Sweden’s Axel Holmström (no relation to net-front superstar Tomas Holmström) was Detroit’s 7th round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. While the Wings fanbase may have a tendency to romanticize the late-round steal super-star, Axel Holmström has even the most pessimistic of Wings fans at least paying attention to his development. Going into his draft year the criticisms scared away a lot of teams. They said his skating was poor, he was a slower perimeter player and lacked the physicality needed to succeed in the NHL. Whether the Wings had him pegged as the guy they could snatch up late or figured they’d take a chance when he was still available in the 7th round, none of that matters now as Holmström is trending towards a serviceable NHL forward sooner than later.
BY THE NUMBERS
Holmström has shown a nose for the net at every level. Comfortably sitting over a point-per-game while coming up in the Swedish youth hockey program it’s no surprise he made the jump fairly quickly to the SHL. Playing in Sweden’s top pro league we saw his production dip a bit. He still managed 20 points in 44 regular season games, pretty good for a fairly low scoring league and averaging only about 13 minutes of ice time a game. To enter the SHL at such a young age and manage to stay up with the big club all year is quite a step forward in any players development, the fact he played such an important role on that team was just an added bonus.
The most alluring part of Holmström’s stat lines are the international tournaments and playoffs. His first playoffs as a rookie in the SHL Holmström managed to put up a staggering 18 points in 15 games, just two points shy of the 20 points he put up all regular season and a scoring pace matched only by the Sedin’s before him in the league. Holmström is there when it counts most, when the stage is set and someone needs to step up, he’s there. That’s an attribute the Wings seriously lack right now and part of the reason why his stock is so high in their system right now.
It’s hard not to be excited about this kid. On paper he continues to improve and become a force in the SHL while also possessing a valuable set of intangibles. He still needs to make some improvements, specifically to his skating and getting a little grittier to help smooth his transition to the NHL. Those are two big factors that could cause more issues on a smaller ice surface should they fail to improve this next year.
We’re not going to be seeing Holmström this upcoming season but many will be paying close attention to his progress in the SHL as he gets a little older, a little wiser and a little more comfortable in Sweden’s top league. The ground work is all there though, the pieces are starting to fit together and another player overlooked by the league has the potential to make an impact with the Wings sooner than later. He may have to battle hard to crack the roster but with an aging core and some underwhelming draft classes as of late, Holmström could be a part of the big club before a few of the players ranked higher on our list here. There are no allowances for a 7th round pick, if he wants to stay in the conversation he needs to prove he belongs there and thus far, Axel Holmström has done just that.