The 20-year-old with Brynas of the Swedish Elite League has already set career highs for goals, assists and points and is logging big minutes as a first-line center for a club challenging for first overall.
Jarnkrok, 11th in Elite League scoring with 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points in 45 games, sits No. 3 in Red Wings Central’s mid-season ranking behind Smith and Nyquist.
“He’s gotten more mature,” said Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson. “He’s taken a bigger responsibility and all of his good things he does are showing even more this year. The smart thinking, the quick hands, the quick release, the work ethic — that’s always been very good and it’s the same this year — his whole game, he has just taken it to another level.”
Jarnkrok has united with Ottawa Senators prospect Jakob Silfverberg to push Brynas to 22 wins in 45 games, already three more than last season’s 55-game total.
His strong play has earned him stints with the Swedish national team and could help him land a spot at the IIHF world championship in Stockholm and Helsinki in May.
Compared by Red Wings scouts to Henrik Zetterberg for his combination of skill and work ethic, Jarnkrok is following a similar Elite League progression to his countryman. Zetterberg had 46 points in 47 games at age 20, sixth in the league.
“There’s no doubt he’s taken a step in terms of his game,” Andersson said.
Perhaps more impressive is the fact that Jarnkrok is having such a good season after suffering a shoulder injury that prevented him from training at full capacity last summer.
That cost the 2010 second-round draft choice an opportunity to gain strength, which might be the only thing standing in the way of Jarnkrok earning a spot on an NHL scoring line. He is officially listed at 5-foot-11 and 174 pounds and is still too slim.
“There’s no doubt in order to play his game in an NHL rink in the future, he has to have one or two good summers coming where he has to gain more overall strength,” Andersson said. “He just has to be 190 (pounds) instead of 180.”
Following is a rundown of RWC’s mid-season prospect ranking.
1. D Brendan Smith (–), 6-2/198, 39-8-18-26-59, minus-6, 83 shots, Grand Rapids (AHL). While it’s true Smith has had ups and downs in an inconsistent sophomore season, this isn’t an unusual turn of events for a young blueliner. Defensemen with Smith’s well-rounded skill-sets are a hot commodity these days, and it’s only a matter of time before the Red Wings decide he’s ready for full-time duty.
2. LW Gustav Nyquist (–), 5-11/185, 41-14-28-42-14, plus-2, 110 shots, Grand Rapids (AHL). Nyquist has the edge on Janrkrok because he’s producing at such a high level in a league much closer to the NHL’s style and level of play. Not only that, he’s doing the little things and developing the well-rounded game that will put him in the good books of Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock.
3. C Calle Jarnkrok (–), 5-11/174, 45-13-21-34-10, minus-4, 101 shots, Brynas (SEL). On the cusp of emerging as a top-10 Swedish Elite League scorer on a team pushing for first overall, Jarnkrok is starting to get the attention he has long deserved and has the tools to be a star. A world championship appearance in May would be a huge feather in his cap.
4. G Petr Mrazek (+4), 6-1/184, 38 GP, 2.83 GAA, .916 Sv%, Ottawa (OHL). Mrazek has a ton of skill, with reflexes and acrobatics that remind some of Czech countryman Dominik Hasek. But his breakthrough at the IIHF world junior championship highlighted even more — the fire, competitiveness and confidence that could one day make him a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.
5. C/LW Riley Sheahan (-1), 6-2/212, 27-8-15-23, plus-1, 89 shots, Notre Dame (NCAA). With the Red Wings’ biggest forwards — Dan Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi, Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom — getting up there in age, Sheahan’s continued development will be critical. His style is a great fit for the pros, but his production has slowed lately and it would be nice to see him truly break out offensively.
6. LW/RW Tomas Tatar (-1), 5-10/186, 45-12-22-34-33, plus-2, 140 shots, Grand Rapids (AHL). He’s been in Grand Rapids for so long, it’s easy to forget Tatar is just 21 and came from the same draft class as Landon Ferraro. He has improved his two-way game, but is capable scoring more. Still waiver exempt, he probably needs another AHL season before he’s NHL ready.
7. RW Tomas Jurco (-1), 6-2/193, 38-25-29-54-29, plus-31, 159 shots, Saint John (QMJHL). His overall scoring potential is right up with Calle Jarnkrok’s, and he’s improved his consistency this season. With outstanding numbers on one of junior hockey’s best teams, Jurco will play a big role in helping Saint John defend its Memorial Cup title.
8. LW Teemu Pulkkinen (-1), 5-11/183, 43-14-18-32-8, plus-3, 182 shots, Helsinki Jokerit (FIN). Nobody in the system can come close to Pulkkinen’s goal-scoring upside, but he’s got to work on his skating, give a more consistent effort, and round out his game for his offensive success to translate to the NHL. He has the makings of a power-play specialist who could be looking at a Jiri Hudler-type role in the future.
