NY Islanders nearing deadline to sign 2020 draft pick after breakout season in Sweden

Alexander Ljungkrantz - Lån från Almtuna IS | Intervju | Färjestad BK - MoDo Hockey | 2023-12-19
Alexander Ljungkrantz - Lån från Almtuna IS | Intervju | Färjestad BK - MoDo Hockey | 2023-12-19 / shadyjam

The calendar turns to June on Saturday and marks the unofficial start of the NHL off-season.

June 1st also represents the last day teams can sign players to Entry Level Contracts (ELCs) or risk losing their exclusive signing rights. Among the list of players that need to be signed by 5 PM on Saturday are two New York Islanders draft picks.

The first is 2020 third-round pick (90th overall) Alexander Ljungkrantz. The 22-year-old scored a career-best 20 goals and 12 assists in 44 games with Almtuna IS of HockeyAllsvenskan (second tier of Swedish hockey) last season. He had registered 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists) for Brynas Jr. of the Swedish junior league when he was drafted by the Isles.

Michael Stahurski caught up with Chapin Landvogt, the Central European scout and writer for McKeen's hockey to learn more about Ljungkrantz earlier this month.

According to EliteProspect’s draft guide, Ljungkrantz was categorized as a hard worker with a good defensive and simple game. Sounded perfect for a Barry Trotz system! Prospect guru Corey Pronman of The Athletic wrote: "When I saw Ljungkratz, I thought he had above-average skill and hockey sense and competed well. His feet looked average, and I didn’t see an element of his game that truly jumped out."

The other draft pick that has until Saturday to sign his ELC is 2020 sixth round pick Matias Rajaniemi. However, the circumstances are a bit different for the 21-year-old Finnish defenseman. Rajaniemi signed an Amateur Tryout (ATO) with Bridgeport, the teams's American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in March for the remainder of the 2023-24 season and is signed to an AHL contract for 2024-25.

Playing for SaiPA of Liiga (Finland), he totaled eight assists in 53 games and was a -24. He had 30 points (four goals, 26 assists) in 200 Liiga games since 2019-20. He also won a silver medal at the 2022 World Junior Championships and a bronze medal in 2021. The forecast from Pronman following the 2020 draft was that "Rajaniemi intrigued when he got called up to Liiga and held his own as one of the youngest players in the draft. He’s a big defenseman who can move the puck fine, but his game doesn’t have a lot of speed or skill in it."