Sebastian Collberg was found money this season for the Swedish world junior team — but couldn't buy a goal in the Elite League.
Gauging the right wing's NHL potential hinges somewhat on whether a team emphasizes what Collberg did against his peers or looks at the larger sample size, where he had a donut in the point column while playing sparingly for the Frölunda Indians. The fact he played 41 games in the Elitserien as an undersized 17-year-old might also be a feather in its cap on its own, considering that a Canadian player who's the same age would never be expected to bite off same challenge. That's made Collberg one of the more intriguing players in this draft. He's the third-ranked European skater according to NHL Central Scouting, but forwards with his body type (5-foot-11, 176 pounds) and skillset can often drop out of the first round entirely and wind up as value-added second-rounders (see recent Boston Bruins selections Alex Khokhlachev and Ryan Spooner out of the Ontario Hockey League).
Collberg, whom intends on returning to Frölunda this season, has moves on top of moves. He scored key goals for gold medal-winning Sweden in the world junior and also buried shootout attempts in wins over Switzerland and Finland that helped Tre Kronor win the tournament. That was a nice respite from being a little-used rookie for Frölunda
"It was hard, it was just about trying to do my best when I did get out there," says Collberg. "There was frustration, of course. I didn't get much chances, only playing five minutes a game. Next year I want to play more minutes, do some more scoring."
There are genuine concerns about whether Collberg, who's willing to go into the corners but doesn't yet seem to have the upper-body strength to win one-on-one battles, can adapt to the NHL. The scouting service HockeyProspect.com, however, has likened his nose for the net to that of Kitchener Rangers grad Jeff Skinner, who made the NHL to stay in 2010 with the Carolina Hurricanes. Collberg is certainly on a longer track to The Show, but in a very barren year for Canadian forwards in the draft, NHL teams could do a lot worse than take a calculated risk on a skilled but undersized Swede. It's not a direct comparison, but there were people who scoffed at the Ottawa Senators in 2008 for drafting Erik Karlsson.
1. How important was the world junior tournament to you, going from one of the final players added to the team to being an unexpected source of scoring?
"That was my best tournament this year by far. I didn't produce points in the big league [Elitserien]. I came to the tournament wanting to prove to everyone that I'm a scorer so it was big for me.
"It was nice to have the crowd with you. You didn't want to make a mistake. It was a nice feeling out there to have 16,000 people cheering for you."
2. What do you plan on doing in order to survive and even thrive as a smaller player?
"Play a really smart game out there. But also in the summer I need to stay a bit longer every time I go into the gym, train my upper body more than everyone else."
3. Were the NHL teams you met with at the combine receptive to you returning to Sweden this season?
"They seem to understand. Maybe a few of them would like to see come over in and play in the junior league [Canadian Hockey League]."
4. Whom in the NHL do you watch closely, perhaps to get an idea of what you'll need to do at the next level?
"Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk ... Kovalchuk is really skilled with the way he plays with the puck and has a really nice shot out there. Ovechkin has a lot of speed and lays a few hits."
5. Have NHL teams asked if you which Swedish players you would take with you if you were playing for the Stanley Cup?
"Yes, they have. Obviously, Hampus Lindholm, the defenceman. Very nice with how he handles the puck. He's got the size, too. Whenever I get asked that the answer is usually Filip Forsberg and Lindholm, the leading guys from the [Swedish] under-18 team."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.