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Maple Leafs' Top 25 Under 25: Carl Grundström debuts at No. 23

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The 2016 #57th overall pick makes his first appearance in the T25U25

Carl Grundström, bolstered by a strong season playing against men in the SHL, debuts at no. 23 in the T25U25, a couple places ahead of fellow second rounder Yegor Korshkov.

The Results

Grundström was ranked by 10 of 14 voters and ended up with 43 out of a possible 350 points, well ahead of Martins Dzierkals and Korshkov. Scott had him ranked highest at no. 17. The bulk of the rest of his votes came in around the 21-24 range.

Katya, who ranked him at no. 24, valued his professional experience, something most players his age don't have.

I think Grundström might be poised to leapfrog over Tobias Lindberg.  He's had more professional experience already, he's been successful at the WJC, and looks to make a return appearance.  He is as big (edit: not as big as I thought), and mobile and Lindberg, and if he keeps developing that same two-way game, he could move onto the Marlies in a good position to shoot for an NHL job in a few years.

Fulemin explains why he left Grundström off his list.

My "not ranked" is probably more of an "ask again later" for Grundstrom.  Him keeping his head above water where he is is impressive, and yet at the same time i'm not quite stunned enough to say yet what i think of him. He has a good chance to move up next year, but he missed on mine due to uncertainty and a lot of quality candidates.

Voter Scott Wheeler 67 Sound Birky Arvind Elseldo Gunnar Carlsson Achariya JP Nikota Species Steve Burtch Katya Knappe Acting The Fulemin 50 Mission Cap Chris H
Rank 17 22 23 21 22 19 23 - 23 - 23 - - 24

The Player

Grundström plays a strong two-way game; already physically mature enough to play with the men, he's a hard-nosed, shoot-first winger with the ability finish around the net. He has a powerful stride and loves driving hard to the net. He's tireless on both the forecheck and backcheck, using his agility, great hands, and physicality to turn play up the ice. He's more of a complementary piece and plays at his best with a centre who can drive play and distribute, something that the lowly MODO did not have.

His new coach with Frolunda, Roger Rönnberg, describes him as "a guy that is boiling when he plays hockey with an amazing temperament that drives him forward both with and without the puck. He has an energy that lets him do things on both sides of the puck, he can make things happen with the puck and he is a terror to face when he doesn't have the puck."

Despite his age, Grundström already has a season and a half of pro hockey under his belt. In his Draft -1 year, he split time between Sweden's junior league and the SHL. His 1.33PPG with MODO's J20 club was the best of any U18 player that season, putting him ahead of higher ranked prospects like Joel Eriksson-Ek and Rasmus Apslund. Grundström was also one of just three players in his draft class to play more than ten games with the big club.

In his draft year, Grundström made the jump and played with MODO full time. Simply playing a regular shift and treading water against men is good to see from a draft eligible player. His draft stock fell a bit over the course of the season (he was ranked in the mid-first round at the start of the season) but Grundström still ended up being the most productive U19 player in the league, putting up 16 points in 49 games, all at even strength.

He took a huge step forward in other ways, too. Despite averaging less than 14 minutes of ice time, he averaged around 1.75 shots per game, a large improvement over his pace the season before, where he registered 19 shots in 24 games.

Fulemin's "wait and see" approach, likely due to unfamiliarity with the league and the player, is why Grundström was ranked low by many and left off other lists entirely. For me, his success at the highest level at such a young age (something few players have the ability to do) is a promising sign of things to come.

Grundström has represented Sweden at every level thus far. He was one of a few draft eligibles at the World Juniors, notching 1 point in 7 games. Look for him to represent Sweden in Toronto and Montreal this season once again in a bigger role.

This season will be a real test for Grundström. He signed with the reigning champion, Frolunda, after MODO's relegation. With the champs, he'll be playing with better players. He'll also be a year older and will likely take on a larger role. On the other hand, Grundström will have more competition for ice time and powerplay time. If he rises to the occasion, he will be poised to make a large jump up in next year's T25U25 rankings.

Thanks to Patrik Bexell from EOTP for providing quotes.