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Scouting the SHL: Behind the Scenes With Pro Scout Patrik Hansen

Entering his fourth season as a pro scout with Djurgärden IF, Patrick Hansen explains his role, the SHL, and Sabres prospect Marcus Davidsson.

Canada v Sweden: Gold Medal Game - 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

This week, I took a look at several Swedish prospects within the Sabres organization. I continued my series by continuing to examine the Swedish Hockey League, this time interviewing Patrik Hansen, pro scout for Djurgärden IF. Of note to Sabres fans, Marcus Davidsson currently plays for Djurgärden. Buffalo drafted Davidsson in the second round, 37th overall, in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Hansen never played the game, but always was a huge hockey fan. He had dreamt of getting into the hockey business. His opportunity came after getting in touch with Patrik Hall, who at the time was a scout for the independent scouting company Future Considerations. He started off by doing a tryout and it went well. For Hansen Future Considerations was the perfect way to get started. He would go to junior games, write reports, and had a good connection with FC head scout Dan Stewart. After a couple of seasons, he got in touch with Djurgârden and after enough successful tryout, he is now entering his fourth season as a pro scout.

Hansen is not scouting full-time, so atypical day consists of working a couple of hours at his regular job before he gets in the car to drive to a game somewhere in the country. As a pro scout his focus is mainly on the SHL and Hockeyallsvenskan (SHL2), but thanks to the internet he is able to do some video scouting from other leagues such as Liiga and the AHL. Hansen is located in the southern part of Sweden in a town called Jönköping so he is able to complete all of his travel by car. Jönköping is perfectly located for scouting because Hansen is able to reach 20 out of 28 teams from the SHL and SHL2 writing a five-hour drive.

I asked Hansen to help fans understand the competition level in the SHL. “The league is very well structured all the way through. There are well-educated pro players on a level just below the NHL level and a lot of the players probably would have been good to great AHL players.”

So what exactly is the developmental process like in the SHL for players up until they are drafted? “There are basically three steps. First is that players need to get approved to a club’s hockey college. The player sends in their application when they are 15 and the program is three years. If you get approved, you will be joining the club’s J18 program for players up to 18 years of age. The next step is the J20 program and this is where most of the Swedish players get drafted from. If the player is a top prospect, he will probably not have to stay in juniors for that long and instead will be playing at the pro level in the SHL.”

In terms of scouting, there are specific things Hansen looks for. Besides the basic things such as skating, shooting, smartness, and skills, he values the player’s ability to transition the puck from their own end and into the offensive zone. He also tries to look up the player and takes reference from other players and coaches.

With the influx of players being drafted from the SHL compared to some of the American programs, I asked Hansen to explain why the NHL is so focused on their programs. “First of all, we have good and well-educated players. In general, I think Swedes are easy to work with, have great character and are team-oriented.”

Last season, Davidsson played 39 games for Djurgärden finishing with nine goals and 12 assists. Many believe the Sabres got a steal by drafting him so it was only fitting that I had the opportunity to ask the scout for the scouting report on him. “The first thing you notice about Marcus is his skating. He can skate fast and he can skate a lot to cover up areas on the ice. The second thing is his smartness. He makes the right calls both on and off the puck. HIs passing game is really good, so you won’t see him throwing away the puck. His only weakness, in my opinion, is that he needs to shoot the puck more often than he does. He’s a playmaker so he’s often looking to make a play, but I feel if he could start shooting more he would add another weapon to his arsenal.”

Our thanks to Patrik for taking the time to speak with us.