We’re back for the next prospect profile in WingsNation’s countdown of the top 25 Detroit Red Wings prospects for the 2019 season. Today we’ll be taking a look at Swedish goalie prospect Jesper Eliasson.
Eliasson was drafted in the third round, 84th overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft by the Red Wings, a goalie out of IF Troja-Ljungby J20/J18 in the Swedish junior leagues. He stands 6’3”, 209 lbs, and catches with his left hand and was born in Eksjo, Sweden, on March 21, 2000. This past season he played in the top Swedish junior league SuperElit for the Vaxjo Lakers HC J20, as well as some competition for Team Sweden in international play.
The Red Wings took Eliasson as their first goalie in the 2018 Draft amid the fairly standard process of taking one goalie per draft (they actually took 2 that year). At that point, Eliasson was coming off of a very nice 2018 campaign in which he split time between an under-18 league and an under-20 league, neither of which are the top junior league in Sweden.
In both leagues he posted a save percentage north of .925 and a GAA under 2.00, appearing briefly on Team Sweden in the U18 World Juniors ahead of the Draft. Prior to the 2018 season, he had spent the 2016-17 season in the same two leagues and while his numbers were actually similar in 2016-17 to 2017-18 in the U20 league, he improved substantially in the U18 league. The Red Wings drafted him with the expectation he would move up to SuperElit in his D+1 season, which indeed happened this year.
This season he played for the Vaxjo Lakers HC J20 in the SuperElit, which is one of the more middle of the road clubs in the league. He was the everyday goalie, making 33 starts and posted a 2.43 GAA and a .919 SV% in the regular season before putting up similar numbers in two postseason starts. He finished 5th in the league in SV% and 7th in GAA, which is pretty solid for a goalie in his first season in the league. In this upcoming season, he will be playing in the Allsvenskan League, which is the second tier professional league in Sweden (below the SHL) on a loan to Almtuna IS.
Eliasson is a player with very, very little video of him, making it hard for people like myself, who don’t watch Swedish Junior League games on the regular, to get a personal reading on him. There also isn’t much in the form of written reports from popular public scouts available, either. As a result, we turn to one of WingsNation’s newest prospect evaluators, the venerable Tony Ferrari, who has seen Eliasson quite a bit in recent days as part of Team Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase tournament in Plymouth, Michigan.
Tony summarized him as:
“(Eliasson) is a good size (6’3”, 210 lbs) and he uses his size in the net. He does a good job of keeping his chest up and shoulders square to the shooter. His reflexes are good with both his glove and his pads. He tracked the puck fairly well without traffic and closes off the bottom of the net. I like his positioning generally but when moving laterally he can sometimes lose his net. He rarely looks like he’s swimming in his net and stays calm under pressure. He struggles to fight around traffic in front of the net and tries to look above the netfront forward rather than around. This can lead to quick goals, sneaking by over his pad, under his glove/blocker.”
That insightful scouting report gives us a good base idea of the kind of hockey player that Jesper Eliasson is, and generally aligns with one of the only other pieces of scouting on him. In particular, it derives from last summer, when The Athletic faulted him for having weak edges and recovery time, which, as Tony mentioned, can make him lose his net. Still, despite that weakness, Eliasson’s good size gives him a solid bit to work with and Tony’s review overall was decently positive, even if Eliasson isn’t the Very Large Human that Keith Petruzzeli is. Most notably, after assessing Eliasson’s skill, Tony noted that in his opinion, Eliasson had “been Team Sweden’s best netminder at the WJSS so far”, which portends well for his ability to get more international playing time this upcoming season.
Why He’s 20th on the list/future projection
Eliasson slots in as the #2 goalie in the Red Wings system on our list, ahead of Keith Petruzzelli and substantially behind Filip Larsson. As it stands currently, Larsson is on track to be the Goalie of the Future, and being 2 years older than Eliasson, it is not shocking to see Larsson ahead of him. However, beyond Larsson (and he’s far from a sure thing), there are a lot of question marks across the system in net and the team will look for someone to step up in the coming years. Eliasson looks most likely to do that now, but he’s got a long way to go. Goalies develop far more slowly as prospects than skaters do and can often be quite variable from year to year, which is why we exercise caution with Eliasson.
His season in the SuperElit was encouraging, given he was towards the top of the league, but again, that’s only a junior league and he was playing against guys mostly his age. This upcoming season will teach us a lot about what Eliasson is really made of, since he will be playing against men in a professional league. It would also be nice to see Eliasson in more international competition, especially if he can snatch the starting job goalie away from Rangers prospect Olof Lindblom and Sabres prospect Erik Portillo for the upcoming World Juniors, allowing Eliasson to play against some of the best other prospects in the world.
For now though, we just watch and wait. That’s about all you can do with goalies. At this point in Larsson’s career (D+1), he seemed like a solid prospect but nothing special, much like Eliasson now. But within two years, Larsson has since emerged as arguably one of the 10 best goalie prospects in the NHL. Maybe Eliasson will follow that path, maybe he won’t. It’s just hard to predict goalies. As a result, there is a super high variance in his projection, but we’ll go with:
Best case scenario: NHL starting goalie
Worst case scenario: Never plays a game in the NHL and doesn’t really come close