Red Wings prospect Axel Holmstrom is in the midst of his second professional season in North America with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He has had all the ups and downs you expect from a player adjusting to the smaller ice surfaces, thus, creating a difficult path of development. His once hopeful NHL career may be vanishing, as reports indicate he is considering to return to the SHL next season. The two front-runners to land his services are Lulea HF and HV71.
Holmstrom previously played in the SHL for three years (one spent mainly injured) after being drafted in the 7th round by Detroit in 2014. He played for Skelleftea and found great success, which included being named Sweden’s top junior player, as well as a historic playoff run in 2015. Alas, that same success hasn’t translated to the AHL. His 22 points in 56 games are a fine stat-line, but still far off from someone hoping to crack an NHL roster. Hockey IQ is Holmstrom’s calling card, but the main issues holding him back are a lack of pace and physicality.
If Holmstrom does bolt for the SHL, I’d imagine his time with the organization is done. He is set to become a restricted free-agent this summer, but obviously, he would not re-sign, nor report if he is else where in Europe. If he does ever consider a return to North America, Detroit would maintain his rights.
Heading back home does seem like the smart move for the 22-year-old. He has an opportunity to be paid handsomely due to his professional experience, and be closer to family. Not to mention, with the potential of Joseph Veleno and Zach Gallant heading to Grand Rapids next season, Holmstrom’s playing time would be taking a hit. Christoffer Ehn passing him on the organizational depth chart doesn’t help either.
As for this season, Holmstrom will still be a valuable contributor to the Griffins who are hoping to go on a long playoff run. After years of injury problems, he has finally been able to stay healthy and be in the lineup every night. Combined with his big playoff performances from his junior days, he is still an excellent depth piece for GR, even if his prospect days are over with the Red Wings.