age 18 pre-draft. He had better results on a loan to Södertälje, also in Allsvenskan where he played with David Pastrnak.

That’s the difference between not drafted and taken eighth overall.