As the Buffalo Sabres add to their organizational depth through the draft, they continue to look to Sweden for help. I recently chatted with Henrik Sjöberg, a journalist for HockeyNews.se to get his views on the Sabres prospects as well as their development.
Q: Linus Ullmark is going to split time with Carter Hutton this year as he transitions to the NHL. What’s the scouting report on him and is Ullmark an NHL goalie or better suited in a backup role?
A: I think that the best thing with Ullmark is his mental approach to what he’s doing. He is aware that it could take some time for a goalie to adapt and be ready to go for that first spot as an NHL goalie, and just because he is so calm about that, I think he has a chance to be a starter for the Sabres in the future. He can at least be a goalie that can play 30-35 games and be a really good backup.
Q: Rasmus Dahlin is the talk of the town right now. What are your observations of him and are we putting too many expectations on him in his rookie year? Do you see him having a transition period on the smaller ice?
A: I think Dahlin is better on the smaller ice - no doubt about that at all. My favorite attribute he has is the way he always makes that fast first pass to get the play going, even if it’s from down low in the defensive zone or in transitions. That is going to be even clearer on the smaller ice. I really can’t say much about this kid that’s not been said already, but I think he is going to hit the ground running.
Q: Rasmus Asplund is transitioning to North America to play in the AHL. He had a strong camp last year. Is he an NHL player and how close is he? What can you tell us about his game and what role he will play?
A: In Rasmus’ case, it was the right move to leave Sweden and go to the United States to adapt in the American Hockey League. I think it’s going to be good for him to play on the small ice and learn how strong he has to be as well figure out his style of play in order to try to take a spot on the team. My guess is that he will spend this year in AHL before he’s ready to really go for it. I would not be surprised if he has a really good year in Rochester. He is a really mature hockey player and can take on a big responsibility - we have seen that early in Farjestad against men.
Q: Marcus Davidsson is said to be a steal for the Sabres. How is he progressing, how close is he and how will he translate to the NHL?
A: A steal is the right word! If I have to guess right now - he is going to be one of the best players on Djurgarden this year and if he’s ready for NHL and Sabres the year after, that would not surprise me at all. I might also add that he has been a personal favorite for me since a few years back and last year really showed that this kid has a lot to offer and I think he is going be in the show soon.
Q: Can you talk about Victor Olofsson’s shot and accuracy?
A: The only question is if his shot is quick enough to be a goal scorer in the NHL. It’s really hard to say, but everything he’s been doing in the SHL points that way. Olofsson has an amazing release.
Q: Lawrence Pilut’s skating is so smooth. Talk about the advantage that gives him.
A: Pilut is so smooth on the ice and so calm and confident when he gets the puck out of the defensive zone. He has been the best defenseman in the SHL, no doubt about that. I can’t really see anything that says that he cant make it in the NHL - if they believe in him. He’s done in Sweden that’s for sure. Trying to make it in the NHL is the move for him now.
Q: Fans are growing frustrated with Alex Nylander. Many say this is a make or break year for him. Is it too early to give up?
A: Well, I don’t agree with the fans that say it makes it or break it. Last year he was out for three months and add to that all the expectations. I really hope this hasn’t gotten in his head - that’s the question for me. If he can handle the pressure, he’s going to be an NHL player this year or the next. Alexander is as talented as William and I think he’s going to get there.
Q: Finally - can you just touch on the competition level in the SHL, the development and why so many NHL teams are drafting SHL players?
A: The SHL is high class and the young prospects get to compete against men three times a week - that is a big difference to the junior leagues in Canada. That can also be a good way to choose and it’s like a miniature NHL when it comes to learning every aspect of the game outside the rink. A lot of fans watch the kids in young age and they learn to handle pressure in that way. But at the end of the day they have to be able to play against men and if you are good enough to get a Jersey on an SHL team and even better get a big role - that is a great way to get closer to the NHL.
Overall, I think the confidence in the kids now is higher than ten years ago. Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, John Klingberg and now William Karlsson have helped a lot I think when it comes to the mindset that Swedes don’t have anything to fear in the NHL. We had 90-100 players playing one game or more in the NHL this year and that is something everyone is aware of.
Our thanks to Henrik for speaking with us.