Today for AATJ’s continuing coverage of 2019 draft prospects, we take a look at a Swedish center with a left handed shot who has played his entire career in his home country. Karl Henriksson is a smaller center, standing only 5’9”, but weighing 174. That is light for now, but as he grows into his smaller frame, he can probably end up being a little bulkier, which could be good for his game at the next level.
Karl hails from Malmo, Sweden, which is near the southern tip of the country, but for the last two seasons, has plied his trade for the Frölunda Hockey Club, which is headquartered further north in Gothenburg. He has done well for them, playing above his competition both in the J18 Elit league in 2017-18, and then again in the J20 SuperElit league this past season, the highest level of junior hockey in the country. While having barely any experience playing in the SHL, Sweden’s pro league, Karl has shown promise up until this point, and could potentially be selected around the third round this year as a result. Let’s dive into what he brings to the ice.
Who is Karl Henriksson?
Over the last two seasons, Henriksson has produced over a point per game in both leagues in which he was mainly situated. Two years ago, as a 16/17 year old, he played in Sweden’s J18 leagues, the Elit and the Allsvenskan. In the former, he had 31 points in 20 games, and in the latter, he had 19 points in 18 games, plus another 6 points in 7 playoff games. That all combines for 56 points in 45 games, for just under a 1.25 point percentage. He was more of an assist machine, but did pot 22 goals that year, so it is not like he was strictly a playmaker. He scored and assisted, and did both successfully.
This past year, he played almost the entire season in the SuperElit league, just one step below the country’s pro league, the SHL. And he did very well. He produced 49 points in 45 games played, along with another 9 points in 6 playoff games. And this is mostly as a 17/18 year old, where he could be playing against those a couple of years older in some circumstances. He became more of a playmaker as opposed to a scorer this year, with 13 goals versus 36 assists, and of his 9 playoff points, only two were goals. However, as a center, this is not a bad trait. He also played two games in the pro SHL league, but did not do much there, with no points. However, the experience itself of playing there is a positive, and it could mean that he could become a SHL regular as early as next season.
In terms of draftability, usually playing in international tournaments is a big plus, and Henriksson has that on his profile as well, playing internationally each of the last two seasons. He was particularly effective this year, posting nine points in seven games for Team Sweden at the World Juniors, scoring more points than anyone else on the team. That certainly bumped up his draft stock, being able to succeed against international competition, the best U18 has to offer.
It is also worth noting that Henriksson has played much of his time alongside 2020 top prospect Lucas Raymond, both in the SuperElit and internationally. In November, Dobber Prospects had Raymond as their third ranked prospect for next year’s draft. And at the World Juniors, Henriksson got to work with both Raymond and another 2020 top prospect, Alexander Holtz. In those same Dobber rankings, Holtz was ranked 6th. Of course the 2020 draft is a long way away and much can change, but it just goes to show you that Henriksson has been playing with excellent talent, and that could have helped boost his numbers one way or another.
Where is Henriksson Ranked?
Central Scouting has been consistent with Henriksson’s ranking this year. At the midterm, they had him as the #24 ranked European skater, and for the final rankings, bumped him up all of one slot to #23. Considering that North American skaters usually go at a faster clip, being #23 in Europe probably puts him around a 3rd round selection, although there is definite wiggle room there depending on team rankings.
-Future Considerations has him ranked as the #66 overall player in this year’s draft, good for an early third round selection, about right on with his Central Scouting ranking.
-The Draft Analyst is lower on Henriksson than Central Scouting and Future Considerations are. At the midterm, Steve had him ranked #89, but in his final rankings, he placed him at #110. That isn’t crazy off from the third round, but is a bit lower.
-The Hockey Writers, for their April rankings, has Karl as the first pick of the fourth round, pick #94 overall.
-Draft Site has Henriksson particularly low, going at pick #128 near the start of round 5 to Washington. Considering the Devils pick one pick earlier at #127, it would be great for NJ if he did fall that far and they were interested.
-Dobber Prospects, in their mid-April rankings, has him ranked #78 overall, much more closer to how Future Considerations feels about the center than those that have him ranked over #100.
