By Dan Stewart

DraftPro evaluators were excited to see the World U17 Hockey Challenge back on the schedule this season after a two-year absence on the hockey calendar due to the pandemic. This U17 event has traditionally been the best place to see all the worlds future talent compete head to head and get a baseline idea of the next couple of NHL drafts potential and depth.

Our Director of Scouting Jared Brown, Head Scout Matt Hnatiuk, and regional evaluators Joely Stockl, Tyler Karoway and Matthew Tucker all took in the games and made evaluations on the next wave of talent that will be in the spotlight for the 2024 and 2025 NHL Drafts.

In the third part of this seven-part series we highlight the fifth place Sweden squad who despite having some solid individual talents still failed to make it into one of the finals games.

#30 G Hugo Laring, Sweden, 6’2”, 190, R, DOB 1.13.06

“Laring is a predominant butterfly goalie with very high confidence. His butterfly is his go to and while he’s very effective in it, his positioning hurts him at times. Laring was at the top his crease in the butterfly while he takes away a large part of the net, if a rebound comes to the side, then he’s taking away no part of the net. He got lucky in this game that he wasn’t burnt for a goal like that. His vision up close is razor sharp and it really helps him with negating rebounds as he can snatch up pucks waiting in the crease, although his far-sighted vision wasn’t outstanding as he was lucky, he had pucks hit him when he clearly didn’t see them.  His flexibility and length strength can cover up for his positioning errors as he can push off and reach out to snag pucks. His glove is open and is fairly solid. Laring’s confidence in passing impressed me, making some great outlet passes to get plays started. His confidence in general was quite impressive, after giving up a ghastly five-hole goal, he stood strong and slammed the door on the Canadians. Laring has the tools to become a good back up at higher levels, but will need to tighten up his positioning so he isn’t getting left out to dry on shots from the side of the net.” – TK

#3 D, Anton Olsson, Sweden U17, 5’11”, 192, L, DOB 01.11.2006

“Olsson is a two-way defenseman with good offensive and defensive upside. Defensively I like Olsson’s game. He’s able to bring attackers to the boards to then apply a hit to retrieve possession for his team. Also, Olsson showed great stick positioning to cover passing lanes. Often with his great stick positioning, he was able to retrieve possession, calm the play down and launch a great first pass to exit the zone. Though what really impressed me was his ability to carry the puck out of the zone with fast skating to then launch a great entry pass for his teammates. Offensively his game is good as well. He likes to join the attack so he can use his good shot on goal. He’s always trying to be that extra option for his teammates. He is never flat footed on the point so he can utilize that accurate quick shot for a scoring chance. Combined with his great defensive skills and offensive capabilities, Olsson is a great player to keep an eye on as he does have good tools to succeed at the next level. I see him being an important piece to the puzzle for NHL teams looking for a strong defenseman on both sides of the ice.” – MT

#20, D, Alfons Freij, Sweden U17, 6’0”, 187, L, DOB 02.12.2006

“Visually, Freij has a very large presence on the ice, even though he is only listed as 6’0”. He has very long legs, and therefore a long stride. He is a powerful skater up and down the ice, this is especially noticeable when he is rushing the puck. Freij is another very offensively minded defenseman. He has a tendency to chase a lot when he is in his own end, and in the offensive end he likes to assist in driving the play. Freij is a shoot-first player when he has a reasonable lane. He is at the “quarterback” position on the powerplay and he does move the puck quickly. If the puck has been moving around the outside a lot, he will lean in and take a shot. Freij is definitely an offensively minded player, and his defensive game is not up to par. He is often chasing the play and the puck, and can find himself drawn out of position high up in the zone. Freij does not prioritize tying up the stick in front of the net, which makes it hard for him to be a tough presence in front. He needs to learn to stay back on some occasions as well, he is rushing with the offense far too often. This is another player that needs to find a balance between displaying his offensive game and staying reliable somewhat defensively. Freij is also a big player as he appeared in this tournament, and adding a physical element to his game would be tremendously beneficial. Freij’s offensive game is certainly admirable as he is able to generate chances with confidence, but his defensive game is a concern. Once he can become more relied upon in his own zone, he will be more valuable to his team.” – JS

