As the GMs meeting wrapped up, plenty of information has come out about a number of things you’ll be hearing about in the next couple of days. One interesting wrinkle that’s come out for this is what the Svenska Ishockeyförbundet (Swedish Hockey Federation) wants for the NHL’s young swedish prospects.
Namely, for them to not play in the AHL.
Swedish officials had a polite but clear message for GMs today: leave their young players in Sweden to develop. They don't want them in AHL— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) March 8, 2017
....Well that kinda came out of left field.
Currently, Boston has two players from Sweden in their AHL affiliate, with a host of Swedes outside the semi-pro system (Oskar Steen, Johansson, Forsbacka-Karlsson) that, once they hit a certain level, have to make a choice in regard to their development. Move to Rhode Island, or return to their Sport Clubs in Sweden.
On the one hand, it’s not hard to understand why Sweden might want their young players to come home every once in awhile. The time difference to see these talents in their prime is sometimes very prohibitive, and having them playing on Swedish teams means more revenue for said teams. It also has precedent for the development perspective, as Peter Forsberg and Mats Sundin took a season off from NHL play to return to their previous teams in Sweden, and both came back just as good, if not better, than they were. Sometimes players still need a better transition period that doesn’t always come with playing in the AHL. A more recent example that Swedish officials got word of was that of Alex Nylander (brother of William) struggling mightily in the AHL where he previously...didn’t. Artturi Lehkonen wasn’t exactly a bad player, but after a stint in Frolunda he came to the NHL and has been a promising (and infuriating) prospect for Montreal. There’s plenty of precedent for improvement being made from the SHL.
On the other hand...there are plenty of players who can say the opposite has been working out for them in the NHL because they went to the AHL instead of Sweden. Oscar Sundqvist in Wilkes-Barre has improved his point-getting immensely from any season he had at the highest level of play for Skellefteå in Sweden. To say nothing of course of Boston’s own David Pastrnak, whose currently blowing any previous season he’s ever had in Europe out of the water. His time in the AHL put him at a point-per-game no matter what sample size they threw him in. 25 games? 28 points. 3 games for conditioning? 4 points. Anton Blidh at the SHL level had less than 10 points in his 60+ career. In Providence? Much more consistent with at least 12-15 points a season.
On top of all of that there’s still that whole “North America doesn’t play on Olympic ice“ thing that can be kind of an issue sometimes? It’s not that much of one anymore, but it can still take some getting used to. The Bruins have gotten around this mostly by having players who’ve already made the transition to North American leagues by choice or have been playing on NHL level ice for awhile now. Oh...and probably a much more pressing matter: whole “Geography” thing. If you’d like to get a player called up? You’re gonna have to wait on a plane that at the absolute least 10 hours or more while they get on a flight.
Sweden didn’t come down hard on the NHL so it’s still up to player and team discretion to what comes next in their development before they have a chance to make the NHL roster, but it does leave one wondering who will take their home country up on the offer or what GM will consider the proposition.
What do you think? Should players go to the AHL to continue to develop? Or should they return to Sweden for a time? Do you think the Player should decide for themselves or should their coaches/GMs get to decide?