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How Swede it is!

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Updates on Canucks’ Swedish Prospects Hoglander, Karlsson and Costmar.

2019 NHL Draft - Round 2-7
Nils Hoglander greets Canucks’ icon and Scandinavian scout guru Thomas Gradin at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Next month the jersey numbers of Henrik and Daniel Sedin will be raised to the rafters at Rogers Arena to forever hang there in perpetuity alongside fellow Swede Markus Naslund’s number 19. That will make it three out of six hockey sweaters suspended from the upper reaches of the ‘House of Aquilini’ belonging to sons of the ‘Tre Konor’ (Three Crowns). They will outnumber the two Canadian banners (Stan Smyl and Trevor Linden) and one Russian banner (Pavel Bure) flying next to them.

Of course, none of the banderoles have or will have country of origin flags on them because, “We are all Canucks”. But the new tally will reinforce the indisputable fact that Vancouver is almost as much a Swedish hockey town as Stockholm.

2020 NHL All-Star Skills
Elias Pettersson competes in the NHL All Star Skills Competition in St. Louis.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

One can already project forward about twenty years from now to when another Swede is likely to have his number 40 dangling from the ceiling of the former General Motors Place alongside his three countrymen.

Currently, the Vancouver Canucks have three more young hockey prodigies from the birthplace of IKEA that hope to some day see their names up-in-the-rafters. The three Scandinavian hopefuls are Nils Hoglander, Linus Karlsson and Arvid Costmar.

General Manager Jim Benning and his crew of draft experts chose Hoglander in the 2nd round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Then, they pegged Costmar much later in the same Draft in the 7th and final round. Karlsson was picked by the San Jose Sharks in the 3rd round of the 2018 Draft. Benning acquired him from the Sharks at the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline in exchange for disappointing former Ottawa Senators 2016 2nd round choice Jonathan Dahlen.

NILS HOGLANDER

The recently-turned 20-year-old master of the Michigan-move has tallied seven goals in his second season playing for Rogle BK in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). The SHL is the top professional hockey league in Sweden. Hoglander’s seven goals this season have come in 26 games. Last season in his rookie SHL year he tallied seven snipes in 50 games.

He has now perfected the lacrosse-style goal into his repertoire having completed the manoeuvre twice in the SHL (once in his rookie season and once this season) and again at the recent U20 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship Tournament.

He’s starred internationally for Team Sweden at various tournaments this season including at the prestigious U20 WJC Boxing Day/New Years’ 2019/20 meet-up. At the WJC, he potted five goals and six assists in seven games including this non-lacrosse mesh-bender.

Canucks’ fans should expect Hoglander to either sign an NHL Entry Level Contract (ELC) with Vancouver once his SHL season concludes this season or instead put his signature on an AHL Professional Tryout Contract (PTO) with Utica and then sign an ELC with Vancouver on or soon after July 1st, 2020. It is almost certain Hoglander will begin his North American professional career in 2020 and not return to play in Sweden next season. His Rogle squad is not expected to have a lengthy post-season playoffs-run, so Hoglander and his dangerous left elbow may be flying to Canada or the USA as early as mid-March 2020.

LINUS KARLSSON

He is a 20-year-old right-handed natural center who is versatile and also plays both the right and left wings effectively. He is listed at 6’1” and a 179 lbs. but when you watch him play it appears he has grown another inch or two and put on an additional 10 or 15 pounds. He reminds me a bit of a young mirror-image Todd Bertuzzi when he plays his off wing.

He had his first taste of pro hockey at age 18 during the the 2017/18 season when he was summoned to play 13 games in the SHL with Karlskrona from their J20 SuperElit junior club. The SHL team was a poor team though and they were relegated to the Swedish second-tier pro Allsvenskan league the following season.

Since then he has spent almost two seasons playing for Karlskrona in the Allsvenskan League. He posted 5 goals and 18 points in 52 games in his rookie season and tallied 8 goals and 22 points in 36 games in his current second season with them in the League.

Most Canucks’ fans appear to have overlooked this promising prospect perhaps still wary about previously overvaluing the future potential of his trade-mate Jonathan Dahlen in the past.

Dahlen ironically quit the AHL after he was traded and returned home to Sweden to play in the second-tier Allsvenskan League with the goal of once again leading his beloved Timra team to promotion to the SHL for next season.

Karlsson just a short while ago decided to exercise a contract option to leave his Karlskrona club for a superior Allsvenskan Karlskoga squad in an effort to be on a team that has a better chance to gain promotion to the SHL.

Since joining his new club, Karlsson has exploded offensively scoring two goals and adding five assists for a total of seven points in four games. Dahlen’s Timra team sits in 3rd place two points ahead of Karlskoga in the 14-team Allsvenskan League. Perhaps, the season will end eventually in a battle of Dahlen versus Karlsson to determine whose team is successful in earning a return to the SHL next season.

I think Karlsson will play next season in the SHL either on a promoted Karlskoga team or another SHL club. If he continues his improving offensive showing look for Jim Benning to sign him to an ELC during the summer of 2021 and arrange for him come over to play in the AHL with Utica during the 2021/22 hockey season.

ARVID COSTMAR

When you get to the later rounds of NHL drafts picking a potential future NHL quality hockey player is very much like trying to find a needle in a haystack. However, the Canucks may have found the prize at the bottom of the cracker-jack box in 18-year-old center Arvid Costmar. He was the third last player taken in the entire 2019 Draft.

He has exploded in his third year in the Swedish J20 SuperElit League. Costmar has fired home 18 goals and added 18 assists for a total of 36 points in just 22 junior games. He is a very good playmaker but even a better sniper.

He has a good pedigree and has represented Sweden internationally since he was age 16. This past summer he played on a U20 squad at a 5 Nations WJC player evaluation tournament along with fellow 2019 Vancouver draft pick Hoglander.

He was called up to Linkoping’s SHL team this season and played four games before suffering a concussion. He also was recently loaned out to the Mora IK Allsvenskan club and played six games with them. He showed well in his professional cups-of-coffee including the versatility to also play both wings in addition to his normal center spot.

His next assignment is to play at next month’s 5 Nations tournament for his home country in Germany.

I think next season Costmar will play his first full season for Linkoping in either the SHL or the Allsvenskan League (they are in some peril of being relegated down one level at the end of this season). He is also a good bet to be on Sweden’s WJC U20 roster on Boxing Day. If his high level offence transfers well next season to whichever Swedish professional league in plays in, he will likely be signed to an ELC by Jim Benning and come over to play in North America during either the 2021/22 or 2022/23 season.

The Canucks have three Swedish-born prospects all of whom appear to have a reasonable possibility of putting a Vancouver sweater on some day. The clear first arrival is expected to be Nils Hoglander as early as in a few weeks. Most Vancouver fans think he is the best candidate to run the Canucks current streak of three consecutive rookies playing in the NHL All Star game to four in 2021.

How sweet it is.