When it comes to the final round of the draft, the Detroit Red Wings turn to Hakan Andersson more often than not. And Sunday continued the tradition.
The Red Wings’ director of European scouting selected center Hampus Melen from Tingsryds of Sweden’s J-18 Elit circuit in the seventh round, 199th overall. It marked the seventh time in 12 drafts Andersson has taken a Swede, adding Melen to a list that includes Jonathan Ericsson and Adam Almquist but also Nils Backstrom and Rasmus Bodin.
The story here is familiar: a prospect hidden in a low league on a team without much scouting exposure. But a prospect with high offensive upside.
“He really has talent with the puck,” said Andersson, who was also responsible for taking Henrik Zetterberg in the seventh round back in 1999. “His best skills are his hockey sense and his hands.”
Playing on the J-18 Elit circuit — a level below the J-18 Allsvenskan — Melen piled up points, recording 18 goals and 22 assists for 40 points in 24 games to finish among the circuit’s top-20 scorers.
But Andersson is the first to admit Melen needs a bigger challenge.
“He was a little too good for the league,” Andersson said. “If he lost the puck, he’d just chase after it and win it back. He did what he wanted to do.”
Under new NHL-NHLPA collective bargaining agreement, the Red Wings hold Melen’s rights for four years — through 2016-17 — before they need to sign him.
Melen is slated to play next season at the J-20 SuperElit level — Sweden’s highest junior level — and that will be a big step in his development.
Perhaps the biggest thing that will prevent Melen from continuing to produce offense is his lack of strength. He is listed at 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds now, but was just 148 pounds coming into his draft year. On the bright side, he recently hired a personal trainer and appears committed to improving.
“In my book, he works hard,” Andersson said. “That’s a really good sign.”