BUFFALO – The first two selections in the 2019 draft are obvious: Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. But what happens after that is a mystery and what Chicago does with the No. 3 selection will have far-reaching influence. But break things down even further and this draft gets even more complex when it comes to defensemen.
Vancouver’s Bowen Byram could be the third pick overall and will most likely be the first blueliner off the board. But what happens after that? Victor Soderstrom is a pretty well-rounded prospect and a lot of scouts like him. On the other hand, Philip Broberg is 6-foot-3 and can really move. While he still has elements of his game to put together, it’s impossible not to look at Broberg without seeing some Victor Hedman. NHL squads are certainly intrigued with Broberg: he met with 28 different teams for interviews at the draft combine this week.
“The size and skating is such an advantage from the get-go,” said one NHL scout. “He has hockey sense and he’s got good hands. His skating allows him to join the offensive rush and also get back in time on defense.”
Broberg actually looks at Hedman, the Tampa Bay Lightning stalwart and Norris Trophy winner, as a model for his game and loves the NHLer’s puck movement and shot among other attributes. Broberg kicked off his draft year with a tour-de-force performance at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament in Alberta, which took place in August.
“It probably boosted my confidence, but I’ve always been a confident guy that believes in myself,” he said. “I always want to push myself.”
Broberg’s next major event was a bit more of a mixed bag. It was impressive to see the youngster earn a spot on Sweden’s blueline for the world juniors, but the Tre Kronor were ravaged by a virus during their time in Victoria, while a lack of high-end forwards ended up dooming them early.
“We had a good team but we just couldn’t execute as well as we could have in the quarterfinal against Switzerland,” Broberg said. “We just have to take it back and play better next tournament.”
Growing up in Orebro, two hours west of Stockholm, Broberg didn’t limit himself to hockey: he also played soccer and floorball until he was 12. Floorball, a significant pastime in Sweden, may look like hockey, but Broberg sees a lot of divergence in the games.
“Actually it’s such a big gap,” he said. “It’s a totally different sport. It’s just fun to go out with the guys; everybody can play. You’re just running around with a stick in your hand trying to score.”
Back on the ice, Broberg still has some work to do, but he’s got a checklist for the summer.
“I would say my physical game in the corners and in front of the net,” he said. “I need to get stronger and more physical, and also improve my first passes.”
Once he gets that in order, you’re looking at a powerhouse on the back end. Broberg has so many great tools to build off and it’s easy to envision a team in the top 10 snagging him in the draft before someone else has the opportunity. He was named best defenseman at the world under-18s, helping Sweden to a surprise gold after Team USA was beaten by Russia in the semifinal. He played for AIK in the second-tier Allsvenskan this past season, but will suit up for Skelleftea in the SHL for 2019-20.
Having already played against men for nearly all of 2018-19 will help Broberg adjust to the bump in competition and it will be interesting to see what he can do in the SHL. He’ll also be one to watch at the 2020 world juniors, where the Swedes will be seeking a podium finish. If they get there, Broberg will likely have something to do with it.
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