June 17, 2012
Pontus Aberg might be worth the risk for a NHL team which needs scoring touch in the organization.
Injury issues, which kept the Stockholm native from being part of his nation's first world junior championship triumph in 1981, also kept Aberg somewhat out of the spotlight among top Europe-based prospects. There is no ignoring that the winger held his own as an 18-year-old in the Elitserien, counting eight goals and 15 points across 47 games for Djugardens. Keep in mind that came while playing just more than 10 minutes per game. With Djugardens demoted to the second-tier Allsvenskan for next season, Aberg figures on getting ample time to fine-tune his game before migrating to North American.
"I'm signed for two more years with Djugardens and I think that's the best for me," says Aberg, who is NHL Central Scouting's sixth-ranked European skater. "More ice time, more time on the power play ... it was tough to go down, but more so for the older guys."
Teams will have to keep in mind Aberg is relatively aged for a first-time draftee since he actually turned 18 last September. However, he has a NHL-calibre shot which draft experts such as Corey Pronman believe will allow him to sustain an above-average shooting percentage in the NHL. There are valid concerns about how steep a learning curve Aberg faces with his ability to set up teammates and his defensive game. However, it's not as if teams expect their draft picks to arrive at their first developmental camp fully formed. Aberg's offensive abilities make him a potential high-ceiling pick, likely somewhere in the second 10 picks in the first round of Friday's NHL draft.
"I try to play pretty creative," says Aberg, who is average-sized at 5-foot-11 and 194 pounds. "Take a lot of shots and use my speed."
"I want to keep up my conditioning and make it through the whole season. I want to be stronger in the corners so I can compete with the big guys."
2. What is the biggest asset you bring to a team?
"I'm a pretty creative player and I think I have a pretty good shot. I've been playing hockey since I was four and I've always had a pretty good shot."
3. What feeling did you come away with after the NHL combine?
"I thought it would be a more nervous time for me. I had done some of the tests before and I feel pretty good about it."
4. Everyone has to play his own game, but whom in the NHL do you watch closely?
"I like Alex Ovechkin, I like Steven Stamkos. I like taking shots and I like the speed."
5. When Sweden won the world junior championship, did you feel like you missed out on it since you were injured?
"At first during the tournament I did. Nothing jealous. I tried so hard to get on that team and I was disappointed, but I was happy for those guys."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.