To say that Albin Eriksson’s 2019-20 season has not gone according to plan would be quite an understatement.
He’s played for five different teams, spread across three different leagues. He’s been injured. He’s been suspended. And through 26 games in Sweden’s top two professional leagues, he hasn’t registered a regular-season goal.
Needless to say, none of that is ideal. Especially for a prospect who was selected in the second round (44th overall) in the 2018 NHL entry draft.
Another page in Eriksson’s 2019-20 horror novel was written over the weekend, when he was sent from Färjestad’s SHL team down to the program’s junior club in Sweden’s top U20 league, the SuperElit.
This demotion stings a little extra, as Eriksson had been transferred from his longtime SHL club in Skellefteå to Färjestad in the hopes that he would get more ice time in the pros. This move came after a failed transfer before Christmas, when he was moved to MODO in the second-tier Allsvenskan league, but he couldn’t get any ice time in MODO either after three games, so he was quickly shipped back to Skellefteå.
The whole turn of events is, frankly, pretty surprising, considering Eriksson had nine goals, seven assists, and an average time on ice of 10:18 in 44 games with Skellefteå last season. It was a magnificent season for him, and he seemed primed and ready to take an even bigger step this year.
It’s also come as a surprise to Dallas Stars director of scouting Joe McDonell, as he discussed with The Athletic's Sean Shapiro a month ago:
“With Albin, the ice time level, I just can’t put my finger and I don’t understand it on the limited minutes he plays in his league. When he does play he’s a threat, and it’s hard for me to understand the coaches over there and how they treat Albin,” McDonnell said. “Every time I see him, he competes. He has a good skill set, and he creates when he plays, but it’s a matter of getting the proper minutes, and hopefully that’ll change in the second half.”
The good news — what little there is — is that Eriksson looked more like his old self at this year’s World Juniors, scoring one goal in seven games in a checking-line role as Sweden captured bronze. And he also scored a goal in his lone game thus far with Färjestad’s SuperElit team, so maybe that will help him get the monkey off his back a little.
But where his career goes from here is still quite a mystery.
It’s hard to describe to Stars fans who haven’t watched Eriksson closely just how scary-good his tools are. It’s incredibly rare to find prospects who have his combination of size, skating, shot, puck skills and tenacity. He truly is a special player.
However, whether he’ll reach his full potential is another story altogether.
He’s under contract with Färjestad for the 2020-21 season, and per NHL-SHL transfer rules, he’s not allowed to play in the AHL next year. So you can put that idea away on the shelf.
But there may be a silver lining here. As of this season, the Stars have a development coordinator who focuses on European prospects specifically: Pär Johansson. While he doesn’t really have any results to show so far in his first year on the job, he is considered to have played a big role in the development of Buffalo Sabres’ Rasmus Dahlin — their superstar defenseman in the making — so there is reason to be optimistic.
Just what does end up unfolding with Eriksson’s development over the next few years will certainly be one of the most interesting storylines for the Dallas Stars’ prospect pool.
While I just said that there isn’t really anything that Johansson has to show for results since he was hired, there is one Swede who has caught my eye more than I expected this season: Fredrik Karlström.
The rangy center looks noticeably quicker and more powerful in his lower body, creating chances all by himself that he had trouble creating in the past.
He’s on a bit of a roll lately with Växjö in the SHL, scoring two penalty-shot goals in the span of a week. Incredibly, he didn’t actually draw either call, so his coach handpicked him for those attempts. That certainly says something. Here’s a video link to his most recent penalty shot finish.
The Texas Stars logged a 50-50 record in their brief two-game stretch last week, beating the Iowa Wild 4-3 on Friday before falling to the same club on Saturday by a score of 4-0.
It was a thrilling finish in the former of the two contests, with Joel Kiviranta scoring the winning tally with just 52 seconds remaining in the third period. It was the return game to the AHL for both Kiviranta and Jason Robertson, and Robertson scored in the match as well. Additionally, new dad Riley Tufte had a nice third-period goal and primary assist on Kiviranta’s winner, while Jake Oettinger stopped 33 of 36 between the pipes.
Fortunes were reversed on Saturday, however, when the Wild exacted their revenge. Joel L’Esperance had a game-high five shots on net, while Oettinger stopped 24 of 27 in defeat.
The Texas roster continues to be short Nick Caamano, Adam Mascherin and Landon Bow due to injury.
North American Juniors
The Flint Firebirds continue to set franchise records, with some of them — such as their record for wins in a season — likely to continue being extended further before the end of the regular season. Most impressive recently, they rattled off a remarkable 15-game win streak, which was the envy of the entire OHL.
They’ve also officially clinched a playoff spot.
Captain Ty Dellandrea hasn’t been putting up the same gaudy point totals as he was a month ago (Flint has found a ton of offensive success this year by having different players up and down the lineup take over games), but he continues to be the main cog in the club’s successful season with his minutes and usage.
He recently offered some remarks about what this successful season means for the long-suffering Firebirds and their fans (the whole story in the link offers a good refresher for those who forget):
“It’s been rewarding, exciting, been a long time coming wanting to be a competitive hockey team,” Dellandrea said. “Everyone’s pretty pumped. But also we aren’t satisfied, we want a long run to the playoffs. We’re motivated.”
Flint’s winning streak was stopped at 15 games by Riley Damiani and the Kitchener Rangers. Damiani scored the game-winning goal — his second in two games — by stripping Dellandrea of the puck and going in on a shorthanded breakaway. He has 14 points over his past 10 matches.
All good things come to an end ♂️ @rileydamiani strips a fellow @DallasStars prospect and scores a shorthanded unassisted dagger as the @OHLRangers halt Flint’s winning streak at an impressive 15 games. pic.twitter.com/KGzdLDW7qu— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) February 23, 2020
The Rangers also officially punched their postseason ticket over the weekend.
For a full database of the organization’s prospects and their stats, check out the Stars’ “In the System” page on Elite Prospects.