#5 LD Wiktor Jerneheim, Sweden U17, 6’0′, 176, L, DOB 06.19.2006

“Wiktor is a two-way style defender who showed he was willing to jump into the offensive zone and try and make something happen. He skates with a heavy stride and is a little slower speed wise. He uses his edges well and is able to cut tightly to elude pressure or create space for himself. The downfall of his cuts are that they are so deep he drops speed. His puck skill was average and he showed that when he carried the puck into the o-zone, he was able to keep the puck protected and get it deep or towards the net. His passing was average and he seemed to be most accurate over short to medium range, and occasionally he could get a long range pass off to clear his zone. Shooting was slow velocity and he doesn’t have the best/fastest release. It was very predictable and often was saved by the goaltender, but he did show a good ability to open up shooting lanes along the blueline before letting the shot go. His physical game was almost nonexistent and he didn’t do a whole lot of body work through the game. He could use his size a little better and play the body more, but he seems to rely on his stick work to get pucks away from opponents. Defensively I felt Wiktor needs to be better in front of his own net. There were multiple times he would allow the opponent to get the inside position and this would cause chaos for himself and his goaltender. When he does have better position, he kept the opponent boxed out well and things were much easier for him.” – MH

#6 D, Viggo Gustafsson, Sweden U17, 6’2”, 187, L, DOB 09.11.2006

“Clearly plays the role of a defensive defenseman for Sweden and limits his risk-taking on the offensive side of the puck. A fluid skater with an upright posture. His footwork and edge control are solid without being at an above-average level. Lateral mobility was noticeable as he defended the rush and could move side-to-side rather easily. Just has to be careful of planting his feet and getting caught flat-footed which were the reasons for him getting walked around on a few occasions. Deploys a strong active stick while defending the rush. Willing to play physical and throw the body on his opposition along the boards in the defensive zone. Uses his skating to close gaps in defensive zone areas against the cycle. He should work on the consistency of his outlet passing moving forward. Stretch passes out of his end into the neutral zone was a struggle to connect for Gustafsson. Should learn to look for secondary options rather than forcing passes. Played his off-side but he didn’t routinely put himself in poor passing positions. His shooting up at the point was met by the shin pads of his opponents. Gustafsson possesses more qualities of a shutdown defenseman and will want to develop his offensive game to be a more high-end prospect.” – JB

#8 D, Emil Stadin, Sweden U17, 5’10”, 165, L, DOB 05.05.2006

“Stadin had a positive showing, but his play with the puck came with his fair share of turnovers. He’s an offensive-minded, puck rushing defenseman on the backend. Helped quarterbacked the PP and displayed his active shooting from the point. Showcases good offensive instincts inside the offensive zone. Maneuvers side-to-side looking for shooting lanes. Good off-puck movement off the blueline to skate into a recently vacated space his teammate just left. He’s a fluid skater with quick crossover integration to build up speed carrying the puck out from his zone. Displayed great puck carrying speed through open ice on the PP. Likes to carry the puck and be the puck transporter on zone exits. Weaknesses in his game were shown in his puck management under pressure. He struggled to move the puck under duress, at times handling the puck too much and for too long. Committed dangerous turnovers in the defensive zone with his immature and high-risk decision making with the puck. Stadin shows confidence and a willingness to drive play in transition and on the PP, but he’ll need to clean up his costly errors that drive coaches crazy.” – JB

#17, LW, Viggo Norlund, Sweden U17, 5’8”, 154, L, DOB 09.22.06

“Norlund is a very smooth skating winger with extreme offensive potential. His cuts are explosive. He can pivot on a dime and explode out of his cut with acceleration. Norlund’s shot has some zip to it, but will need to get some more power behind it for him to be more of a consistent threat shooting. His vision opens up his passing ability as he can spot his teammates and wire them a pass. Norlund is a force in the offensive zone, protects the puck well and with his slick skating and puck control he can shake defenders to create plays. Viggo’s ability to accelerate and blow by defenders is quite impressive for someone with shorter legs than most of the others on the ice.  Norlund doesn’t bring much defensively, although for only being 5’8” he still can throw the body. One thing that stuck out was his lackluster effort on defense. His stickwork and anticipation are good enough to at least make it look like he can play defense, but that comes down to his effort level. If Norlund is willing to put the effort in on defense, his offensive abilities will give him a shot at making it pro.” – TK

