If you’re like most hockey fans, chances are you’re not up to date on the 31 best draft eligible prospects in the sport. Typically, top players like Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and, from this upcoming draft, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are highlighted ahead of the draft, but outside the top three or five eligible players, few hockey fans know much about the player his/her favorite team drafts.
We take for granted that scouts and general managers know what they’re doing… which makes it even more confounding when a team goes “off the board” to select a player. Such was the case last season when the Minnesota Wild selected Swedish defenseman Filip Johansson 24th overall in this past June’s 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Johansson was pegged as a third round pick by most analysts, so to say that it was surprising when the he was selected in the first round is an understatement. Prior to being drafted, Johansson had just a single point in 23 games with Leksand in Sweden’s 2nd tier professional league. This season he has improved… to the tune of one goal and three assists in 47 games. Four points for a first rounder? Ouch.
Even worse, Sweden’s national team general manager doesn’t even know who he is…
Check out this quote from Wild insider Michael Russo’s most recent column for The Athletic:
After partaking in their first draft lottery next Tuesday since 2012, they have to hit a home run with their first-rounder. Fenton’s first first-rounder, Filip Johansson, leaves a lot to be desired. For some reason, the Wild went off the board and took a defenseman that wasn’t projected by anybody to be a first-rounder. He has had by all accounts a miserable year in Sweden, and earlier this month in a conversation with The Athletic, Sweden’s national team GM needed the help of the internet to even know who he was.
Glass half full approach: With the Wild missing the playoffs for the first time in half a decade, they’ll be in the mix for a lottery pick.