Last year’s NHL Entry Draft featured two Swedish players: Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz. They ended up being the only Swedes taken in the first round. While more were taken in following rounds - 6 in the second round - it was a bit of a surprise that only two were picked in the first round. This year’s NHL Entry Draft will definitely have more Swedish representation in the first round. The expected top defenseman from the Three Crowns is the subject of today’s prospect profile: Simon Edvinsson of Frölunda HC.
Who is Simon Edvinsson?
Simon Edvinsson was born on February 5, 2003 and hails from Onsala. According to his Elite Prospects profile, he is a left-shooting defenseman who is officially listed at 6’5” and 207 pounds. He has been all over the Swedish landscape as a youth. He has played for four different youth teams before entering the Frölunda HC system. That was in 2018-19 and that was when Edvinsson really started getting attention. His biggest achievement was being named the TV-Pucken Best Defenseman winner, which has plenty of notable players as past winners. That was the same season when he started getting action with the national team at the U-16 level. From then on, Edvinsson has been moving up the various levels of Frölunda HC as well as the national team.
This past season was a busy one for the big Swede. He started with the U-20 team and appeared in 14 games. He picked up a goal, five assists, and, per Pick244, averaged an estimated 19:30 per game. Edvinsson was moved up to the main team in the SHL for 10 regular season games and dressed (but did not play) in a playoff game. He did not not play much at the SHL level with an ice time per game average of 5:48. He took five shots and picked up one assist too. Frölunda decided it would be best to find Edvinsson to another team where he could play more. In January, Edvinsson was loaned out to Västerås IK of the Allsvenskan, which is Sweden’s second best league. He appeared in 14 regular season games where he averaged 13:48 per game, picked up five assists, and took 16 shots. And that was all within Sweden. At the international level, Edvinsson did not make the WJC team but he did make the national team that went to the World Under-18 Championships and earned Bronze. Edvinsson tied with Mattias Havelid for the most points among blueliners with four (one goal, three assists). While the offensive numbers are not high - he is a defenseman - he played significant minutes on every team except for Frölunda’s top team.
Going back to Edvinsson’s profile at EP, Edvinsson is on a junior contract. I am not sure if he will sign to stay with Frölunda HC. Or if this means he is free to go where he wants in the world. This would be something that the scouts and decision makers would know, though.
Where is Simon Edvinsson Ranked?
Based on the available rankings, Edvinsson is certainly the consensus pick as the top Swedish defenseman in this year’s draft class. In some cases, the top Swedish player outright. In others, he’s third from the top among his national compatriots.
- #9 - Elite Prospects Top 32 (May Ranking)
- #2 - FC Hockey (Spring Ranking)
- #9 - Neutral Zone Top 32 (December Ranking)
- #5 - McKeen’s Top 32 (April Ranking)
- #2 European Skater - NHL Central Scouting Services (Final)
- #4 - Sportsnet - Sam Cosentino (May 12, 2021 Ranking)
- #9 - Recruit Scouting (February Ranking)
- #7 - Dobber Prospects Top 32 (March Ranking)
- #4 - Smaht Scouting Top 32 (Winter Ranking)
- #8 - The Hockey Writers - Peter Baracchini (March Ranking)
- #11 - The Hockey Writers - Matthew Zator (April Ranking)
- #7 - The Hockey Writers - Andrew Forbes (May Ranking)
- #8 - Scouching - Will Scouch (Post-Lottery Rankings)
- #22 - The Draft Analyst - Steve Kournianos (May Ranking)
A lot of the rankings are all over the place in terms of timing so some do consider the World U-18s and some are from the middle of Edvinsson’s season. The majority of the rankings available list him as a top-ten prospect. Some even as a top-five prospect.
The lone exception: The Draft Analyst. Say what you want about Kournianos, but when he has an opinion based on what he has observed, then he will commit to it. For what its worth, the blurb he wrote for that 22nd ranking began with the statement: “There’s a snowball’s chance in hell that Edvinsson is available outside the top 15, but the warning signs are well documented.” Even Kournianos recognizes that Let us go into those warning signs - and also into why so many have rated Edvinsson so well.