#11 C, Lucas Petterson, Sweden U17, 5’10”, 157, L, DOB 04.17.2006

“Petterson is a great offensive centerman with immense athleticism. Lucas is able to beat defenders to the outside with his long reach and drive the net for a scoring chance. His skating is great as well, he takes big long strides and has good speed to beat his defenders. He’s also great at losing himself from coverage in the slot. I like his IQ to recognize offensive situations and how he adapts to them. Defensively Lucas is alright. He shows good position in front of the net to block passes and he’s able to help his defenders in the dirty areas down low but he needs to be more physical in contested battles. Petterson is a great talent that brings so much to the table offensively. I see him being a big piece for NHL teams looking to add size, skill and hard work to their lineup.” – MT

#19 C Vincent Sandberg, Sweden U17, 6’0″, 176, L, DOB 04.30.2006

“Fast skating, with quick feet. Lateral movement was ok, but seemed to be more of a N/S skater when he had the puck on his stick. Puck control was average but he does well to get pucks deep in o-zone. He seems to not want to carry the pucks deep, but rather dump them in and chase them down or allow the other winger to move along the wall to retrieve them. Once the puck is in the o-zone and his team has possession, he sets himself up along the wall or side of the net as an outside option. This is where he did his best work. It allows him to feed teammates in the middle, continue the cycle between either defense or behind the net. If he is pressured, he establishes strong body position and protects puck very well and drives to open ice. When in tighter to the net, he likes to shoot to try and catch goaltenders cheating and looks for the short side openings. His shot velocity was average and he hit the net frequently, but I would expect that from as close as he likes to shoot. When he is farther out, he tends to pass to a teammate and allow them to make the choice of drive, shoot or pass. His passing was average, but he managed to keep the puck mostly flat and controlled. When the puck is turned over and he needs to back check, he works hard to get back and help defend all the way deep into his own zone if need be. He posted up in front of his net if needed and was willing to move to the back wall and dig pucks free if he could.  I see Sandberg more as a bottom six player who has some special teams ability. His work in the face-off dot was alright but he was maybe 50/50 at best.” – MH

#22 RW, Karl Sterner, Sweden U17, 6’3”, 185, L, DOB 03.29.2006

Sterner is a big power forward winger with pro size and good spatial awareness inside the attacking zone. Terrific finding and sliding into open space in high-danger areas and being prepped and ready to one-time the puck. As the defense gravitates to the puck, Sterner occupies himself in those open spaces. This makes him a scoring threat. Showcases great scoring instincts by getting lost in the coverage and by going hard to the front of the net without the puck. Good shooting and one-timer technique. Drops his weight effectively, his inside knee dropping down to generate power through his shot. His skating isn’t bad for a big man. His foot speed is rather slow, but he can produce good power through his long strides and first few steps. Showcases rather smooth pivots and edgework. Improving his top-end speed while carrying the puck will make him more threatening off the rush. A bit of a choppy stickhandler. Showed some struggles controlling and handling the puck under pressure along the half-walls. Utilized his long stick to reach in and poke pucks loose while on the backcheck. Sterner is more of an offensive-minded winger with the size to be more physically abrasive if he chooses to be.” – JB

#18 LW, Victor Eklund, Sweden U17, 5’9”, 146, R, DOB 10.03.2006

“Victor is the younger brother of San Jose Sharks first rounder, William Eklund. However, his game doesn’t resemble his older brothers at all. Victor skates with great pace and has a wheelbarrow full of energy. He’s aggressive in his puck pursuit and applies heavy pressure as the F1 on the forecheck. He may be a small forward, but Eklund does not back down from fighting and battling bigger opponents for the puck or positioning. Great compete and work ethic in the dirty areas of the offensive zone. Showcased himself as the forward of his line that will go into battles and retrieve pucks. He’s a straight-line skater with a wide stride base that I’d like to see corrected as you can see him visibly putting a lot of effort into each stride, but he only generates average power and speed. Had issues handling the puck along the wall and is an average puck handler with little puck skills. I like seeing him go hard to the net to act as a screen and look for rebounds. He had a grade A scoring chance off a turnover but missed the net high on his quick shot. I like Eklund’s willingness to battle in the trenches and play a hardworking game for a small forward. Has the benefit of a late birthday (not eligible until 2025) to improve his offensive skills and skating mechanics.” – JB

