Our #4 prospect is a kid who is part of the Red Wings excellent, and partially lucky, 2018 draft class. With two first round picks, the club snatched Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno. The topic of today’s projection, Jonatan Berggren, was expected to go late into that first round, but fell to day two, where the Red Wings snagged him at 33rd overall. He is a fast and skilled winger from Sweden who I expect to make a North American push very soon.
Drafted: 2nd round, 33rd overall in 2018
Weight: 183 lbs
Birthday: July 16, 2000 (19-years-old)
Latest Team: Skelleftea AIK (SHL)
Berggren came up exclusively through the Swedish hockey system, starting in the Division 2 U16 league at 13-years-old and finishing last year with Skelleftea AIK of the SHL. He’s dominated at every level, putting up point-per-game seasons all the way until he hit the SuperElit league in 2016-17. He only put up six goals and six assists in 29 games that season, but it didn’t last long. The following year in the same league, Berggren exploded offensively with 18 goals and 57 points in 38 games. His transition to the SHL has been a tough one as he’s had to adjust to playing with men. Last season, he scored no goals and had three assists in 16 games. But he’s expected back this year and should take a big step forward.
At the international level, Berggren has represented his country twice a year since he was 16. His best performance was at the 2017-18 U18 World Junior Championships where he scored five goals and 10 points through the seven games played. Last year, he played in the annual U20 World Junior Championship showcase and put up a mere three assists in five games – an underwhelming performance.
Based on these numbers, Berggren still has some adjusting to do when it comes to playing above his weight level. That being said, he played at the Red Wings annual prospect camp this Summer and looked like one of the best in the pool.
One thing that really stood out to me when watching Berggren play with and against other Wings prospects was his speed. He looked like he was playing a step ahead of everybody else. With his head up, this became dangerous as he moved both himself and the puck into scoring position in the offensive zone.
Combine this great skating with the kind of passing that Berggren is capable of and you’ve got someone who can feed Zadina pucks all night long. Berggren is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, so don’t expect to see him lighting up the lamp every night, but he’ll definitely be helping others light the lamp. He can see the play unfolding very well and uses this intelligence to make the right pass.
Berggren is incredible skilled with the puck. His speed helps, but his smooth hands allow him to keep it away from the prying sticks of opponents. This also helps in the defensive end, where he’s strong on the breakout and also at creating turnovers.
If it sounds like I’m describing the perfect package, that’s because I almost am. Berggren is very good at everything, but doesn’t have an elite aspect to his game. Still, this is good for top-6 participation if paired with the right players.
While I would love for him to start acclimatizing to North American ice with the Grand Rapids Griffins, all signs point to Berggren returning to season to play another year in the SHL. This really isn’t a bad thing. The SHL is a good league and he is going to be playing with very good teammates against very good opponents. At a ripe 19-years-old, Berggren has lots of time to develop into the player the Red Wings want him to be.
And what kind of player might that be? I see Berggren as a top-6 winger. He’s not quite a top line guy, but I could easily see him on Veleno’s wing, anchoring down the second line. He also might end up being one the Wings key penalty kill forwards, as he uses his speed and hockey IQ to back check quite frequently and create turnovers in his own zone.
I do truly see Berggren as a future NHL-er, the question is just when. At this point, he’s probably another two years out. He’ll play out this year in the SHL and then put in some time with the Griffins the year after before spending any long-term time in the NHL. And that’s okay. There’s no rush. He’s roughly on the same timeline as the other second and third rounders in his draft class.
I am looking forward to when he makes it, though, as Berggren is one of the most exciting prospects in the Red Wings pool.