What Others Say About Simon Edvinsson
As Edvinsson is seen as one of the top prospects in this year’s draft class, plenty of people have plenty to say about him. Here are a sample of opinions and reports based on their observations of the Swedish defenseman:
Ben Kerr of Last Word on Sports has a fairly positive report of Edvinsson. Among Edvinsson’s traits, his skating was highlighted as a high point:
It is rare to find a prospect who is both 6-foot-4 and has the skating ability that Edvinsson possesses. He has a long, smooth stride that allows him to cover a lot of ground very quickly. His legs are powerful and he accelerates quickly. Edvinsson also moves quickly when skating backwards. This allows him to take offensive chances and still get back defensively. His edgework and agility are also very good. Edvinsson can make quick cuts with the puck. It also helps him to stay with attackers and maintain gap control. Edvinsson pivots are crisp and he transitions quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. He skates with good leg bend and has a low centre of gravity. This helps him to be strong on the puck and win battles on the boards. As he continues to add muscle to his frame, this should only improve.
A large-framed defenseman who can skate is immediately a prospect that commands attention. This is not to say there are things in Edvinsson’s game that needs improvement. According to Kerr, Edvinsson will need to work on his shot as well as learning when and how to be more aggressive on defense. He notes that Edvinsson has a lot of raw traits and could have “a very high ceiling,” but he will need plenty of seasoning, coaching, and experience to reach that.
Back in November, while Edvinsson was with Frölunda, Alexander Appleyard wrote up this report of Edvinsson at Smaht Scouting. While it could not include his time in the Allsvenskan, a lot of what Appleyard wrote aligns with what Kerr wrote. Appleyard was impressed with Edvinsson’s transition game and his hands. He noted that Edvinsson had the ability to make passes and a preference to create a high-danger chance rather than just bombing away from the points. That may be a result of a weakness Appleyard highlighted, his shot:
The worst aspect of his offensive game is – easily – his shot. For a big, strong, man he does not get much velocity on his shots. He creates great positions for wrist-shots especially on a regular basis, but often the goalie has time to see it and deal with it. On the slap-shot front he generally only takes them on the power-play, but would still prefer to walk in and wrist or snap the puck. He will never be Shea Weber in the shot department, and he needs to improve in that area before he reaches the NHL
While I can understand that shooting may not be a critical trait for a defenseman, one has to remember that the NHL game of today requires the better players to be multi-faceted. If the opposition knows a defenseman cannot shoot the puck well, then they will take advantage of that fact. Probably by letting him shoot from a poor shooting location - like the point - while trying to deny his playmaking options. Ergo, Edvinsson would be wise to work on this after being drafted if only to at least make opponents respect that part of the game. If anything, it could lead to more playmaking options. Regardless, Appleyard’s conclusion of Kerr - while given at different times of the season - is more positive than even Kerr’s. The expectation is that he could be a top-four defenseman and possibly be a top pairing player.
Shortly after Edvinsson was loaned out, Eric D at On The Forecheck posted this profile of Edvinsson. Eric breaks down Edvinsson’s strengths and weaknesses, supporting his cases for/against his skills with appropriate clips. Eric found that Edvinsson is an excellent skater given his size. And that he is at his best in transition situations - both for and against his team. However, Eric also noted that Edvinsson may be too reliant on his ability to reach for pucks instead of being in a better position defensively. Likewise, he also stated that Edvinsson’s shot is not that impressive, calling it “average.”
Eric’s conclusion was that Edvinsson really needs to get stronger and add “more decisiveness in his strides” to make it to the NHL level. This is a bit more pointed than stating that he needs more experience and seasoning, which I can appreciate. However, I do not get the sense Eric would disagree with that either. At the time of his profile, the thinking was that he will definitely be a first round pick. As the rankings have come out more and more recently, that thinking has turned out to be correct.
On May 16, Steve Kournianos posted this scouting report of Edvinsson at The Draft Analyst. Kournianos was the one who ranked him 22nd on his final list. As he is not shy about his take, it is worth reading.
Kournianos’ profile does add further credence that Edvinsson is a good skater. He called “his abilities to bypass or outmaneuver both backpressure and neutral-zone congestion” his two most impressive qualities to his game. He credited his agility and quickness; noting that while he may not be very fast, but he is very mobile. Kournianos also praised Edvinsson’s ability to create shots and his skills at delivering passes to his teammates. He even praised Edvinsson’s physical play. The big issue that Kournianos had was with his decision-making on the puck:
From a puck-possession standpoint, Edvinsson clearly shows high intelligence in the manner in which he executes breakouts and keeps things organized in the offensive zone. But playing smart, composed hockey off the puck over a full 60 minutes is something he had difficulty doing for most of this season. He has had several performances where’s he’s been among the best players on the ice for the first 40 minutes, only to lose focus (and the faith of his coach) in critical moments. Edvinsson’s best play has been saved for the international level, which makes sense considered it’s against his peers. Nonetheless, Edvinsson is both a massive risk taker and a rover who when choosing to activate or step up has had both positive and negative implications on the team game, sometimes all within a three or four shift sequence.