#12 LW, Viktor Olofsson, Sweden U17, 5’8”, 159, L, DOB 02.20.2006

“Olofsson is a good playmaking left winger with great offensive upside to his game. Olofsson excels at entering the offensive zone and creating plays for his team. He likes to cut in the middle of the offensive zone to attract players towards so he can use his great playmaking ability with his accurate passing. Olofsson is also extremely calm with the puck, he isn’t scared to carry the puck for long periods of time to ensure the right play is made. Often, when entering the offensive on a rush Olofsson with his great skating, was able to cut in the center to attract players towards him to open up passing lanes for his teammates. What I like about his offensive mindset is that he doesn’t rush to get the puck on goal but he waits for the perfect moment to attack the goal. Viktor also possesses a great accurate wrist shot and is a danger on the powerplay with his good playmaking and accurate passing. Defensively I like how he transitions the game out of his zone when receiving the puck but I would like to see him be more physical on board battles. Overall Viktor Olofsson is a great prospect with a lot of potential and skill. I see him being a good piece for NHL teams looking to add depth to their lineup with great skill and playmaking ability.” – MT

#26 C, Alexander Zetterberg, Sweden U17, 5’8”, 154, R, DOB 04.27.2006

“Zetterberg is a responsible skillful centerman with good upside to his game. He is able to access the offensive zone with his long strides to then beat defenders to the outside and shoot on goal with his hard wrister. Though what really impressed me was his slot play. Zetterberg is never flat footed. He is always moving in the slot to be an option for his wingers and is great at losing himself from coverage in the slot. Defensively I really like his game. Zetterberg is extremely responsible. He recognizes what to do when his team loses possession. He is able to backcheck really well and help his defenseman cover the center ice. He uses good physical play in the defensive zone in contested board battles to help his team regain possession. Zetterberg is also always ready to receive a pass and transition the game out of his own end with his quick skating. Overall Zetterberg is a great centerman with great defensive and offensive aspects to his game. I see him being an important asset in the future for NHL teams looking to develop a two way centerman to strengthen their center ice position for as we all know to win the cup you need strength down the middle.” – MT

#27 RW, Melvin Fernstrom, Sweden U17, 6’0”, 170, R, DOB 02.28.2006

“Fernstrom had a strong game with the puck. He showcases qualities that show early sights of a solid mid-end prospect in his age group. He’s a good skater with areas to improve such as his foot speed and quickness. Takes him a bit to get to full speed. He skates with long strides that generate good power in straight lines to pressure as the F1 on the forecheck. Smooth puck handler. His bottom hand sits up high on his shaft while handling the puck with speed. Does a good job of handling the puck in his hip to avoid swinging sticks. Showed he knows how to utilize his reach to protect the puck. Good vision, able to pass around defenders, but his passes were just a bit too far ahead of his target on rush chances. He’s a threat on the PP. Sets up inside the left-hand faceoff circle where he likes to deliver his one-timer towards the net. Offensively Fernstrom showed his willingness to shoot as well as good vision to set up his teammates. Did a solid job recognizing when to stay high and be above the puck ready to defend the transition. Displayed good hockey sense and play reading. Showed potential to be an impact winger.” – JB

#24 LW, Elliott Sigrell, Sweden U17, 5’7”, 176, R, DOB 01.07.2006

“A disappointing showing for a player who’s already getting normal reps in with his J20 team in Sweden. He’s a short and stocky winger who can make quick plays with the puck but doesn’t possess any star qualities. He skates with a wide stride base which makes for short strides. His straight-line skating leaves a lot to be desired as he doesn’t have separation speed and his acceleration is below average. Strong leaning on his outside edges on turns. He’s a smart positional winger on breakouts. Opens up and positions himself to his defenders ready for the pass. He can make a quick chip/redirect pass to his teammate in the middle of the ice to aid in controlled zone exits while under pressure. A few times he was strong with his stick to get under the opposition and steal the puck. He had trouble corralling tough passes from his defensemen. Offensively didn’t stand out. Moved the puck quickly along the perimeter but didn’t show much skill in handling the puck in tight spaces. Played the bumper spot on the PP but just looked like a placeholder in that spot. Sigrell didn’t appear to really have an identity on the team which I think impacted his performance.” – JB