9. C Joakim Andersson (–), 6-2/206, 42-11-14-25-20, plus-4, 86 shots, Grand Rapids (AHL). Strong, smart and mature, Andersson has added an improved offensive touch to the equation and that helped him earn a brief NHL call-up. He will almost certainly be an NHL player; the million-dollar question is whether he’ll be limited to fourth-line/13th forward duty or develop into a third-liner.
10. D Xavier Ouellet (+3), 6-0/187, 48-16-30-46-56, plus-1, 141 shots, Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL). He’s been one of the most dominant defensemen in junior hockey since RWC’s preliminary report — nine goals, 21 assists for 30 points and a plus-12 in 20 games — and has more than justified the Red Wings’ selection of him in the second round last June.
11. D Brian Lashoff (–), 6-3/212, 45-7-6-13-21, minus-5, 67 shots, Grand Rapids (AHL). The Red Wings have always seen an NHL future for Lashoff as a potential Brad Stuart type, but injuries caused him to slip off the radar over the past 16 months. Finally healthy, Lashoff has found his groove and is contributing at both ends of the ice for the Griffins.
12. LW Marek Tvrdon (-2), 6-2/217, 45-22-32-54, minus-4, Vancouver (WHL). He has a tantalizing combination of size and skill, and is a lot like Tomas Jurco in those regards. But where he falls behind Jurco is in delivering a consistent effort, and correcting that will help him move up this list.
13. Ryan Sproul (+1), 6-3/186, 44-12-22-34-47, plus-16, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL). Drafted as a raw project, he’s taken a step toward putting it together by upgrading his defensive game as a complement to his booming shot and power-play prowess.
14. D Nick Jensen (+1), 6-0/193, 30-5-17-22-2, plus-2, 57 shots, St. Cloud State (NCAA). Elite skating sets him apart from the Red Wings’ other defense prospects, and — with flashes of an offensive breakthrough this season — is trending toward a big junior year in 2012-13.
15. D Adam Almquist (+1), 5-10/174, 40-3-8-11-24, plus-15, 64 shots, HV-71 (SEL). The Red Wings consider him a high-skill power-play quarterback, but he’s been pushed to a secondary offensive role with HV-71. He’s developed a stronger defensive game, but more responsibility will allow for a more accurate evaluation of Almquist’s progress.
16. D Mattias Backman (NR), 6-2/169, 32-1-6-7-12, plus-6, 45 shots, Linkoping (SEL). The smooth two-way puck-mover proved his worth with a strong showing while helping Sweden win gold at the IIHF world junior championship. He plays the type of smart, savvy game that could one day could be a good fit with the Red Wings.
17. C Landon Ferraro (+1), 6-0/174, 35-6-7-13-27, even, 46 shots, Grand Rapids (AHL). Coming off two miserable junior seasons, Ferraro has been the best rookie prospect in Grand Rapids other than Gustav Nyquist. He doesn’t have a major role, but has performed well when given the opportunity.
18. C Alan Quine (+2), 6-0/181, 48-23-29-52-19, minus-14, Peterborough (OHL). He’s quick as a cat with excellent skills. But under the tutelage of Petes GM Dave Reid and assistant coach Jody Hull — two former NHL penalty-killing aces — he’s learning the critical details of how to play without the puck.
19. G Thomas McCollum (-7), 6-2/215, 12 GP, 3.63 GAA, .886 Sv%, Grand Rapids (AHL). It just isn’t happening for the former first round pick and OHL all-star. He has yet to put together a consistently strong stretch as a pro, although he might get another chance — perhaps a last chance — with the injury to Jimmy Howard.
20. C Louis-Marc Aubry (+1), 6-4/205, 33-4-6-10-19, minus-4, 57 shots, Grand Rapids (AHL). Like Landon Ferraro, Aubry hasn’t been given a ton of responsibility in Grand Rapids. But there’s a ton of raw potential to work with, and he’s turned in several impressive performances when given more ice time.
21. D Max Nicastro (-2), 6-2/210, 23-2-6-8-28, minus-1, 35 shots, Boston U. (NCAA). He’s big, mobile and physical but is still trying to make a consistent college impact.
22. RW Mitchell Callahan (-5), 6-0/190, 32-4-3-7-71, minus-2, 44 shots, Grand Rapids (AHL). The scrapping agitator is struggling to find his niche as a pro.
23. C Brent Raedeke (-1), 6-0/200, 41-7-6-13-20, even, 63 shots, Grand Rapids (AHL). He’s providing spark for the Griffins with his speed, energy and defensive play.
24. D Ben Marshall (+1), 5-9/175, 29-3-6-9-27, plus-14, 62 shots, Minnesota (NCAA). He’s undersized, but putting up good numbers stepping onto a top team as a college freshman.
25. RW Trevor Parkes (-2), 6-2/188, 31-1-5-6-17, plus-2, 54 shots, Grand Rapids (AHL). The Patrick Eaves-type is too good for the ECHL but on the fringe of the Griffins’ AHL roster.