Kournianos did note that Edvinsson did take fewer risks when playing with Västerås and with Sweden at the World U-18 Championships. That does bode well, but this point definitely weighed heavily on Kournianos’ summation of the player. While he conceded that there is “potential to be a dominant force in the NHL,” it is by no means guaranteed and it will take “five to six years” before he could meet it.
All together, Edvinsson’s skating was universally praised. He received plenty of praise also for his play in transition as well as at his hands. The issues include his shot and also his decision making on and off the puck. While there was some variation among the prospect profiles as to that, it could be a result of the different writers working off different observations. After all, some liked his physical play and others felt he needed to be more physically assertive. But the common thread would be how Edvinsson approaches the game. This issue is definitely supported with video evidence.
A Little Video
Will Scouch continues to be the dominant force in prospect reviews on video. If you see a video on Youtube on his Scouching channel, then make the 15 to 20 minutes to watch it as Will does a fantastic job to explain what he observed, what he measured (he tracks games), and utilizes clips appropriately to explain the points he makes.
He titled his Edvinsson profile, which went up on April 5, as “The Wildest Wildcard?” This is wholly appropriate as Scouch really explains the real issues in Edvinsson’s games. Scouch tracked his performances between his three teams this season and found plenty to like and plenty to worry about. The best part of Edvinsson’s game in Scouch’s opinion is that when Edvinsson was given a more defensive-oriented role with Västerås, his play was a lot better and it suggests that may be his best role in the future. Someone who is solid in their own end but has enough skill on and off the puck to be more than just a one-dimensional play. This is supported with praise for Edvinsson’s ability to create high-danger chances and handle pucks well. However, the big issue - almost echoing Kournianos’ main concern - was his consistency, especially with the puck. Scouch had plenty of clips showing Edvinsson either holding onto a puck too long, botching a passing attempt, or just making a bad decision such as blindly clearing pucks out of his own end for turnovers. And things like that are what limited his production. Scouch is a believer that Edvinsson could be a very good two-way defenseman in the future, but he also made it clear that his very real issues, while overblown, may limit him and may scare off teams at the top end of the draft. This is just my summary of his profile; please go watch the video. And then click on all the buttons below the video after its over.
For a player like Edvinsson, there are a number of highlight videos available. The best one is a bit longer. And it comes from some of the People Who Matter. The Devils in the Details podcast, run by Ian Pulz and Duncan Field, has been compiling videos on top prospects throughout 2021. They have a lengthy highlight video featuring his points as well as other notable plays. If you want more from the Devils in the Details about Edvinsson they have not just one, but two shift-by-shift videos. One from November 21, 2020 when Frölunda played Brynäs in the SHL and the other from March 27, 2021 when Västerås played Karlskoga. Edvinsson definitely looks better in the second video, which was an Allsvenskan game. Take the time to check that out.
And if you want to see something rare, there is an anti-highlight video out there about Edvinsson. The people by Recrutes has a 20:27 long video titled “Why Simon Edvinsson Should Not Go Top 5.” It is 20:27 of Edvinsson being caught out of position, making turnovers, and being too passive at times. (It also is nearly all ambient sound, so there is some swearing picked up from the benches. Don’t watch this one if bad language is a problem for you or your area.) On the one hand, it is something for a scouting group to highlight a player’s failings and put a compilation of them together to justify why they do not think he is all that good of a prospect. After all, we have highlight videos that make the player look greater than what they are. Why not a lowlight video? Plus, there’s plenty of clips worth criticism from the World U-18s. On the other hand, I really do not know how fair this is. You could take all of the video of anyone playing - even Connor McDavid - find the errors they made in a game and cut them all up to make a compilation video to make the player - even McDavid - look as bad as possible. While it is not necessarily false, it is misleading in the same way a total highlight video would be. I am all for criticizing prospects, but I think a more constructive way is to be honest about the issues, include the assets, explain them as to not run them down, and not make it such that it seems that all they do is fail. Recrutes should have at least had someone narrate the video to explain why they do not think so highly of the prospect. In other words, do it like Scouch did it. Still, it is a rare thing to see compilation video of a prospect like this.
An Opinion of Sorts
One of the things that struck me between the written prospect profiles and the videos was that they all came to a similar conclusion. There is a lot to like about Simon Edvinsson - he’s big, he skates well, he has good hands, he primarily played with and against men last season - and he has a lot of potential - but it is going to take quite a bit for him to reach that. No matter how positive or negative it was, that was the main takeaway for me. That concerns me with respect to the New Jersey Devils’ first pick in this year’s draft.
