I caught up with Swedish side Brynas IF’s GM and head coach to ask about New York Islanders 2020 third-round pick Alexander Ljungkrantz.
Without a first or second-round pick at the 2020 draft, both going to the Ottawa Senators in the Jean-Gabriel Pageau trade, the New York Islanders top prospect at the 2020 draft was third-round selection Alexander Ljungkrantz.
The Brynas product was playing at the U20 level at the draft and started the 2020-21 season at the U20 level. But with 15 points in 16 games, Brynas have decided to see what the kid has at the SHL level. The 18-year-old Ljungkrantz got 2:47 of ice-time today at the senior level. It was his third game playing in the SHL this season.
His production at the U20 level has Isles fans rightfully excited. Is Ljungkrantz a diamond in the rough? What can we expect from him going forward? Who better to ask than his GM Michael Sundlöv and head-coach
Ljungkrantz has 15 points through 16 games at the U20 level. In 42 games at the same level last season Ljungkrantz had 27 points. With only a third of the schedule completed, Ljungkrantz already has half his production from the previous season. At this pace he’s likely to obliterate what he did last year.
I asked Sundlöv if there was a reason for Ljungkrantz’s development this season? What was the key to this production?
"Last season after christmas they put together a line that had good chemistry and it developed from that point on. The confidence and the opportunity to play with other good players carried on into this season."
With that type of production in Brynas’s developmental squad it’s easy to see why Ljungkrantz got the call up a few weeks back to the senior squad. I wanted to know if Ljungkrantz’s call-up to the senior squad was strictly performance based and why he got so little ice time when he finally got to the SHL? The young man is averaging 2:20 per game at the SHL level.
"Right now we have a tough competition for the spots on the SHL team. We want Alexander to develop in an environment where he gets a lot of ice time and where he can produce points to develop his offensive skills. His time in the SHL will come."
His time will come. It’s clear that the plan for the Islanders prospect is to grow his offensive skills. With 15 points in 16 games that plan seems to be working.
So when he finally gets a shot, what does Brynas expect from him? Can he be a factor at the SHL level next season? His coach, former fourth-round pick by the New York Rangers Peter Andersson, thinks that he can, but Ljungkrantz will need to improve his physique.
"He is for sure an interesting player in this organization and has a bright future as a hockey player. To really take the step to the SHL he needs to improve his physique."
We’ve seen scouting reports tout Ljungkrantz’s defensive skills as one of his key attributes as a player as well as his tenacity and work ethic. A month ago, I asked Elite Prospect’s Christoffer Hedlund about the Isles third-round pick’s strengths and he reiterated all of those aspects but also stated that Ljungkrantz derseves some recognition for his speed.
Peter Andersson echoed what Hedlund said about Ljungkrantz’s speed. The former NHLer not only stated that Ljungkrantz uses his speed as an offensive weapon but even stated that Ljungkrantz’s technical abilities on his skates were one of his strengths.
"He is really good on his skates and has good technical skills. He relies on his speed to be able to challenge defenders."
Want your voice heard? Join the Eyes On Isles team!
So, based on a scout as well as Brynas’s head coach the Islanders drafted a strong defensive player, with a great work ethic, good speed, and “really good” skating ability. And now it seems he’s upped his offensive game to put up near a point per game. I’m not going to say that Ljungkrantz is absolutely a diamond in the rough, but so far it seems like the Isles scouting staff found an interesting prospect with a lot of upside in the third-round.
My last question for Michael Sundlöv was something I had always asked myself on draft day: How does a GM feel when he sees one of his players get drafted to the NHL?
"It’s always a proud moment when one of our players get drafted. It’s also an acknowledgement that we do good things in our club."
We won’t likely see Alexander Ljungkrantz in the NHL for a few years but we’ll all be watching his career closely.