Why the Red Wings should pursue Swedish prospect Lukas Bengtsson

One of the hockey world’s most talented under-the-radar prospects might be riding the wave over to North America sooner than later. Lukas Bengtsson, a 21-year-old Swedish defenceman, has shown interest in trying his luck with an NHL organization.

Loosely translated from Swedish outlet SportExpressen:

Lukas Bengtsson is nearing a comeback after having knee surgery a month ago. There are many indications that the 21-year-old, who is one of Frolunda’s best offensive defencemen, could be back as early as Thursday.

But, in the midst of Frolunda’s hunt for a spot in the Semi-Finals, Sportbladet reports that Bengtsson could leave after the SHL post season. “It is true that we’re in talks with NHL clubs. More than that, I can’t comment. Right now, Lukas is focused on the playoffs and coming back from his injury”, agent Johan Altberg told Sportbladet.

Prior to his injury, Bengtsson was one of Frolunda’s best offensive defencemen, with his 14 points in 30 games ranking him third on the team and trailing only 25-year-old Henrik Tommernes in points per game. In fact, of the league’s 105 defencemen who played at least half the season, Bengtsson had the 15th highest points-per-game (with only one player, Stars prospect Niklas Hansson, being younger than him) and led all defensemen in goals per game.

These numbers are very impressive for a rookie, who has worked his way up the youth and minor levels to get to where he is today. prior to this year, Bengtsson spent five years playing with Mora IK at the U18, U20, SuperElit, and Allsvenskan levels. The Allsvenskan, which is Sweden’s second highest league, is where he really began showing his potential, putting up 64 points in 88 games between 2013/14 and 2014/15 (0.73 points per game). Bengtsson also played for Sweden’s 2014 World Junior Team, with whom he earned a Silver Medal.

There have been a plethora of quality offensive defensemen to come out of Sweden over the years, but it’s rare to see them produce immediate results. Fewer than a dozen defenseman at his age or younger have produced at the same or greater efficiency in the past twenty years, and a lot of that can be credited to his skill set. Bengtsson is a fantastic skater who isn’t afraid to rush up the puck, and has a killer release on his shot. He’s also not afraid to protect the puck when he has it, and he doesn’t shy away from helping out on the defensive end.

There are some red flags, though. For starters, He’s not a big guy; most places report him at either 5’9 or 5’10, and he weighs about 180 pounds. He also plays on a very, very good Frolunda roster, loaded with quality Swedes (Henrik Lundqvist’s brother Joel leading the way), multiple ex-North American players that are better suited to the European game (Joey Crabb, Spencer Abbott, and Ryan Lasch to name a few), and legitimate prospects like Andreas Johnson and Johan Sundstrom. The team even won Europe’s Champions Hockey League this year, with Bengtsson earning 8 points in 11 round robin and playoff games.

I don’t think it would be a bad idea to take a look into signing Bengtsson. While you don’t want to load your team with undersized defencemen, you can definitely devote a spot to them if there’s room for them. The Wings don’t exactly have a back-end filled with Zdeno Chara’s, but have a reasonably big defensive group that can surround Bengtsson and make him feel right at home. In a best case scenario, Bengtsson could add a sense of urgency to Detroit’s defensive zone breakouts and give the team another option on the powerplay. If not, he’ll spend some time on the Griffins.

The Wings already have a similar Scandinavian prospect in Finnish teenager Vili Saarijarvi, which might lead to some hesitance to double dip in the department. But there aren’t very many guarantees in this sport, especially when talking about 18-year-olds drafted in the third round. Having a second option isn’t a bad thing, especially when that second option is three years further along schedule.

As long as he’s interested, the pursuit of Bengtsson would be a shrewd move to add a potentially high-quality prospect to an organization that has the room to develop him and possibly even use him. It’s a low-risk, high reward scenario. There are certainly much worse ideas out there; why not give this one a shot?