A year ago, no one wanted Mattias Janmark in the NHL draft. That was hardly the case this time around.
Although the 6-foot-1, 191-pound center didn’t get any media attention going into the draft, word is he was sought after by a number of teams around the league and the Detroit Red Wings made sure they got him first, grabbing him in the third round, 79th overall, on Sunday.
Janmark, who turns 21 in December, put himself on the map in his first full Swedish Elite League season, finishing tied for 24th in overall scoring and second on AIK with 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points in 55 games.
“He was on my list for last year’s draft but I chose not to take him for whatever reason and he just took off this year,” said Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson. “I knew for sure I wasn’t going to get him in a late round this year.”
The Philadelphia Flyers, Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks are believed to be among the other teams who had heavy interest in Janmark, who was one of four Swedish Elite League rookie-of-the-year nominees.
Janmark, who had 61 points in 40 games at the J-20 SuperElit level back in 2011-12, projects as a scoring-line player at the NHL level and is closer to realizing his potential than most players drafted outside of the first round on Sunday.
“He’s confident with the puck, his speed his fine, his hands are very good, and he’s tenacious — he chases the puck all the time,” Andersson said. “He’s not physical, but he chases the puck. If he loses it, he chases it and gets it right back. If he doesn’t have the puck, his feet are always moving.”
Janmark is held in such high regard in Sweden he got a look with the national team in exhibition play at the end of the season. If he gets stronger next season, he could have a shot at representing Sweden at the IIHF world championship.
Not only is he skilled, but his intensity also gets high marks from Andersson.
“I like what he can do with the puck, but that goes along with the fact that he plays with intensity all the time,” Andersson said. “Those two things, that he’s good with the puck and plays with good intensity — that’s what I like.”
Andersson said he considers Janmark as good as some of the best Swedish prospects taken in the 2012 draft, including Anaheim Ducks pick and Elite League rookie of the year William Karlsson.
Janmark needs plenty of work on strength and conditioning and makes big gains in those areas, there’s no telling how good he could be. Andersson said Janmark loves hockey but has never taken it all that seriously until the past year.
“He’s always just played for the fun of hockey,” Andersson said. “But now he’s realizing, ‘Hey, I could be something.’ Last summer is the first time he’s ever started to train and I think he’s going to take it to another level this summer.”