For all Adam Almqvist has accomplished this season, it might not be enough to get the 18-year-old blueliner to the world junior championship.
The seventh-round draft choice of the Detroit Red Wings last June appears likely to be on the outside looking in when Team Sweden opens the WJC in Saskatchewan on Boxing Day, despite the fact the Ottawa Senators have decided not to release Erik Karlsson to play in the annual tournament.
Almqvist has been sensational this season. His 34 points in 15 games led the Swedish under-20 league at the time he was recalled to HV-71′s Swedish Elite League squad, and he has two goals and three assists in 11 games with the big club. It’s impressive stuff for the draft’s last pick.
Top picks Tim Erixon, David Runblad and Oliver Ekman-Larsson will highlight the roster. After that, 19-year-olds Lukas Kilstrom and Mattias Ekholm are penciled in along with Simon Bertilsson and Adam Larsson. Almqvist has an outside chance of sneaking in, especially if injuries strike.
“It’s all about strength for him … If it’s hockey sense, he’d be at the world juniors this year on the power play,” said Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson. “We have guys with similar hockey sense … Runblad, Karlsson … He has their hockey sense, but he’s a lot weaker … He’s so weak. He gets pushed off the puck, and around the net, he has a tough time.”
Andersson estimates Almqvist tips the scales at just 155 pounds but said the ultra-talented blueliner has already started working out more. The Red Wings selected Almqvist on Andersson’s say-so, and the Red Wings’ super scout — king of the late-round gems — raves about the youngster’s upside.
“I love him as a prospect, I love that we drafted him … If the draft last summer was about hockey sense, he’s a top-10 pick,” Andersson said. “He’s just unbelievably smart, but a lot of people shied away from his size.”
NOTES: Forward Dick Axelsson is reportedly headed to Sweden to train with Farjestad of the elite league. After producing just five points in 17 games in the American Hockey League, it seems unlikely he’ll be back in a Grand Rapids Griffins’ jersey … Forward Francis Pare (Grand Rapids, AHL) was AHL player of the week after producing three goals and three assists in four games … Forward Jan Mursak (Grand Rapids, AHL) is finally breaking through offensively, with five goals and six assists in his past 10 games … Forward Tomas Tatar (Grand Rapids, AHL) is off to the world junior championship with Slovakia after an outstanding start as a rookie pro. He has 16 points in 22 games as the AHL’s youngest player.