The Detroit Red Wings have a young defenseman on their hands who is blowing away expectations this season and I'm not talking about Moritz Seider – though he certainly qualifies for honorifics himself.
No, I'm talking about Simon Edvinsson, the sixth overall pick in the 2021 draft and one of the best stories of the young SHL season over in Sweden. Playing for a first-place Frolunda squad, Edvinsson has nine points through 15 games, tying him for third in all SHL scoring among blueliners. It's an impressive feat compounded by the fact the 18-year-old is playing in his first full SHL season after splitting last year between the top league, the second-tier Allsvenskan and Sweden's junior circuit.
While Edvinsson had already been on the draft radar, his loan from Frolunda to Vasteras in the Allsvenskan last year enabled the youngster to get more minutes and a bigger shot at offensive contributions. As Frolunda GM Fredrik Sjostrom told me in the lead-up to the draft, it was a developmental move the team was pleased with.
"We were talking to him on a regular basis and watching all of his games," Sjostrom said. "You give him feedback here and there but not too much – you want him to have fun and be playing bigger minutes. We kept close tabs and we were really happy with how he was doing."
What followed was an up-and-down performance by Sweden at the world under-18s that saw the Tre Kronor get stomped twice by Canada (outscored 20-2 combined), but end on a high note with a bronze medal after tearing apart rival Finland 8-0. I know some followers didn't like Edvinsson's performance, but personally I saw one of the few kids on the team who looked like he cared when the squad was playing poorly and that's a checkmark in my book.
Nonetheless, a player who was bandied about as a possible second overall pick behind University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power ended up sliding to sixth overall, where Steve Yzerman's vaunted scouting staff in Detroit once again pulled off what appears to be a steal already.
And here's the thing about the top end of the draft: It can always go a number of ways and you can't necessarily fault teams for going in a certain direction. The Seattle Kraken had that second pick overall, which also happened to be the expansion team's first selection ever. Seattle went with University of Michigan center Matty Beniers and it was an easy pick to like: GM Ron Francis has noted to me how hard it is to acquire high-end centers, since teams rarely trade them or allow them to get to free agency, so you have to draft them. And Beniers has an excellent motor to go along with a two-way game mature beyond his years.
Prior to the draft, I figured Seattle's choice was down to Beniers and Edvinsson, because big, mobile defensemen aren't so easy to come by either – and they went with the center. No problem with that.
But how excited are you as a Detroit fan to see Edvinsson excelling in one of the best leagues in the world already? Edvinsson will undoubtedly play a big role for Sweden at the world juniors in Alberta this winter and his promising upside already seems to be coming to the fore. Here's how one scout put it to me last year:
"The sky is the limit with this guy once he gets stronger," he said. "He's got a puck game, he skates, he gets upset sometimes, which is good to see. He's got some grit to him. He'll be a good one."
Naturally, Frolunda is hoping to get as many years out of Edvinsson as they can, but Sjostrom was pragmatic, knowing the NHL will come calling sooner than later. In the meantime, Frolunda's fans can watch the 6-foot-5, 207-pounder help their team try for another title this year and the Detroit faithful can daydream of a time in the not-so-distant future when an Edvinsson-Seider pairing is dominating their blueline.