Andreas Borgman is another mystery man to most of us. Like Calle Rosén, by the time he was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs, his season was over, so we could only look at his stats, check the rumour mill, and see what fans had to say about him.
The question asked by both fans and experts is always posed pairing Borgman and Rosén. Are they any good? We ranked them in the middle, just below the “sure things” and the players who already have NHL experience. And that is largely based on their pro experience. I ranked them one slot lower than where they ended up, and there is a lot of agreement about this middling ranking with elseldo very cool on the unknown defender and Scott Wheeler very high on him.
Borgman is from Stockholm, and he played his youth hockey for Huddinge IK, not one of the top clubs, and he was never drafted by the NHL. NHL Central Scouting had him ranked at 36 for European skaters in 2013, ahead of Miro Aaltonen by a few spots, behind Andreas Johnsson by a few, and 33 spots higher than Leafs pick Fabrice Herzog.
The lowest ranked, regular NHL player on that list is Viktor Arviddsson at 19. Anton Slephyshev is at 20. So if Borgman, or Johnsson or Aaltonen for that matter, make the NHL, they will be beating big odds.
The NHL draft was not the first time Borgman faced rejection, however.
When he was young, he applied to the Djurgården academy and was turned down. Djurgården is a much better club than Huddinge with virtually a permanent place in the SHL for its men’s team. The training and development there are of a very high quality, but he didn’t make the cut.
Next, as a young teenager, he was turned down for the first Stockholm team for TV-Pucken.
TV-Pucken is a big deal in Sweden. It’s a regional team competition for teenagers 16 and over, and the final rounds are shown on television and garner a great deal of interest — like the WJC in Canada, only maybe more so. Stockholm has so many players, they are sometimes allowed two teams, and to not make the first team at that age is often seen as a blow to a hockey career. Borgman only played in four games at the event.
If you make a splash in TV-Pucken, however, your future is bright, often justifiably. Erik Karlsson is fourth alltime in points per game for defenders at TV-Pucken. Next year’s draft darling, Rasmus Dahlin is 17th at over one point per game.
But Borgman thinks the emphasis on TV-Pucken is too much for young players. He is concerned that players who don’t make the team give up hockey.
I've never had that pressure [TV-Pucken mania] from home, it's been very good there and they've always supported me. I have a little brother who also plays and they always support him no matter as well. But I think it's ruining a lot for many young people who have that passion around them. I guess it will continue to be so, too, unfortunately.
His family supported his hockey aspirations in a big way. When he saw no openings in Stockholm to progress, he went to Timrå and joined the club there where he played his full junior career.
That’s not so far! Only a four hour drive. That’s like the drive from Toronto to Sudbury. And it is like that in more ways than one. Ontario doesn’t actually go as far north as Timrå is, but the area is one of mines and pulp mills and small populations who love the local hockey teams.
Borgman’s choice was made easier by a friend who’d gone there ahead of him:
I did not take it so hard really. I knew someone who had already moved to Timrå already before, so that was a good option because there were many who managed better by moving away. I did not take that bad anyway.
His attitude is that he will take the opportunities where he finds them. After a good junior career, just not good enough to get him drafted in the NHL, he pushed ahead, playing one pro year in the Allsvenskan and earning a contract with HV71 in the SHL for last year. That got him this:
You can see him lift the trophy at 1:32 just as the interview starts.
That’s a bit of a splash, finally.
And then the Leafs came calling.
Hockey is like a religion in Toronto. Did you have time to notice when you were there earlier this summer?
- It shows. Now it's not even in the season, but I already notice that there is a hysteria there, and already there were people who recognized me on the street. It's a real hockey-mad city.
Like Jönköping [HV71’s location]?
- Haha yes, but times ten maybe.
So, he wasn’t drafted. We should remember that. If you sign a free agent at 21 or 22 who was never drafted, you should go in expecting to see junior stats that don’t quite impress. Also, he’s a defenceman, and point stats for defenders are never the whole story. Not that they are for forwards either.
