Adam Almquist had a tough act to follow this season.
After bursting onto the Swedish Elite League scene as a teenager in 2009-10 and leading the all defensemen in scoring en route to a championship, expectations were high in 2010-11 when he returned to HV-71 for his sophomore campaign.
While he logged almost 20 minutes per game in a top-four role and maintained a league-leading plus-20 rating, his production leveled off and his development hit something of a plateau, according to Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson.
“I saw the same as I did last year, reading the play well, anticipating, breaking up plays,” Andersson said. “I want to say the reason he didn’t have as many points was the other teams knew about him more, looked out for him a little bit more on the power play, and he hasn’t gained a lot of strength, so his shot is still a little bit weak.”
Almquist, who had no goals and 16 assists in 52 games, was a sleeper pick in the seventh round (210th overall) of the 2009 draft. Andersson has raved about his offensive upside and calls his hockey sense “as good as I’ve seen in years.”
Andersson said the 5-foot-11 174-pounder’s all-around game has improved with experience, but “not dramatically.”
“He battles well enough one-on-one, he just needs strength to be more effective when he battles,” Andersson said. “He’s really good with his stick. As good as he is passing the puck and everything, he also breaks up plays really well with his stick. One-on-one, he’s really effective with poke-checking the puck, which makes up a bit for his lack of strength.”
For all Almquist’s accomplishments, he’s been completely ignored by the Swedish national team — left off the world junior roster in his final two years of eligibility — so Andersson isn’t the only one looking for more.
The Red Wings project him as a Tobias Enstrom or Brian Rafalski type. But as Andersson has emphasized since Almquist’s draft day, it’s all about strength.
“If he wants to get to the next level after this, without a doubt, he needs to hit the gym this summer, and the next couple of summers,” Andersson said.
SHEAHAN DONE: Forward Riley Sheahan (Notre Dame, NCAA) saw his season end in the Frozen Four semifinals last week. He took three minor penalties and was in the box for the game-winning goal in a 4-3 loss to Minnesota Duluth.
Either way, the 21st overall pick in the 2010 draft came into the Frozen Four with five points in five games after putting up just 17 points in his first 35 games.
“He went through the first half and I thought he was playing well and he was not getting the goals, getting a lot of chances, especially short-handed chances,” Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson told the South Bend Tribune. “When you don’t score, you feel a lot of weight on your shoulders.
“He has consistently played well for us. Confidence is everything for him. And now he has elevated his game in the playoffs.”
NOTES: Forward Dick Axelsson is a win away from winning the Swedish Elite League title with Farjestad, up 3-1 in the best-of-seven championship … Lesser-known European forwards Anton Axelsson, Gennady Stolyarov and Jesper Samuelsson are no longer considerations for the Red Wings, Andersson said … Forward Trevor Parkes (Montreal, QMJHL) is on fire in the playoffs, with five goals among eight points in seven games … The Grand Rapids Griffins missed the American Hockey League playoffs for the second straight season, finishing with a 36-34-10 record and had 82 points … The Red Wings called up a slew of prospects to serve as Black Aces, including forward Cory Emmerton and defenseman Brendan Smith.
Following is this week’s statistical report.
SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|Stolyarov, Gennady||Dynamo Msk||KHL||20||2||4||6||23||-8||32|
|Samuelsson, Jesper||Vita Hasten||SWE-3||31||10||23||33||41||+25||99|
|Smith, Brendan||Grand Rapids||AHL||63||12||20||32||124||+7||114|
|Mursak, Jan||Grand Rapids||AHL||54||13||22||35||35||+17||129|
|Tatar, Tomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||70||24||33||57||45||+14||163|
|Pare, Francis||Grand Rapids||AHL||80||24||30||54||49||-18||225|
|Ehrhardt, Travis||Grand Rapids||AHL||52||4||11||15||36||0||56|
|Pyett, Logan||Grand Rapids||AHL||74||9||13||22||38||-8||144|
|Andersson, Joakim||Grand Rapids||AHL||79||7||15||22||30||0||107|
|Emmerton, Cory||Grand Rapids||AHL||65||12||26||38||26||-1||127|
|Coetzee, Willie||Grand Rapids||AHL||25||0||5||5||8||-7||42|
|Kolosov, Sergei||Grand Rapids||AHL||56||0||1||1||48||-19||51|
|Lashoff, Brian||Grand Rapids||AHL||37||0||3||3||25||-5||27|
|Owens, Jordan||Grand Rapids||AHL||60||6||14||20||101||-12||95|
|Filppula, Ilari||Grand Rapids||AHL||76||20||44||64||24||0||133|
|Raedeke, Brent||Grand Rapids||AHL||67||8||5||13||17||-3||74|
|Piche, Sebastien||Grand Rapids||AHL||11||0||2||2||13||-4||15|
|Nyquist, Gustav||Grand Rapids||AHL||8||1||3||4||2||+1||14|
|Nicastro, Max||Boston U.||NCAA||38||5||4||9||59||-9||44|
|Oslund, Nick||St. Cloud St.||NCAA||30||3||1||4||10||-2||50|
|Jensen, Nick||St. Cloud St.||NCAA||38||5||18||23||18||-5||58|
|Sheahan, Riley||Notre Dame||NCAA||40||5||17||22||28||-6||103|
SKATERS: PLAYOFF REPORT
GOALIES: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|McCollum, Thomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||22||6||12||2||1||3.33||.879|
|Pearce, Jordan||Grand Rapids||AHL||44||20||15||5||1||2.89||.908|
GOALIES: PLAYOFF REPORT