Jonatan Berggren is playing with a renewed confidence for Skelleftea of the Swedish Hockey League this season.
“The biggest change and what I’m working on every day is trying to take the puck to the net and be more aggressive around the goalie,” the 20-year-old left wing told NHL.com. “I had a really long offseason, so I had time to really get stronger and faster. Now everything is feeling little easier on the ice than last season.”
Berggren (5-foot-10, 181 pounds), who was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round (No. 33) of the 2018 NHL Draft, is third in the SHL with a career-high 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) in 10 games. He possesses a game predicated on puck possession and speed, so confidence means everything.
“When you’re playing against men, and playing a really high level, [confidence] means even more,” said Shawn Horcoff, Red Wings director of player development. “He’s off to a good start, you can just see it in his play. He always had good hockey sense and poise, but even more so now.”
Berggren has had his share of adversity since being drafted by the Red Wings, sustaining a stress fracture in his back that limited him to 16 SHL games in 2018-19 and a shoulder injury that required surgery and six months of rehabilitation last season.
Before he was drafted, Berggren lost his father to cancer when he was 13.
“The thing he always said to me was just to have fun when I play,” Berggren said.
The 20-year-old has done just that, building upon his solid performance at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, when he scored five points (one goal, four assists) in seven games to help Sweden finish third.
“He’s a skilled, speedy winger,” said Tomas Montén, Sweden’s national junior team coach. “He has good hands, and his playmaking is top of the [SHL]. He’s gotten stronger and tougher this summer, and that’s what has helped his game now. He steps into the dirty areas more, is stronger on the puck and has more [grit].”
Horcoff said that although Berggren still has more to give, he’s on the proper development path.
“He still needs to get more shots from inside those good scoring areas, needs to bring the puck in there a little bit more,” Horcoff said. “It’s difficult because he’s such a good passer and likes to bring people to him and distribute, but at the same time, it’s difficult to just do that at the NHL level.”
Four other NHL prospects currently playing well in the SHL:
Victor Berglund, D, Lulea
In his first season in the SHL, the 21-year-old, who was selected by the Boston Bruins in the seventh round (No. 195) of the 2017 NHL Draft, is tied for fourth in the league among defensemen with eight points (two goals, six assists) while averaging 16:14 of ice time in 10 games. Berglund (6-foot, 180 pounds) is currently on loan with Lulea after signing a three-year, entry-level contract with the Bruins on June 15.
Alexander Holtz, F, Djurgarden
The 18-year-old, who was selected with the No. 7 pick by the New Jersey Devils in the 2020 NHL Draft, is tied for second on Djurgarden with six points (four goals, two assists) while averaging 16:43 of ice time in eight games. Due to a coronavirus outbreak within the club, Djurgarden had to postpone its past two regular-season games. Holtz (6-foot, 192) isn’t eligible to join the Devils until after the SHL season concludes.
Lucas Raymond, F, Frolunda
Raymond (5-11, 170), who was selected with the No. 4 pick by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2020 draft, has five points (three goals, two assists) and 28 shots on goal while averaging 15:15 of ice time in 11 SHL games. Last season, the 18-year-old had 10 points (four goals, six assists) and 32 shots while averaging 9:48 of ice time in 33 games.
Philip Broberg, D, Skelleftea
Broberg (6-3, 199), who was selected with the No. 8 pick by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2019 NHL Draft, is tied for first among defensemen on Skelleftea with five points (one goal, four assists) and ranks third on the team in average ice time (19:40) in 10 games this season. The 19-year-old signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Edmonton on July 4, 2019.
Five other NHL prospects to keep an eye on:
Yegor Rykov (New York Rangers), D, CSKA Moscow: The 23-year-old (6-2, 210) has six assists and a plus-7 rating while averaging 15:21 of ice time in 18 games in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Juuso Valimaki (Calgary Flames), D, Ilves: The 22-year-old (6-2, 212) is tied for second in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league, with 10 points (two goals, eight assists) and ranks first in average ice time (22:57) in nine games.
Iaroslav Askarov (Nashville Predators), G, SKA St. Petersburg: The 18-year-old (6-3, 176), who was selected by the Nashville Predators with the No. 11 pick in the 2020 draft, is 2-1-0 with a 0.74 goals-against average, .974 save percentage with one shutout in three KHL games.
Nicholas Merkley (New Jersey Devils), F, Assat: The 23-year-old (5-10, 194) is tied for third on Assat in Liiga with seven points (two goals, five assists) while averaging 15:45 of ice time in nine games.
Ville Heinola (Winnipeg Jets), D, Lukko: The 19-year-old (5-11, 178), who is on loan with Lukko, has four assists, 24 shots on goal and a plus-3 rating while averaging 18:06 of ice time in eight games.