What Others Have Said About Henriksson
The Hockey News, in their coverage of the World Juniors, discussed ten players who they believe helped their draft stock by playing in the tournament. One of those ten was Henriksson. The author, Steven Ellis, had some good things to say about Karl’s performance at the tournament. Specifically, he notes that Karl “thrived as the team’s first line center. One thing that really stood out was his net-front presence.” Ellis writes that Henriksson was good at creating “havoc, both with and without the puck.” Finally, to get an idea that he is an all-around player, the article notes how Henriksson was strong in his defensive play as well, not only focusing on what happens in the offensive zone. All in all, it was good praise for the Swede.
Here at a blog discussing the SuperElit league, some good praise is given to Henriksson and his chemistry with his one linemate, 2020 prospect Lucas Raymond. The writer notes that “both are good skaters, can put the puck in the net and they are also good passers with above-average playmaking abilities.” And like with The Hockey News piece, this post also discusses how Henriksson is defensively responsible, playing well at both ends of the ice. Overall, this piece calls the duo “one of J20 SuperElit’s most deadly combos.”
In the aftermath of the World Juniors, EP Rinkside did a personal piece on Henriksson. In it, one of Karl’s linemates at the tournament, 2020 top prospect Alexander Holtz, had nothing but good things to say about his center. He said, “He’s sick. As good as it gets, really. He’s incredibly skilled and reads the game very well. It’s a privilege to play alongside him. Our line likes to be creative in the offensive zone and he is a big part of our offensive success.” The coach for Team Sweden was also effusive in his praise of Henriksson, saying that he “is an incredibly important player for us. He is a great distributor of the puck who moves his feet and has great composure out there. He is an offensive force but at the same time, he takes great pride in working hard in both ends of the ice. His work rate is incredibly high.”
The piece notes that because he played alongside Raymond and Holtz, Henriksson did not get much praise and attention throughout the tournament, but in the end, that did not bother him, and that he kind of enjoys not being the center of attention. That potentially speaks well to his demeanor and locker room presence.
A Little Video
Here are some highlights from Henriksson’s time at the World Juniors this year, with some real nice plays to be seen:
Here is a play Karl made off of the boards at the tourney:
From what I can see, the biggest drawback from taking someone like Henriksson in the third round, and especially the fourth if he falls, is that he played alongside strong linemates, and it is possible that they pulled him along to some extent. Raymond did have 48 points in the SuperElit this year, and while Henriksson had 49, Raymond is a year younger. There is no doubt that Raymond will be a higher draft choice in 2020 unless something drastic happens next season.
However, I don’t think that should mean that teams should sleep on Henriksson this year either. From what people say about him, he is a strong playmaker, plays both offense and defense with equal fervor, and is selfless, happy to give the spotlight to others. He might not have SHL experience yet besides for two games played, but neither does Jack Hughes have pro experience, and it probably will not knock him from being #1 overall. Obviously the two are in a different stratosphere in terms of talent and potential, but there is a relation there. Henriksson has played at over a point per game over the last two seasons, jumping up leagues and still doing well. And he played quite well in international competition. He might be short, but as a playmaker he can still succeed, especially if he fills out his frame somewhat.
Given that, however, I do not think that center is a position of need to draft for the New Jersey Devils, especially if they take Hughes at 1, who himself is a center. If Ray Shero is just looking best available, he might decide on Henriksson near the end of the third round, when the Devils have Dallas’ third round selection, or perhaps even at the start of the fourth round. If so, it would be a good choice for potential talent. I do like what I have read and seen about Henriksson, and think he has potential despite his height. However, if they want to draft by need, it might be a better idea to load up on defensemen or right wingers in the second and third rounds, when the odds of those players becoming NHL-caliber one day are higher than for the later rounds. I would not be upset at all if Henriksson is taken around the end of round 3 by Shero, but I just think that for the needs of this team even a few years down the line, most likely it will be defense or right winger that will be needed, and this is assuming Hughes going at #1 overall.
Now that you have read up on him, what do you think about Karl Henriksson? Do you agree with me that he would be a decent round three selection, but perhaps is one to avoid based on positional need? Or, do you think NJ should look to take him, regardless or even because of him playing center? Do you have someone else in mind you think will be there that NJ should also seriously consider around the end of round three or start of round four? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading another prospect profile here at AATJ!