Who is Erik Brannstrom?
Thanks to our old reliable source Elite Prospects, we know that Brannstrom was born on September 2, 1999 in Eksjo, Sweden. While he is certainly not the largest defenseman available in the draft at 5’10” and 175 pounds, he is a left handed, left shooting player which fills one of, if not the largest need in New Jersey’s system.
Erik has spent his entire career so far in the HV-71 system, starting with their U16 team and progressing to their J18 and J20 teams before joining HV-71’s pro roster this past season. While 1 goal and 5 assists in 35 games with HV-71 are not eye-popping numbers, bear in mind that he was a 17 year old (who still has some growing to do) playing in a men’s league. His numbers from his 19 games with the J20 team from this past season as well as his 41 games last season are more encouraging; here are his complete stats at this EP link.
Where is Brannstrom Ranked?
We have a variety of sources available as Brannstrom projects to go fairly high; here’s where he ranks with said sources among all selectable players:
- NHL Central Scouting Services (Final): Europe - 9
- The Draft Analyst (May): 10
- Future Considerations (Final): 18
- Craig Button - TSN (March): 45
- Dobber Prospects (April Top 31): 25
- Sportsnet (March): 17
- Recrutes: 22
- McKeen’s Hockey: 19
We have a bit of discrepancy here (as is the usual case of prospects who are not surefire top-5 picks); most of the available rankings have Brannstrom going somewhere in the first round, while TSN’s rankings have him dropping into the middle of Round 2. If he does start falling later and later into Round 1 and Shero and Castron are fans, would this be a case where New Jersey trades up (with their plethora of additional picks) to get back into the first round? We all know the Devils could use another talented defender in the pipeline, but is Erik the type of player they should be looking for? Let’s take a look at some analysis of his game.
What Others Say About Erik Brannstrom?
From our Sportsnet ranking above, Jeff Marek had this to say about Brannstrom’s game while concluding that he’s the 17th best prospect available:
“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.”
I would assume that every team in the NHL would fancy a smart possession game to at least some extent; knowing that Brannstrom is not only good with possessing, but moving the puck as well bodes well not only for him having an NHL career, but also for a team (read: New Jersey Devils) that needs to improve its possession game. I can only hope our scout(s) noticed how driven Erik was at this tournament; I’ve complained far too often (as have others of our writers) about the number of floaters on this team, and it would be nice to have a player who tries to spark the team each time he’s on the ice.
“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.”
More high praise for Erik, this time from someone who has been in direct contact with him as a coach. The Devils need more talented skaters, and knowing that Brannstrom is a strong skater coupled with his puck skills could make him a solid addition to New Jersey’s system. The team also could use more toughness, and having your coach describe you at 17 as “tough for his age” tells me that he’s someone who’s not afraid to get into the dirty areas on the ice.
A Little Video
First today, we have a highlight package from Sweden’s U20 national team playing Canada; he’s wearing #4 here for Sweden:
His first real highlight is a nice toe drag/shot that gets stopped; after that we see him pick up a secondary assists when a net mouth scramble gets converted. The best takeaway I have from this video is that he’s not a defensive liability (by making poor plays on offense) and he’s also not afraid to get involved with the play on offense.
Next up, we have a video of Brannstrom’s first (and to date only) goal in the SHL; he’s #17 in this video:
Erik uses his speed to beat his man, receives a pass and buries it behind the opposing goalie. I like the use of his speed and it seems like his wrist shot ain’t too shabby either!
Finally today, we have an interview with Erik from the NHL’s Scouting Combine speaking with a representative of the Toronto Maple Leafs:
An Opinion of Sorts
From what I’ve heard and seen so far, I’m liking Brannstrom as a prospect; while he might be a bit undersized, he doesn’t play as though he is, and that determination that he displays is what could enable him to succeed at the NHL level. He possesses an offensive-minded skill set, yet he does not seem to be a detriment in his own end of the ice. Having coaches and analysts say that he gives it his all is another reason I would be excited to add a prospect of his caliber to our team.
My one hesitation is that I don’t see any critiques of his game and there have to be some flaws; if there were not, why is he not ranked higher for this draft? Size perhaps could be the limiting factor, but again, it never seems to be mentioned as such. I’m curious as to what he could improve upon.
If I’m Ray Shero and/or Paul Castron during the draft’s first round, and I see Erik still avilable in the mid-late stages of Round 1, then I find a team who is willing to part with their pick in exchange for some of our assets. With two second rounders and the first pick in the third round (Colorado’s #63 courtesy of the Eric Gelinas trade), as well as some other prospects in our system, we may be able to convince a team to pick up a few assets in exchange for one. It has happened before at the draft and I would like to see Shero and Castron try to get another player who could be more of an impact player (such as Brannstrom) rather than other prospects who may not have the same ceiling.
Now I’d like to hear your thoughts on Erik Brannstrom as a prospect; is he a defensemen that interests you? Would you like to see the Devils draft him? If the team had to trade up to get him, would you mind parting with additional assets? Leave your comments below and thank you, as always, for reading!