If you've been following SBN Hockey's network-wide mock draft, you know that the Caps are on the clock, which means we're on the clock for them.
Earlier in the week, we selected Zemgus Girgensons with the 11th pick. One year ago, drafting in the 26th slot, we selected Scott Mayfield (he ended up going to the Islanders with the 34th pick in the actual draft, and the Caps, of course, traded the 26th pick to Chicago in exchange for Troy Brouwer; the Blackhawks drafted Phillip Danault with the pick). Two years ago, also drafting 26th overall, we took Brock Nelson (he ended up going to the Isles at 30th in the real draft; Caps pick Evgeny Kuznetsov was off the board already).
This time around, we're pleased to select... left wing Pontus Åberg out of Djugardens of the Swedish Elite League.
Here he is in action:
Per Corey Pronman, who ranks Aberg as the 9th-best prospect in the draft:
Pontus Aberg has had a nice year over in Sweden from a counting numbers perspective for an 18-year-old, logging over 10 minutes per game, which is good for a player his age in that league. He got off to a hot start, but injuries impeded him somewhat in the second half of the year. Aberg is a plus skater with very good acceleration off his first few steps and a pretty dangerous top speed. He also has a plus shot which will drive a decent portion of his offensive value and allow him to maintain an above league average shooting percentage over his career. His shot is pretty accurate with good technique on his release, his one-timers fly off his stick with remarkable speed, and Aberg has the makings of a dangerous power play triggerman. Aberg has great hands and can show some flash in that area in terms of being able to make great individual plays in creating space for himself. His true strength isn't about being a dangerous puck controller, though, as it is playing a speed game and getting the puck to the net. At times, he can move the puck around at an average level, but he doesn't overly impress with his vision. Aberg also needs to work on his defense, although with his on-ice work ethic, there is reason to believe the finer points of his defensive game will come along. Aberg's physical game also likely tops out as below-average because of his size but he does work hard and has a gritty edge to his game.
And at midseason, here's what TSN had to say:
Made Sweden's world junior team only to suffer a shoulder injury in a pre-exhibition match against Canada on a hard hit from Jamie Oleksiak, knocking him out of action for a month. He's already playing in the Swedish Elite League. Strengths: A very creative player, good in tight spaces, able to spin away from trouble, has a quick, heavy wrist shot and slap shot. Also a good puck handler, able to come up with passing options. A conscientious two-way player with good balance on his skates and is a strong, natural goal scorer who likes to shoot. Weaknesses: Not overly large, his durability may be a concern unless he bulks up even more. He could use his teammates a little more. NHL upside: Has been compared to Marcus Johansson and has the offensive tools to be a top six forward who takes care of his own end.
Not knowing what the Caps' vision for the future is in terms of style of play, picking a conscientious, speedy forward who likes to shoot doesn't seem like a bad idea at all. And heck, you can never have too many Swedes...