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Islanders: Drafting Alexander Ljungkrantz so early was big surprise

SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 06: Signage is seen on location prior to the start of the first round of the 2020 National Hockey League (NHL) Draft at the NHL Network Studio on October 06, 2020 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 06: Signage is seen on location prior to the start of the first round of the 2020 National Hockey League (NHL) Draft at the NHL Network Studio on October 06, 2020 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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With the 90th overall pick at the 2020 draft, the New York Islanders selected Alexander Ljungkrantz. Here’s what you need to know about him.

It’s not normal to spend this much time on a third-round pick, but with the New York Islanders missing a first and second-round pick at the 2020 NHL draft (both going to the Ottawa Senators as part of the Jean-Gabriel Pageau trade) it’s all eyes on Ljungkrantz as the top pick at the draft.

I spoke with

Elite Prospects’ Director of European Scouting Christoffer Hedlund

about Ljungkrantz and while our chat started out a little rocky from an Islanders perspective I left the talk with a sense of why the Islanders picked the young Swede with the 90th overall selection. Because he’s exactly the type of player they love.

Surprise!

Almost immediately Hedlund let me know that the pick was one heck of a stretch for the Islanders. Ljungkrantz was nowhere to be found on the Elite Prospects draft rankings for 2020. Hedlund felt that some team could pick Ljungkrantz late in the draft (in the sixth or seventh round). But being selected in the third round was a surprise.

Which begs the question, why draft him so high? The simple answer: The Islanders like what they’ve seen from him. The longer answer comes down to his style of play.

When I asked Hedlund about Ljungkrantz’s strengths it became abundantly clear what the Islanders see in this kid. Hedlund broke down Ljungkrantz’s strength for me like so:

  • He’s a fast skater (North-South)
  • Great work rate
  • Responsible in all three zones
  • Good forechecker
  • Comfortable playing a more defensive game

All of those aspects are hallmarks of a Lou Lamoriello/Barry Trotz team. It’s how they like their NHL squads to play. It’s clear that based on Ljungkrantz’s skillset he fits well within their hockey philosophy.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that drafting Ljungkrantz in the third round rather than much later still makes a ton of sense. But it at least sheds some light on why they took him in the first place.

So what does he project to become? Read any draft profile for Ljungkrantz and they all project him to be a bottom-six player at the NHL level who works hard and can maybe pitch in a few points. And that’s exactly what Hedlund communicated to me:

"Don’t expect Alexander Ljungkrantz to be a top scorer, he’s going to be a hard-working player with a bit of offense."

Next Steps

So what’re the next steps for Ljungkrantz? Where does he go from here and when (if ever) could we see him in the NHL? After scoring a hat trick over the weekend the excitement around Ljungkrantz was at an all-time high, but we’ve got to take that with a pinch of salt.

It’s important to remember that Ljungkrantz is playing at the U20 level. He’s not yet part of Brynas’ SHL squad. Though he’s close. He’s only just 18 years old but he’s at the top of the list of call up players for the senior squad if injury strikes this season.

But when Ljungkrantz eventually gets to the SHL (full-time) don’t expect a ton of production from the young man. If he hits the squad next season as a 19-year-old he won’t be cast with a ton of responsibility so minutes will be limited. The SHL is also a tough league for youngsters who will routinely go up against grown men in their thirties.

Then there’s the fact that he plays for Brynas and not, HV71 for example. Brynas just brought in former NHLer Peter Andersson (47 NHL games between Rangers and Panthers) to be their head coach. Andersson likes his team to play a responsible two-way game. As we’ve seen with the Islanders in the NHL, playing this style can win games, but it won’t dazzle anyone on the stats sheet.

So when Ljungkratnz eventually makes the jump to the SHL don’t be alarmed if he’s not scoring buckets of goals. The Islanders didn’t draft this kid because he can be a 50-60 point player at the NHL level. They drafted him because he’s a strong two-way player with a good work ethic and could chip in with some depth offense.

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So, while drafting Ljungkrantz in the third-round rather than later in the draft is still surprising it’s not a surprise that the Islanders drafted him because he’s exactly the type of player they like.

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