Red Wings prospect Jonatan Berggren already seems destined for the NHL
Photo credit:Grand Rapids Griffins on Twitter
By Mike Gould1 year ago
@Jonatan Berggren has been a dominant force in the American Hockey League with the Grand Rapids Griffins this season.
The 21-year-old winger sits just three points back of @Taro Hirose — four years his senior — for the team scoring lead. After picking up four goals and two assists in his last five games, Berggren has 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) in his first 40 AHL contests.
The Detroit Red Wings originally selected Berggren with the second pick of the second round (33rd overall) at the 2018 NHL Draft. The 5’11”, 183-lb forward emerged as a Swedish Hockey League star with Skellefteå AIK in 2020–21, finishing sixth in league scoring with 45 points in 49 games and earning an NHL ELC with the Red Wings the following off-season.
Berggren picked up an assist in his first AHL game with the Griffins in 2021–22 but failed to register a point in the following four. The product of Uppsala, Sweden has 32 points in 35 games since then, most recently scoring the game-winning goal and adding an assist in Grand Rapids’ 2–1 victory over the Texas Stars on Tuesday.
Berggren currently ranks seventh in scoring among this year’s crop of first-year AHLers. Those ahead of him include recent first-round picks @Marco Rossi, @Jack Quinn, and @Jakob Pelletier, with 2021 World Junior standout JJ Peterka and under-the-radar gems @Matias Maccelli and @Brandon Biro rounding out the group.
Quinn, Peterka, and Biro all play — or, in Quinn’s case, played — for the 24–15–5 Rochester Americans. Pelletier’s Stockton Heat boast a 27–8–4 record. Berggren, on the other hand, plays for a decidedly mediocre Griffins squad that currently ranks 22nd in the AHL with an 18–18–7 record through 43 games.
Prior to the 2021–22 season, EliteProspects.com graded Berggren as the sixth-best prospect in Detroit’s second-ranked system. EP contributor David St-Louis wrote the following about the slick Swede:
Berggren is a bit of a passing prodigy. He has mastered the art of the look-offs. He scans the ice, locates the best play to make, but fixes his gaze away from it, never revealing the real target of his next pass. He holds the puck as long as he can, pulling the opposition toward himself, and creating space for that targeted teammate to attack a high-danger area. And then he pulls the trigger.
True to form, Berggren ranks second on the Griffins with 21 assists in 40 games this season. (His 74 shots on goal rank fifth on the team).
Berggren is a left-handed shot who has two years remaining after this one on his entry-level deal (carrying a $925,000 annual cap hit). When will he make his way to Detroit?
Much depends on how the Red Wings decide to maneuver ahead of next month’s trade deadline. @Vladislav Namestnikov is a pending unrestricted free agent who could garner significant interest on the trade market, although it might also make sense for the Red Wings to offer the 29-year-old forward a new contract.
If Namestnikov goes, the Red Wings would have a Berggren-sized hole in their lineup for at least the rest of the 2021–22 season. If Berggren is able to pull his weight in a post-deadline tryout opportunity, the Red Wings might be able to adjust their off-season strategy with the hope of addressing another position of need.
The Red Wings have two obvious cornerstones at forward in @Dylan Larkin and @Lucas Raymond. @Tyler Bertuzzi’s future in Detroit is uncertain; both @Filip Zadina and @Joe Veleno still need to take steps forward before they can be relied upon as consistent offensive contributors.
All that is to say: Berggren should have plenty of opportunities to establish himself as a legitimate piece for the Red Wings going forward. Much like @Moritz Seider, Berggren has been able to rise above the pack in both the SHL and AHL at a young age. If Berggren can become even half as good as Seider has been thus far in the NHL, it’ll be a huge win for the Red Wings.
With Berggren looking to build upon his recent string of success, the Griffins will return to action against the Stars on Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. ET.
- Seider and Raymond neck-and-neck through their first 50 games
- Abdelkader, Sulak on the board in the preliminary round at Beijing 2022
- Jakub Vrana should provide a huge boost to the Wings upon his return
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