Let's be honest: none of us knows a ton about Hockey Allsvenskan, Sweden's second-tier professional league. But that's where the Bruins' newest big prospect, David Pastrnak, will be plying his trade this fall, as he has for the past two seasons.
Pastrnak left his native Czech Republic to further his career by playing professionally in Sweden, as the Swedish leagues tend to have a higher profile than those in the Czech Republic. It's gone pretty well for him so far: he's recorded 27 points in 47 Allsvenskan games as a teenager and did well enough to turn himself into a first-round NHL draft pick.
Over in Sweden, Erik, a Bruins fan who counts Södertälje SK as his hometown team, has been watching Pastrnak since his arrival in the land of Tre Kronor.
After the draft, Erik sent this message:
Steal by the Bruins to get Pastrnak so late in the first. Kid is playing for my team in Sweden and will be awesome
Well that's good to hear. Seeking a more in-depth look at Pastrnak, I reached out to Erik to get his thoughts on the Czech forward, what makes him so exciting and what to expect from him going forward. Erik's comments have only been edited for clarity's sake.
1) Södertälje SK plays in
The level is quite good. It´s obviously lower than the NHL, but during the lockout Södertälje had players like Matt Read, Carl Hagelin, Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Grossman on the team. Other [former] players from Södertälje are Anze Kopitar, Jonas Enroth and Mikael Samuelsson. It´s a mix of young talented players and veterans. The most positive thing about the league is that young players get lots of responsibilities and playing time.
2) You told me on Twitter that Pastrnak "dominated" as an 18-year-old. What about his play makes you think he was so dominant?
He played on the first line with William Nylander (picked by Toronto, 8th overall). Pastrnak was the leading scorer on the team, even though his season ended early with a concussion. It´s not only the scoring; he is also very creative and strong on the puck and makes his line mates better.
3) Having watched him for a while now, what would you say Pastrnak's biggest strengths are? Biggest areas for improvement?
He is a very good skater, not only fast, but he also has shiftiness in his feet. He can change directions and make sudden turns in the corners, which draws lots of penalties. He also has very good hands and is a natural scorer with a really good shot. His compete level is very high and he is very responsible in his back checking. I think he can get better at everything, because of his age (just 18 years old). The biggest area of improvement is his strength and also his decision making with the puck. He seems to be bigger than he really is, but he will need to add about 15 pounds to his frame.
4) Where do you see Pastrnak's ceiling being in the NHL?
I’m sure he will be at least a first or second line player. His game is more suited for a top line rather than a checking line.
5) Who in the NHL would you currently compare him to, either in style of play or potential?
The player that comes to mind is Phil Kessel. Pastrnak can fly on the wing and is also a good scorer. Kessel might be more of a sniper, but Pastrnak is much more physical and is not afraid to go into the corners, make big hits or get to the net. Another player that comes to mind is Brad Marchand, a player who can dangle, change directions and finish with a good shot.
6) What is your favorite thing about Pastrnak?
He seems to be very popular in the dressing room, with his positive and laid back attitude. What I really appreciate about him is that he really is a team player and his compete level, which many players with his skills don’t necessarily have. I can imagine that Chiarelli and Neely fell for the same things. His dad passed away from cancer, so he is dedicating all his success and drive to get better to him.
7) Would you say he has a lot of talent around him at Södertälje, or is he doing most of the scoring/work on his own?
I would say he can score on almost any line. When the team was struggling last year, he was still able to rack up points. But I can really see him being a 30-40 goal scorer on a good line in the future.
8) How far away do you think Pastrnak is from North American hockey, be it the NHL or AHL?
I think he needs at least one more year before coming over. I’m sure he could play in the AHL right now, but he will benefit from playing on the first line in Södertälje for one more year. It depends on the openings that Bruins will have on their top lines in the coming years, because I don´t think they will bring him in to kill penalties.
Follow Erik on Twitter for more Swedish hockey insight.