You only get one chance at a first impression. For a draft prospect, a last impression can be just as important. How a prospect ends their season can leave a lasting thought in the minds of some scouts. Perhaps the player showed improvement in an area that others were concerned about earlier in the season. Maybe the player over came a struggling part of their season. It could be that the player had a fantastic time in one of the last events of the season, such as a playoff or an international tournament. The latter is what happened with Leksands IF forward Isak Rosén. He was a scoring machine at the World Under-18 Championships. It could be his ticket to hearing his name called out on Friday instead of Saturday next month.
Who is Isak Rosén?
Isak Rosén is a winger with Leksands IF in Sweden. Per his Elite Prospects profile, he was born on March 15, 2003, he is listed at 5’11” and 161 pounds, he shoots left-handed, and he is signed through the 2022-23 season with Leksands. As his profile makes it clear, Rosén has exclusively come through Leksands’ youth teams. Last season, he made his SHL debut in one game while putting up a massive amount of production with the U-20 team (21 goals and 35 points in 38 games) and getting games with Sweden at the U-17 level. It was onwards and upwards heading into 2020-21.
Of course, the global pandemic undercut what may have been the plan for Rosén. As the U-20 leagues were delayed, the Leksands IF staff decided to bring him into the SHL team. While Rosén appeared in 22 games, he averaged just 5:45 per game whilst producing just seven shots on net and one assist. There were multiple games where he played fewer than five minutes per game. That is hardly good for development. Fortunately, the 17-year old Rosén was able to get into some U-20 games in 2021 and it did not take long for the points to flow. He put up seven goals and 12 points in 12 games with the U-20 team.
Rosén’s breakout would take place in Frisco, Texas at the 2021 World Under-18 Championships. Against some of this year’s best draft eligible (and future eligible) players and on a fairly strong Swedish team, Rosén stood out with a staggering seven goals and two assists in seven games as Sweden took Bronze. He finished tied with fellow 2021 draft eligible forward Fabian Lysell on Sweden with nine points. He was named as one of Sweden’s top three players in the tournament. He finished tied for third in the entire tournament in goals with 2023 draft eligible Connor Bedard of Canada and 2021 draft eligible Samu Salminen of Finland. Only Shane Wright of Canada (2022 draft eligible, 9 goals in 5 games) and Matvei Michikov (2023 draft eligible, 12 goals in 7 games!!) put up more goals. While Michkov, Bedard, and Wright received plenty of attention, Rosén definitely helped his draft stock in Frisco this year. One does need to be careful about overrating a short tournament. However, in Rosén’s case, it was crucial for him to show that he can hang with some of the best of his age group - and even a few younger than him. Especially in a season where he spent most of his time with Leksands’ main team in the SHL not getting ice time.
Where is Isak Rosén Ranked?
Based on the available rankings, Rosén’s ranking is often in the first round, but closer to the back end of it.
- #23 - Elite Prospects Top 32 (May Ranking)
- #31 - FC Hockey (Spring Ranking)
- #13 - Neutral Zone Top 32 (December Ranking)
- #22 - McKeen’s Top 32 (April Ranking)
- #8 European Skater - NHL Central Scouting Services (Final)
- #22 - Sportsnet - Sam Cosentino (May 12, 2021 Ranking)
- #31 - Recruit Scouting (February Ranking)
- #20 - Dobber Prospects Top 32 (March Ranking)
- #17 - Smaht Scouting Top 32 (Final Ranking)
- #18 - The Hockey Writers - Peter Baracchini (June Ranking - Final)
- #26 - The Hockey Writers - Matthew Zator (April Ranking)
- #31 - The Hockey Writers - Andrew Forbes (May Ranking)
- #16 - Scouching - Will Scouch (Post-Lottery Rankings)
- #18 - The Draft Analyst - Steve Kournianos (May Ranking)
Should the rankings mean anything for this year’s draft, then it is a safe bet that Rosén will go in the first round. There is a wide range between whether he is regarded as a mid-first rounder or a late one. It could mean that a bubble team or a team who went rather deep in the postseason this year (or a team who owns a pick from a team that went rather deep) may see him available to be picked. Therefore, those teams should be paying attention to what Rosén did in this past season. Let us learn more about that by going through what others have written about him.
What Others Say About Isak Rosén
Despite not playing that much with Leksands IF in the SHL, there has been plenty written about the winger. Rather than including him at the end, I will reference Ben Kerr’s profile at Last Word on Sports first about Rosén. Kerr came away impressed with his skating and his speed, noting how it helped his game in all three zones. Here is what he wrote specifically about the skating:
Rosen is an outstanding skater. His first steps as well as his acceleration are excellent. He is lightning quick and this helps him to be first on loose pucks. His ability to change speeds while moving through the neutral zone can fool defenders and helps him to create odd-man rushes. Rosen also has outstanding speed. He can take his man to the outside and cut to the front of the net. Rosen also has very good edgework and agility. He uses this to avoid defenders both with and without the puck. However, Rosen will need to add muscle to his frame. His lack of core strength can be an issue in his balance and in his ability to fight through checks. This should come as he matures.
