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Detroit Red Wings

How Swede It’s Not — Red Wings May Go Elsewhere on First Pick



Axel Sandin Pellikka

Like swallows returning to Capistrano in March and college students heading to Florida on spring break, the Detroit Red Wings are drawn to Swedish League players every June at the NHL draft.

The Red Wings have drafted one or more Swedes for each of the past eight years, and have drafted at least one in 30 of the past 31 NHL drafts. In 2015, they took Russian Evgeni Svechnikov with their first pick at No. 19 and stayed clear of Sweden. But since then, the draft has been like an annual shopping trip to Ikea.

GM Steve Yzerman has tapped into the Swedish pipeline since he came became Detroit general manager. He has drafted 13 Swedes in his tenure.

He has drafted a Swede in the first round — Axel Sandin Pellikka (2023), Simon Edvinsson (2021) and Lucas Raymond  (2020) — in three of the last four drafts. It’s four years in a row if you count Marco Kasper (2022). He is Austrian, but was playing in the Swedish Hockey League when Detroit claimed him.

Austrian Playing in Sweden

When you count Kasper, the Red Wings have taken an SHL player in the first- or second round every year since 2017. But that may change this month because there is no consensus Swedish-born first-round candidate.

There is one SHL player projected to go in the first round, and Detroit has been linked to him at No. 15. But he is a forward from Norway who went to Sweden for better competition.

That would be Michael Brandsegg-Nygard, whose numbers this season (eight goals in 41 games) aren’t eye-catching at first glance. However, scouts love his overall game. He’s considered first-round talent and in time could be the best player to ever come out of Norway. That’s a nation known for producing cross-country skiers and standouts in the biathlon. That’s the sport that combines cross country skiing and target shooting.

It does seem likely the Red Wings will grab a Swedish player at some point, even if it is not in the first two rounds.

Duty Bound to Take Swede?

The connection between the Detroit Red Wings and Sweden remains strong. Swedes such as Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom and Niklas Kronwall fueled Detroit for years. Now, Raymond is blossoming into a star.

Detroit Director of European scouting Hakan Andersson, a Swede, has been guiding players from Sweden and other countries to the Red Wings for years.

The Swedish talent pool isn’t entirely dry, of course. The Red Wings believe Sandin-Pellikka has a bright future. Swedes Simon Edvinsson, Albert Johansson, Jonatan Berggren and maybe Kasper could be on the Red Wings roster next season.

Also keep in mind that there are some Swedes projected in the second round who could jump in the first. Plus, the Red Wings own the 47th pick overall.  Defenseman Leo Sahlin Wallenius has been rising throughout the season. TSN analyst Craig Button rates him 29th on his list. MoDo center Lucas Pettersson is projected to land near the 47th pick. Djurgarden center Linus Eriksson is a possible second-round pick.

A potential first-round sleeper could be defenseman Dominik Badinka, a Czech player who is drawing attention playing for Malmo in Sweden. He’s 6-foot-3.

Red Wings fans partial to Swedes should be optimistic about next year’s Swedish prospects pool, which is said to be well-stocked.

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This year it will be Eiserman or Senneke if they are there. Otherwise, MBN.