Andreas Borgman via Elite Prospects
|2011-2012||Timrå IK J18||J18 Elit||19||7||5||12||36|
|Timrå IK J18||J18 Allsvenskan||14||3||8||11||35||Playoffs||3||0||1||1||0|
|Timrå IK J20||SuperElit||1||0||0||0||0|
|2012-2013||Timrå IK J18||J18 Elit||1||0||0||0||2|
|Timrå IK J18||J18 Allsvenskan||7||3||3||6||16||Playoffs||4||1||2||3||14|
|Timrå IK J20||SuperElit||38||8||13||21||72||Playoffs||2||0||0||0||0|
|Timrå IK||SHL||3||0||0||0||0||Kvalserien SHL||2||0||0||0||0|
|Sweden U18 (all)||International-Jr||6||0||1||1||6|
|2013-2014||Timrå IK J20||SuperElit||33||5||18||23||84||Playoffs||2||0||0||0||6|
|Kovlands IF||Division 1||1||0||0||0||0|
|Sweden U19 (all)||International-Jr||3||2||0||2||0|
|2014-2015||Timrå IK J20||SuperElit||7||0||2||2||10||Playoffs||2||0||1||1||2|
|Sweden U20 (all)||International-Jr||3||1||0||1||0|
|2015-2016||VIK Västerås HK||Allsvenskan||52||5||11||16||44|
It would be easy to say that his junior stats are not as good as this player’s or that. And all that should tell us is what we already know. The interesting thing is that he carried a decently good points pace out of junior into the Allsvenskan, and stayed productive. He then increased that pace moving way up to the top team in the SHL, bouyed up, it must be said, by the good forwards on the team.
He kept on upping the pace until he had a very good 14 games in the playoffs, and he finished second in points for defenders on his team.
Have a look now at the second half of this video and you’ll see he’s more of a roll up and play as the surprise fourth forward guy than a “clap bombs” guy. Not shown here: He’s really, really built compared to Rosén.
Believing Borgman will keep up the pace of improvement is one of the reasons Scott Wheeler ranked him higher than the rest of us:
He's the only D prospect not named Liljegren/Dermott with top-4 potential in the NHL in a prospect pool that is bereft of talented D.
He didn’t have a huge role out of the gate and by the end of the year/playoffs he was the best defenceman on his team as a rookie. If he can keep that kind of progression up, he'll become an everyday NHL defenceman.
But the other half of his rational is also a very valid point. The road is open in front of Borgman in the longer term. Fans of HV71 who have watched him play, as I have not, have said he is a work in progress, but the potential is there. The trouble with counting on a clear shot to the NHL — and no one should expect him to play there out of training camp — is that the open road can close up very quickly. All it takes is one trade.
This was an argument presented, with equal validity, for ranking Frederik Gauthier higher on our list this year. At its worst, it’s saying that the team is weak at that position, so a weak player can progress beyond his proper level. But at its best, it’s saying that a good player won’t be blocked from the chance to develop to his highest potential.
That seems to be true for Borgman coming into this AHL season. Many reports have him ahead of Rosén, although they may be factoring in his greater potential. If he can jump over Rinat Valiev, and he should be able to easily, he’s now facing Andrew Nielsen, who often moves over to the right side, for the job of second best lefty on the Marlies. He seems to be looking at top four ice time right away if he is as good as scouting reports claim.
The question is: Can he improve at a pace, at age 22 now, that takes him into the NHL? I’m betting, and ranking him, on the probabilities that say maybe, but not for sure. Most, as in nearly every single one, of the SHL free agents signed by NHL teams never make it out of the AHL.
So now you have your say. Is he an NHLer in the making? Is he going to top out at the AHL level? Is 22 too late to be just getting your feet wet in the AHL?
Will he or won’t he make the NHL?
This poll is closed