Buzzing The Net

NHL draft tracker: Malte Strömwall, Tri-City Americans

Malte Stromwall of the WHL's Tri-City Americans (John Allen photo)Malte Strömwall might define the term draft sleeper.

Each draft class includes a handful of young players with great finesse who perhaps fly under the radar since they're still adjusting to junior hockey and might fill a secondary role with their club. Strömwall, a native of Luleå, Sweden who was barely 17 years old when he started his first season with the Western Hockey League's Tri-City Americans this fall, qualifies on both counts. The undersized right wing has shown flashes, though, that he could step into a scoring role next season. The NHL interest in him could pick up at that point.

Strömwall posted 11 goals and 27 points in 64 games while helping the veteran-laden Americans win a tight Western Conference race over the Portland Winterhawks. The Ams are currently tied 1-1 with state rival Spokane in their conference semifinal.

"My season has been up and down, it's a new league for me and I'm playing with older and bigger guys," says Strömwall, who was 162nd among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings which were released on Monday. "The biggest adjustment must be the size of the rink. I'm used to holding the puck longer, but here you have to be really quick and take fast decisions. But I'm used to it now and I'm used to the league.

"I learned a lot this season. It has been a developing year this far. The team has played great so far and we're hoping for a long playoff run."

Part of putting Strömwall's season into perspective is remembering that he had adapt to both a new level of competition and a new culture this fall. He was also only 160 pounds at the start of the season, very small by WHL standards. Americans coach Jim Hiller says the forward has made excellent strides.

"Malte fit in seamlessly with the changes in culture," says Hiller, whose team evened their series with an overtime win on Saturday His complete focus is hockey. He struggled with strength earlier in the season but has added 14 pounds from training camp and that is paying dividends now."

The Americans will bid adieu 100-point scorers Patrick Holland, Adam Hughesman and Brendan Shinnimin, the Canadian Hockey League scoring champ, after this season. Strömwall will be at the head of the line to fill their roles.

"His [Strömwall's] best and most consistent hockey has been the first round of the playoffs," Hiller adds. "We expect that to continue and for him to be one of our top offensive players next season with expanded ice time."

1. Apart from the obvious such as skating and building strength, what skill or area of the game do you need to improve the most before you can play pro hockey?

"I'd have to say the defensive game, but i've improved it lots this season and it's getting better. I do have to get bigger, add some pounds and gain strength."

2. What is the biggest asset you bring to a team?

"I'm a fast skater with good hands and vision and I work really hard and makes good plays. I'll do what coach wants me to do."

3. Which NHL players do you watch closely for pointers or for skills you can add to your game?

"I like watching the St. Louis Blues' T.J. Oshie. He's a hardworking forward with good skills and scoring touch. He is strong and he hits hard."

4. I understand both your father and stepfather were pros in Sweden. What have they been like with advice?

"Yes that's true. It's been a great opportunity to ask them stuff and they helped me with anything I asked about. They say, work hard and have fun is the best thing for reaching success."

5. Who is the toughest defenceman you have faced so far in the Western Hockey League?

"I have to say Ryan Murray on the Everett Silvertips. He is big and strong and really smart. It's almost inpossible to beat him in a one-on-one situation."

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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