Leafs Draft Watch Profile: Erik Brannstrom
In the previous entry, we took a look at Callan Foote, a defenseman playing for the Kelowna Rickets, as a potential fit for the Toronto Maple Leafs to draft.
Since Brendan Shanahan took over as the president of the Leafs, their scouts have been eying more talent not just in North America, but internationally. This mentality could help them find a diamond in the rough, as Erik Brannstrom of HV71 could be available at 17th overall.
Height: 5 foot 10 inches
Weight: 179 Pounds
Hometown: Eksjo, SWE
Ranked #19 by McKeen's Hockey
Ranked #9 by NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters)
List provided by Elite Prospects.
What the scouts say
Jeff Marek of Sportsnet - Mar. 8th: "NHL teams who favour a smart possession game will love Brannstrom. Undersized by traditional standards (5-foot-10, 179 pounds), but moves the puck great. At the Five Nations Tournament he played like every shift was his last and tried to make something happen every time he was out there. Scouts noticed."
Jeff Marek of Sportsnet - October 4th: "This year’s Samuel Girard? Undersized by traditional standards for a defenceman but transitions pucks smoothly and plays hard."
List of quotes provided by My NHL Draft.
Erik Brannstrom has some attractive aspects to his game that the Leafs should be interested in if they are considering taking him.
Despite only standing at 5' foot 10' inches, Brannstrom can produce offensively at any level of hockey. This past season with HV71 Junior, he had 9 goals, 14 assists, and 23 points in just 19 games played. He should continue to improve with more experience against men.
In addition to his offensive skill set, Brannstrom has a strong hockey IQ, an essential tool for an offensive defenseman. He can set up his teammates with timely passes, shots that can be deflected into the net and can skate into position at the right moment. These are valuable assets if he were to make it to the NHL.
Brannstrom's biggest strength is his skating abilities, which are top-notch and have had scouts impressed. During his time in the SHL, he out-skated his opposition each night with relative ease and was able to get from each end of the ice rather quickly to create offensive opportunities. If he's doing this as a 17-year-old, imagine how he could be doing when he is older, and against NHLers.
Although there are some great things going for Brannstrom, there are a few areas he needs to work on to further improve his stock.
While he is dependable in the offensive zone, his work in the defensive end is another story. With a strong emphasis on being reliable in one's own end in the NHL, Brannstrom will need to work on his defensive positioning and use his speed to disrupt the opposition's chances. Improving this will go a long way in making him a better all-around player.
Additionally, Brannstrom will need to add some muscle as he has a really small frame. At 179 pounds, he would be easily pushed around and can be vulnerable in the physical side of the game. The good news is that, as said earlier, he is still 17 years old and still has time to grow so this issue can be corrected over the coming months and years.
The biggest knock against Brannstrom is his size, which is really unfair to say. Despite possessing a promising skill set in the offensive end, as well as great foot speed, the scouts are hesitant on him because he isn't a tall player. He shouldn't have to worry about his height affecting his chances at an NHL contract down the line if his skills continue to develop.
Is he worth it?
At the end of the day, Brannstrom has all the workings to potentially become one of the steals of the 2017 draft. He possesses strong offensive instinct, has great speed, good puck-handling skills, and has a high hockey IQ.
He does need to work on further improving his defensive game as well as add more muscle to increase his small frame. Given he is still very young, Brannstrom has the luxury of having some room and time to grow.
Brannstrom has untapped potential in becoming one of the better offensive-defenders in the NHL, with traits similar to Jared Spurgeon, Kris Letang, and Torey Krug. The Leafs should definitely consider taking him should he be available at the 17th spot come Draft Day on June 23rd.
You can follow Michael Mazzei on Twitter @MichaelMazzei3.