The growing consensus is that Edvinsson is a near-lock to go within the top ten in this year’s draft and it is not out of the realm of possibility that he goes within the top five. It even could even be the Devils’ main choice. The Devils spent a good chunk of their 2019 draft capital on large, defensive-minded defensemen and the size and skating of Shakir Mukahamadullin were reasons why he was picked at 20th overall last season. Edvinsson could very well fit the “type” of defensemen that the Devils have preferred in recent drafts. On its own, it is not that bad. After all, who would not like a great skating defenseman who likely played his best when he was given a more defensive-oriented role? Who would not like a defender who looks for better plays than just flinging prayers from 50-60 feet away? I get the appeal of Edvinsson.
However, the same consensus is also marking Edvinsson has a project player. The kind of prospect that needs plenty of time, seasoning, coaching, and development to reach that vaunted ceiling. You could argue that every prospect is a project of sorts, but these are the players that may need 3-5 seasons before you even think about giving them a chance at the NHL level. As much as you could argue that the Devils could really use a defenseman like Edvinsson, it is going to take quite a bit of time before he can actually be used. By that point, they may have the players to do that already, whether it is from Kevin Bahl, Nikita Okhotiuk, Michael Vukojevich, or Mukhamadullin. Or players they acquired from the free agent market or in a trade.
And when I read about how a prospect has an incredibly high ceiling, I immediately wonder what would be acceptable if that is not met. If the high ceiling is a top-pairing defender who is amazing in moving the puck in all three zones, then what would be acceptable should he fall short of that? Would it be fine if he became a defensive-oriented second-pairing defenseman with occasional offensive flashes similar to Adam Larsson be fine? Would it be acceptable if he became a top-four defender who looks great when he’s in form but you know a bad game is going to be a really bad game? Would it be OK if Edvinsson turned out to be a good player who can play a long time in this league but be nowhere close to someone who should lead a defense? Remember: The Devils would have to pick Edvinsson at 4th overall if they want this player. Given that he’s seen as someone who has a lot of work to do, they also need to be sure that they have the coaches, the development plans, and the systems in place to get the most out of his future. Do they have that? I hope so. But they really need to weigh these risks carefully. Ultimately, this leads me to this question: Are Edvinsson’s risks really worth it for the Devils with their fourth overall pick?
It also leads me to think that the 2021 draft class is not that strong. A top-five pick really needs to be a hit. In most years, a project of a prospect would not be considered for it. That he would be in serious consideration in this year’s says a lot about it. And he is not the only high-risk, high-reward prospect that is likely to go in the top-ten; but we’ll write more about him later.
Personally, I do not think the risks are worth it. Sure, there is no “perfect” prospect and everyone has their own flaws. But Owen Power is the closest to being a total package. But Luke Hughes is younger than most of the potential top picks and could work out his defensive flaws to still be able to provide a tantalizing offensive skillset from the back end. But Brandt Clarke has the skills to play well in both ends and changes to his skating motion may be all he really needs. The “But” for Edvinsson is that he’s large, he’s great in transition, he’s pretty smart when he exerts himself, and he can be adaptable. That’s nice, but there is no significant skill(s) that really shines like it does for Power, Hughes, and Clarke. I would prefer all three over Edvinsson. That is how I see Edvinsson with respect to the fourth overall pick.
And if the super-unlikely scenario happens and those three go in the first three picks, then I would much rather want the Devils to take either Beniers or Eklund.
I do not think the Devils should swing for a project defenseman to reach his vaunted ceiling in 3-5 seasons with this high of a pick. If they’re going to swing, swing for someone with identifiable offensive skills that their blueline prospects really do not have at the moment. If they really feel they need to take him, then I want them to trade down a few spots to do so and pick up an extra pick for it. I can understand those who would disagree with this take. I would be happy to have that discussion. However, that is my current opinion, of sorts, on Simon Edvinsson.
While I do not think the Devils should take Simon Edvinsson at fourth overall, you may think otherwise. I would love to know your take on the Swedish defenseman in the comments. What do you think of Edvinsson’s 2020-21 season? What did you like reading about him? What did you not like reading about him? How do you rate him among the other defensemen in this draft? Do you think he is worth taking in the top-five or top-ten in this year’s draft? Would you want the Devils to take him? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Edvinsson in the comments. Thank you for reading.