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Scouting the 2017 Draft: Erik Brannstrom; could a left-handed D be right for us?

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The Swedish defensemen has steadily risen on the draft boards and has the offensive upside GM Steve Yzerman is looking for.

Erik Brannstrom is viewed by many in the hockey world as a versatile mobile defensemen with offensive upside. Praised for his skating ability and passing, Brannstrom helped HV71 claim the SHL Championship this season (he is also the teammate of my previous scouting profile subject, Lias Andersson). He hasn’t skyrocketed up the draft boards as the season has progressed, but he has gained more attention as the year has gone by.

Brannstrom’s offensive numbers with HV71 do not jump at you (35GP-1G-5A-6P), but it should be noted that in the SHL (and KHL) young players like Brannstrom (who was 17 playing against grown men) are usually not given the ice time they deserve. With this in mind we should take a look at his numbers in the J20 SuperElit (a league that boasts players in his age group. In the J20 SuperElit Brannstrom’s numbers jump at you: 19GP-9G-14A-23P. Again, Brannstrom is a defensemen and he put up those numbers against players near his age, AND he is still growing and improving.

One of the biggest strengths that Brannstrom has is his skating ability. Even in the SHL he was out-skating opponents and creating opportunities for his team. If Brannstrom is capable of doing that as a 17 year old now just imagine what he could do with a few more years to improve.

Brannstrom’s playmaking ability in the offensive zone is another attribute that has many scouts excited about the young Swede. He skating ability helps him gain separation from defenders while his hockey IQ allows him to feed passes to his teammates for better scoring chances. Brannstrom is impressive in the offensive zone and he often creates space with his feet and speed.

Another positive attribute scouts have noted about the Swedish defender is his gap control. Brannstrom’s skating ability allows him to stick to his assigned man and force them to either dump the puck or be squeezed into the boards and lose possession. Both are positives for Brannstrom’s team and something NHL teams value highly.

The biggest “negative” pertaining to Brannstrom is perceived to be his size. An old trope in the hockey world, but one that does have some (albeit small) bearing. Brannstrom is 5’10” and weighs 179 lbs which is small for NHL defensemen; however, the Swede is 17 and still growing. He might not get taller, but he is bound to add some muscle to his frame over the next few years.

A Fit With Tampa Bay?

Currently Brannstrom is projected to be drafted between spots 17-31. The Tampa Bay Lightning are set to draft at spot 14 currently (barring any trades that might go down).

The Lightning’s biggest need is a defensemen with offensive upside; however, Tampa Bay is would prefer a right-handed defensemen, but I doubt they would rule out a lefty completely. This does not mean Tampa won’t draft Brannstrom, but with other highly rated defensemen like Miro Heiskanen(left), Cal Foote(right), and Juuso Valimaki(left) possibly being available around the 14th spot, it is unknown if Tampa Bay targets Brannstrom.

There is the possibility that Tampa’s original pick at 14 is taken earlier than expected which could influence Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman to trade back to get better value for Brannstrom, but it’s unclear what Yzerman will do at the draft table this summer.

If Tampa Bay selects Erik Brannstrom then they would have picked up a projected top-4 defensemen with good offensive upside; which is something the Lightning sorely need. It should also be noted that Brannstrom is 2-3 years away from seeing the NHL, but he could pull a “Brayden Point” and make the team without going to Syracuse (though unlikely).

Quotables

Jeff Marek, Sportsnet: “NHL teams who favour a smart possession game will love Brannstrom. Undersized by traditional standards (5-foot-10, 179 pounds), but moves the puck great. At the Five Nations Tournament he played like every shift was his last and tried to make something happen every time he was out there. Scouts noticed.”

Tomas Monten, Coach for Team Sweden U20 (NOTE: The original article is in Swedish, the translation used was from The Hockey Writers: “He (Brannstrom) has good experience internationally, having played in the U18 World Juniors and the Ivan Hlinka tournament last summer. He does it extremely well. He’s outstanding in every game on U20 level. He’s all-round, good at skating, and quite tough for his age. There’s a big load of potential here.”

Erik Brannstrom Career Statistics

2013-14 HV71 U16 U16 Elit 23 7 20 27 22 |
2013-14 HV71 U16 U16 Elit 23 7 20 27 22 |
HV71 U16 U16 SM 8 3 9 12 4 |
HV71 J18 J18 Allsvenskan 1 0 0 0 0 |
2014-15 HV71 U16 U16 Elit 8 4 9 13 24 |
HV71 J18 J18 Elit 15 6 7 13 8 |
HV71 J18 J18 Allsvenskan 18 2 13 15 6 |
HV71 J20 SuperElit 1 0 0 0 2 |
Sweden U16 (all) International-Jr 9 2 1 3 2 |
2015-16 HV71 J18 J18 Elit 2 2 1 3 0 |
HV71 J18 J18 Allsvenskan 5 1 3 4 4 |
HV71 J20 SuperElit 41 8 22 30 26 |
HV71 SHL 3 0 0 0 0 |
Sweden U17 WHC-17 6 3 0 3 2 |
Sweden U17 (all) International-Jr 10 6 3 9 4 |
Sweden U18 WJC-18 7 1 3 4 10 |
Sweden U18 (all) International-Jr 17 1 7 8 18 |
2016-17 HV71 J20 SuperElit 19 9 14 23 18 |
HV71 SHL 35 1 5 6 2 |
Sweden U18 WJC-18 7 2 3 5 0 |
Sweden U18 (all) International-Jr 9 5 2 7 39 |
Sweden U20 (all) International-Jr 3 0 3 3 2 |
EliteProspects.com

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