As we head over to Sweden for number 22 in our NHL Draft profiles we come across Pontus Aberg. Aberg, one of four finalists for last season’s Rookie of the Year award in the Swedish Elitserein leauge, put up 15 points in 47 games for the Djurgardens squad. While Aberg excelled, the team faltered, being defeated in the relegation playoff round and being sent to the Allsvenskan league for next season.
Aberg also spent time last year with Djurgardens U20 team, with whom he excelled when playing against competition his own age, scoring five goals in seven games along with two assists. This was not Aberg’s first time playing against U20 competition as he spent time in the league as a 17-year-old, putting up 30 points in 41 games to go along with the 62 points he scored in just 36 games with the U18 squad.
Weight: 194 pounds
Position: Left Wing
Born: September 23, 1993
What People In The Know Know
There is no ignoring that the winger held his own as an 18-year-old in the Elitserien, counting eight goals and 15 points across 47 games for Djugardens. Keep in mind that came while playing just more than 10 minutes per game. With Djugardens demoted to the second-tier Allsvenskan for next season, Aberg figures on getting ample time to fine-tune his game before migrating to North American.
Teams will have to keep in mind Aberg is relatively aged for a first-time draftee since he actually turned 18 last September. However, he has a NHL-calibre shot which draft experts such as Corey Pronman believe will allow him to sustain an above-average shooting percentage in the NHL. There are valid concerns about how steep a learning curve Aberg faces with his ability to set up teammates and his defensive game. However, it’s not as if teams expect their draft picks to arrive at their first developmental camp fully formed. Aberg’s offensive abilities make him a potential high-ceiling pick, likely somewhere in the second 10 picks in the first round of Friday’s NHL draft.
Unlike many other highly-touted European prospects, the 18-year-old Swede has already shown to be a reliable contributor playing in one of the top foreign leagues and is projected to be a first-round pick in June. He is a strong skater who is mature beyond his years.
Had Aberg been born eight days earlier, he would have been eligible for the 2011 draft. But having an extra year to view him hasn’t given scouts a better impression of what kind of player he’ll ultimately be.
Aberg played regularly with Djurgarden of the Swedish League, where it’s difficult to evaluate young players because they’re generally so far out of their element. That was the case with Aberg, who started strong offensively but faded as the season went on.
“It’s hard to find fault with an 18-year-old who’s playing in that league with some success,: said a scout. “He’s got some skill but he’s not good enough to be an impact guy in the Swedish Elite League and he’s too good to play in the junior league. You don’t get as good a chance to evaluate him and that makes him a tough call.”
Aberg lost a chance to play with his own age group when he missed the world juniors with an injury.
Though, as said above, the knock on Aberg is his lack of experience playing in a league where skill can accurately be measured, Aberg has put up the kind of numbers in the past that make scouts sit up and pay attention.
Aberg is currently ranked sixth amongst European skaters by NHL Central Scouting and I agree with Neate Sager that we should see Aberg go somewhere in the middle of the first round. A very typical solid, albeit risky, pick.