I do not think it is shocking that someone who has been 18 for all of four months by the time the draft happens needs to add strength. The vast majority of prospects need to add strength and grow into their frames. The vast majority of prospects are not quick and swift movers with and without the puck. Kerr’s profile also noted that Rosén has been adept at transitioning play from defense to offense. He is not alone in that praise.
In fact, in this profile at Smaht Scouting, Alexander Appleyard stated that he thinks Rosén is the best player in transitions in the entire draft. Here is the pertinent section from his profile:
But none of these things are what the Leksands forward does best. Simply put, when he is in a game his team-mates want the puck on his stick no matter what zone he is in. Rosén may well be the best transitional player in the draft. The ease in which he scythes up ice is mesmeric to watch. He often picks the puck up in the neutral zone, evades the first forechecker, and is then off to the races. Once in stride the only way to stop him usually involves the potential of giving away a penalty.
With ice to skate into Rosén seems to see the game in slow motion. His decision making process through the neutral zone is exemplary, to the point it is rare to see him not get into the offensive zone with possession. There are also very few players in the draft with better skating ability. Not only agile, Rosén can burn past opponents on the wing.
One of the more recent developments in analytics is the research and development of zone entries and exits. The basic takeaway is that players who are able to carry pucks out of their end and into the opposition’s end as well as make passes for others to make those transitions are valuable. It opens up offensive opportunities while helping out the defensive effort. If this aspect of Rosén’s game translates to the next level, then this could really set him apart from other forwards in the future.
Appleyard did note a tendency for Rosén to “play it safe” a bit too often at the SHL level. I inferred from his profile that may have been a result of Rosén not wanting to make a mistake that could risk his already limited ice time as well as Rosén not being ready for the SHL. I think that makes sense. Still, Appleyard came away as a big fan of the winger, concluding that he just needs to get stronger, more experience, and more willingness to use his talents on offense beyond just avoiding errors.
In March at Recruit Scouting, Jan Chobot came to similar conclusions in his profile of Rosén. Chobot helpfully includes a lot of short video clips to illustrate his observations about Rosén’s skating, shooting, stickhandling, his style of play, and his defensive game. Unfortunately, these clips tend to auto-play upon opening the link, so be careful. Still, it is worth checking out. About his defensive game - something I always want to know about with offensively talented players - I appreciated Chobot’s observation:
There is need for improvement[sic] in his defensive play, but it will come as he’ll add muscle and gets older. Good thing is that he is reliable and fulfills his defensive duties consistently. He does everything that he supposed to do, he gets deep in his own zone, covers passes and covers space in the slot. He also does a great job of attacking the puck carrier. This allows him to break out and be very good in his zone exits, driving play from his own end. Rosén is good defensively, he knows how and where he should be positionally.
This is always encouraging to read. One of the concerns I have with offensive wingers is that their defense is often suspect. Strength is something that can - and will - be worked on at the pro level. Knowing where to be on defense already as a 17 or 18 year old player is a big plus. I am not surprised that Chobot, like Kerr and Appleyard, specifically noted how Rosén is quite good at zone exits.
To further echo the praise for his transitional play, check out Eric D’s profile at On the Forecheck, written in May. Eric D supports his observations with video clips. Unlike Chobot’s profile, they do not automatically play when you open the link - which I (and you likely) appreciate. Eric does note a few annoyances with what he has seen from Rosén:
Overall, I like the angles Rosén takes when forechecking and the vast amount of ice he can cover with his excellent stride extension. When watching the clip above, however, you may feel like his puck support positioning feels a little passive at times, but he’s also expanding the ice the opposing team has to cover due to respecting his skill. A fair knock on his game is his penchant to swoop in on pucks after his linemates have done the hard work, but on this shift, he explodes well into transition and nearly sets up a high-danger scoring chance.
Rosén is extremely confident in his playmaking, shooting, and puck-handling skill, and he should be. But sometimes he lets that convince him to slow down offensive rushes too much, and at higher levels, that won’t fly.
To summarize them, Eric D saw that Rosén could be too passive in supporting his teammates at times and uses too much time and space going forward that he will not likely have at the pro level. Eric D did note that these annoyances are things that can (and likely will) be addressed as Rosén progresses in his career. As with the other profiles, Eric D is a fan of Rosén’s game and thinks fairly highly of his potential.
Here is the short description that Steve Kournianos had for Rosén in his final ranking. I consider this to be a result of Rosén’s last and most productive performance this year:
The list of smart people telling me that Rosen is Sweden’s best forward for this draft increased multi-fold after his exciting performance at the under-18 worlds, and I’m starting to see it. He is one of the draft’s quickest[sic] skaters and owns a deadly one-timer, but Rosen also showed his versatility[sic] by killing penalties with success.
