If you’re a good, young European hockey player who dreams of reaching the NHL one day, deciding when the best time for you to come across the pond to North America is a difficult decision to make.
Some players come in their early teens, before they’re even ready for North America’s top junior leagues, while others can wait as long as their mid-20s. No two decisions are ever the same, as there are a lot of development factors to consider and a lot to think about.
All of this is probably going through Swedish defenseman John Nyberg’s head these days.
Nyberg, 21, is currently playing for Frolunda in the SHL, Sweden’s top hockey league. He’s a regular cog on a deep Frolunda blueline, logging an average of 18:43 per game right now. On the score sheet, he’s produced 12 points in 49 games, but the 6’2”, 194-pound rearguard is more of a two-way defender than an offensive defensemen, using his size and a great skating stride to control the flow of play out on the ice.
He’s got a pretty good thing going on right now with Frolunda, but is it time for him to make the jump to North America?
Nyberg signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Dallas Stars last May, showing that the Stars are happy with how one of their 2014 draft picks (Nyberg was a 6th-rounder) is doing. He also played in the Traverse City prospect tournament this past September and drew some praise.
Nyberg is under SHL contract with Frolunda for one more season, but SHL-NHL transfer agreements are complicated. Mattias Janmark was under an SHL contract with Frolunda for the 2015-2016 season, but wound up spending that whole year in Dallas. There may be a chance that Frolunda lets Nyberg come to North America in 2018-2019 under similar circumstances.
The Stars have a long recent track record of bringing over Swedes, with players such as John Klingberg, Mattias Janmark, Patrik Nemeth, Ludwig Bystrom, Mattias Backman and Niklas Hansson all making the jump. Will Nyberg be next?
Jacob Peterson picked up a goal and an assist in three games in Sweden’s Allsvenskan league, and boy, were they both pretty.
His goal came as a 4-1 insurance goal early in the third period of a 4-2 victory over AIK, bursting into the offensive zone with speed and undressing a defender before sliding home a backhand, which can be seen at this link at the video’s 1:57 mark. His assist came thanks to a similar burst of quickness, entering the OZ and sliding a backhand pass between a couple of defenders to a linemate that finished the job, which can be seen at the 0:35 mark of the video at this link.
Miro Heiskanen picked up three assists in three games, while also being up to his same old puck tricks. Heiskanen just doesn’t slow down, as he’s come back from the Olympics and played a couple of enormous 28-minute outings in Finland’s Liiga. Most amazingly, he’s currently averaging 25:07 of ice time per game, which is top among all players in the Liiga, showing just how advanced he is for his age.
Pretty slick goal in the Finnish Elite League yesterday. (Liiga) pic.twitter.com/J6nY9Izkg3— Robert Söderlind (@HockeyWebCast) March 3, 2018
North American Junior
Colton Point and his Colgate Raiders team are off to the next round of the ECAC playoffs after defeating RPI in their best-of-three series this weekend. Colgate won the first game 3-1 and then lost the second game 1-0, but came up big in the finale, winning 2-0. Point stopped all 23 shots that he faced for the shutout and was his usual puck-stopping self all weekend, as the video below can attest. Colgate now moves on to play Clarkson this weekend.
Before the power play...Colton Point, my goodness! pic.twitter.com/aXc1isKhtN— Colgate Men's Hockey (@ColgateMIH) March 4, 2018
Michael Prapavessis played for that RPI team and had one assist. With the loss and this being his fourth year of NCAA hockey, his collegiate career has now come to an end. An impending free agent, the question then becomes whether or not he has a future within the Dallas Stars organization. One option the Stars have before making any other decision is to offer Prapavessis an Amateur Tryout Agreement (through the Texas Stars) and see how he does in the AHL for the remainder of this season. The Stars have gone this route before with Alex Chiasson, Curtis McKenzie, Austin Smith and others, so they might want to do so again here.
Joseph Cecconi moved on to the next round of the Big 10 playoffs after the University of Michigan swept the University of Wisconsin in a pair of games. It was old-school, firewagon hockey, with both games being high-scoring affairs. Cecconi joined in on the fun, picking up a whopping five assists in two games, including on the power play and this highlight-reel gem off the rush. The Wolverines play Ohio State next.
CLIP: @Kootzy gives Michigan a 4-2 lead on the TIC-TAC-TOE play from @NikoPorikos and @JCecconi9! #GoBlue pic.twitter.com/hnhlLSonrv— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) March 4, 2018
Rhett Gardner finished his NCAA regular season with a bang, scoring a pretty 3-on-3 overtime game-winning goal against St. Cloud State (the game technically ended in a tie, but the overtime helped determine playoff seeding). The University of North Dakota takes on Omaha this weekend next.
VIDEO: WINNER! Rhett Gardner scores in the 3x3 OT to give @UNDMHockey the extra point in the NCHC standings! #UNDproud pic.twitter.com/EspMVnmmZP— UND Insider (@undinsider) March 4, 2018
Liam Hawel had one of his most productive weekends in the OHL, producing five points in three games. His game has improved a step as of late, with eight points in his past six games.
.@hawel24 on the power play to extend the lead to 2! #GoStormGo pic.twitter.com/Hkw57UCvxM— Guelph Storm (@Storm_City) March 4, 2018
The Texas Stars had a busy week, playing in four games, finishing with one overtime win, two regulation losses, and one shootout loss.
Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov each picked up a goal and an assist in the four games, all of which came on Tuesday’s shootout loss against the Chicago Wolves. Landon Bow stopped 41 of 44 shots in that same game, and then stopped 17 of 19 in a 4-1 loss (also to Chicago) on Saturday.
Texas currently sits just outside of the playoff picture, but they’re within reach of two playoff spots and have 17 regular season games remaining to leapfrog other clubs.
2018 NHL Draft Watch
Few prospects available for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft have seen their stock rise as rapidly since the fall of 2017 as Dominik Bokk has.
The German-born Bokk has been making a name for himself in Sweden this year, scoring 40 points in 34 games in Sweden’s top junior league and then adding two points in 15 games in the SHL. A flashy, electrifying winger with smooth hands, he’s a lot of fun to watch because of his ability to make highlight-reel plays.
German #2018NHLDraft hopeful Dominik Bokk with a great 1st pro goal with Växjö last night. Ranked 99th in @FCHockey's preliminary rankings. pic.twitter.com/GrjKUXSABA— Janik Beichler (@JanikBeichler) November 4, 2017