Keep that in mind as Kournianos had plenty to praise after the World U-18s in his recap of the prospects at that tourney. Here is an excerpt, which definitely influenced Kournianos’ blurb and tracks with the praise others have had for the player - especially after the World U-18s:
Of all the top-rated Swedish prospects who participated in this tournament, Rosen was their premier dual-threat who was the clear-cut top performer. After looking physically overmatched in his brief SHL stint with Leksands, the wiry winger while pitted against his international contemporaries played like a young man possessed, slicing and weaving his way into the opposing zone with elite speed and agility, and simply dominating the puck during both special teams play and at even strength. The fact that he was used extensively on the penalty kill (Sweden ranked second in the tournament with a 82 percent kill rate) not only shows Rosen’s versatility, but also the trust the staff had in a player once considered to be nothing more than a finesse type.
The fact that Rosén was utilized in a non-offensive situation in a major tournament on a team that was good in it speaks well to his talents. At a minimum, it supports the idea that he is definitely not a one-way player. He did much more in Frisco than just score seven goals for Sweden. It also aligns with the idea that Rosén made a really strong last impression for the scouts and evaluators this year. It is even more reason to be a fan of what he can bring to the table. While I do not think Rosén is better than Eklund, there is a conversation that he may be on par with Fabian Lysell and perhaps better than Simon Robertsson and Oskar Olausson. (Aside: The 2021 Draft first round may be good for Swedish prospects. ) If Kournianos is being told this in the wake of Rosén’s high-scoring World U-18s performance, then I would have to think that NHL scouts could be thinking this as well.
A Little Video
Will Scouch did a video on Isak Rosén as part of his Scouching profile series for this year. In addition to learning how to pronounce his name, I learned quite a bit about the player. I encourage you, one of the People Who Matter, to make the time to watch it.
The basic point I took away from this is that there is a lot to like about Rosén, but his limited ceiling may be the big reason why he is not touted to be picked higher than he already is. In a draft class filled with more uncertainty than most other years, you would think an offensive forward who skates great and, to use Scouch’s term, just “gets it” (and he appears to just “get it”) on the ice would be a near-lock for the top 15. But he is not seen that way - Scouch has him 16th on his own ranking - and that he could project to be a more complementary winger would help explain that. There is obviously a lot more than that to learn about from Rosén than that and Scouch does a typically excellent job pointing those things out. But that is the major one in my opinion with respect to this compilation of information for this player.
In terms of other videos, I would also recommend watching these two videos put together by the Devils in the Details. The first is a shift-by-shift video of a Swedish exhibition game between the U-18 and U-19 teams. It is a good one to see how he meshed with players in his age range and perhaps closer to his level of talent. The second is a compilation of all of his points with Sweden and Leksands in 2020-21 along with other highlights. Scouch’s video does show some of those off, but the highlight video makes it clearer that Rosén’s shot - especially his one-timer - is an asset.
An Opinion of Sorts
Rosén is not a sniper like Chaz Lucius. However, my concluding thoughts about the player are similar to what I had about him. While the concerns with Rosén are certainly different and not nearly as, well, concerning, I do anticipate that he will likely go before the New Jersey Devils are able to pick him with the Islanders’ first rounder. Like Lucius, Rosén is one of those prospects I think could be available at around 19th or 20th overall. Alas, Boston and Pittsburgh could not eliminate the Islanders. I really doubt Rosén slides all the way to the end of the first round.
In a different era, I would have been more confident in him falling to the Devils’ second first round pick. He is not particularly big. While Rosén scored a lot at the World U-18s, he did not outside of the U-20 league in Sweden - which was also limited to just 12 games this season. His best asset on the ice may not be particularly visible. Most of all, someone who projects to be a complementary winger - even a very good one - may not be seen as valuable as a center or a defenseman that could help drive play or serve some more notable role. However, in 2021, with a draft class not as strong as past ones, and scouts and teams now more aware to how valuable a player like Rosén could be, I do not think he falls all the way down to the #29-32 range.
It is a shame because I would really like it if the Devils were able to select Rosén. Given that the Devils are set up for this decade to be led by Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier down the middle, the quality of forward group are going to be elevated by the quality of the wingers. Someone like Rosén would be a great fit with them, especially if he is able to translate his transitional game to the NHL level in the future. I fully expect that he will get stronger and become more comfortable in physical situations. He would not need to be the leader on his line; he would just need to do a lot of things well - something he has already shown at the youth levels. He strikes me as the sort of player that can help a good team be better. Fittingly, he is likely going to be selected by a 2021 playoff team before the Devils will do so with their second pick. Needless to say, if Rosén is available when the Devils are on the clock for the second time on Friday, July 23, then I would love it if the Devils selected him. I would even be fine if they move up a few spots for him. I just do not think it will happen.
I am a fan of Isak Rosén’s game and, again, I think he would be a great selection for the Devils in the unlikely event he falls to their second first round pick or the unlikely event the Devils move up for him. I think he has the potential to be a real useful winger in the future. Now I want to know what you think. What do you make of Isak Rosén as a prospect? What did you learn about the player? What about Rosén excites you and concerns you? If he does fall to the Devils’ second first round pick, then would you take him? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Rosén in the comments. Thank you for reading.