With the No. 22 selection in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft the Los Angeles Kings selected Swedish defenseman Tobias Bjornfot.
Here’s what you need to know about the player named Best Defenseman in Sweden’s Junior League this past season…
Few notes on why Kings liked Tobias Bjornfot at 22
– Have to address some of the culture we’ve lost
– Was captain of every Sweden team in his age group
– Top 4 D, first PK, & plays on PP
– Has intangibles, competitive qualities we value
– Versatile player on both sides of puck
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) June 22, 2019
“He is a two-way, strong skating defender,” said Christian Ruuttu, the Kings Head European Scout. “He can play the power-play and penalty-kill and is a leader on his team highlighted by the gold medal this past spring, the first gold medal Sweden has won in the Under-18 Worlds. Each player we talked to talked about Tobias was him being a leader on their team. He is a special character player as well.”
Yannetti on media call – Bjornfot is an elite skating defenseman, mobile, leads with character, less of a creative passer and more of a quick passer — which we like — he creates space coming up the ice, both with his feet and quick puck movement
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) June 22, 2019
Weight: 202 lbs.
Date of Birth: 4/6/2001
Team: Djugardens J20
2018-19 Season: 39GP, 11 goals, 11 assists
Was team captain of Sweden’s gold medal club at the Under-18 tournament
From the Draft Analyst
“The top defensemen for Djugardens J20 and for Team Sweden at several international tournaments, Bjornfot is an excellent skater with or without the puck who contributes in all situations. He can run a power play by using quick thinking and staying in motion, and he owns a heavy slapshot with a massive backswing. He is a significant goal-scoring threat from the blue line. Bjornfot’s wrist shot seems to be his preferred weapon of choice, probably since he can beat goalies clean from any distance inside the the offensive zone. Bjornfot is a clean, crisp passer but isn’t all that creative or one to be classified as a playmaker. He does, however, generate offense with his wheels and quick-strike mentality — several times a game he catches opponents in a line change by whipping turnaround passes up ice or exploding into an opening for an end-to-end rush. He’s a very good 1-on-1 defender, sometimes dominant but also at times far too respectful of opposing speed. When he’s engaged, Bjornfot has shown to stick to puck carriers like Velcro, and he usually makes the right reads if he sees a dangerous play developing. He wins a lot of foot races and is willing to take a hit in the corner to move it cleanly. Bjornfot’s thick frame comes in handy when he battles along the boards, but his quick stick and powerful one-armed shoves can force an opponent to lose his will to keep possession.”
Björnfot is a very capable two-way defenseman with few weaknesses in his game. A strong skater who reads the game well and contributes both offensively and defensively. Also a good leader and he competes hard on every shift. Can be used on the powerplay, but stands out more in his own end with this solid play. (EP 2019)
From Future Considerations
An elegant skater, his puck-moving skills are a notch above other European prospects. His upperbody strength and balance make it very hard to knock him off the puck. Aided by his strong skating stride, he’s great at moving the puck from zone-to-zone and his mobility allows him to fend off attackers as he uses both his stick and his body to protect the puck. A mobile two-way defenseman, he shows confi dence playing in all three zones. He has a strong and hard fi rst pass to start the transition game and he also has the ability to transport the puck zone-to-zone himself. If given the chance, he won’t hesitate to carry the puck towards the slot in the off ensive zone.
With his quick lateral movement, he’s able to patrol the blueline while looking for openings to either set up teammates or shoot the puck himself. His gap control and stick work are above average. He’s generally good in his own zone, although he needs to work on his positioning around his own net. At times, he fi nds himself too far away from the puck or its carrier, but not in a position to cover the slot either, which can lead to dangerous scoring chances against for opposing players. He’s calm under pressure and rarely throws the puck away or makes a pass to a teammate in a dangerous position. He’s mature in the way he plays and his progression has been very good this season.
This has somewhat understatedly been a banner year for Swedish defensemen in the draft. Philip Broberg had been highly touted from the get-go and finishes on top of the group after hitting a trough earlier in the year. Victor Soderstrom steadily improved his play throughout the year to the point that he deserves to be ranked right alongside Broberg. A late riser to the scene has been Albert Johansson, creating some late waves. While those three were raising and lowering and raising their profiles around him, Tobias Bjornfot continued in his stately way, reminding anyone who cares to ask that he is also a very worthy first round pick.
Not that there was really any reason to ignore Bjornfot in the first place. He has long been groomed in the National program, and has now represented his country at the U16, U17 and U18 levels. In fact, he comes to the draft a veteran of two WU18 tournaments, with both a Bronze and a Gold Medal counted among his rewards. At the U16 level in Sweden, he was a veritable superstar. In the well-known TV-Pucken tournament, he was named Best Defensemen in the event while leading his team to a Gold Medal. He was also named the Most Valuable Player of the U16 SM league.
At the time, he was a very offense-driven defenseman. Last season, he was a regular in SuperElit, Sweden’s top U20 league, helping his team win the league title, and being named to his first WU18 tournament. It was at the latter event where he showed that he is far more than an offensive defenseman. He played a strong game against older opponents, using both his body and his stick to
keep things clear in the back.
Before his draft year got officially underway, he played in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, further establishing his defensive reputation, showing growing calmness in his own zone and playing a regular penalty killing role. While he did spend a small portion of his draft year in the SHL – even playing in the playoffs for his SHL team, he spent most of the year again in the SuperElit, earning himself the nod as the league’s best defenseman. That last reward was a recognition of his
growing two-way game as his offensive game was good, but not near the head of the league.
At this point, Bjornfot is a legitimate two-way defender, with the ability to contribute at both ends and in all game situations. He rarely makes the same mistake twice and is almost always found on the right side of the puck. He is helped in the latter endeavor by his strong four-way skating. He is a long strider, who can cut down on the length when he is accelerating allowing him to conserve energy.
While he did not produce the kinds of numbers this year as he had in the past (especially internationally), he still has a full set of offensive tools in his bag. He has a good wrist shot with velocity and a quick release. He lacks the kind of slapshot typically associated with a powerplay quarterback though.
He is a solid stickhandler and good passer, as likely to make the simple, safe play as he is to attempt something more challenging. Bjornfot alsohas respectable size for the NHL game, with the strength to match. He can handle pressure in his crease and can bring out an aggressive streak, although that isn’t his first recourse. The narrative around Bjornfot has been steady throughout his time on the prospect radar. What you see is what you get.
Björnfot had a strong development this season, where he was the leading player for his team in the SuperElite league as an underaged player. He put up 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points from the blue line in 39 games. Thats the amount of points he can be expected to put up, since he can be labeled as a strong stay-at-home defenseman. His super solid play with the juniors got rewarded with 7 games in the SHL, where he didn’t get much ice-time and did not record any points, but did not look out of place.
In international play he was the coaches go-to defender, even though higher ranked Broberg and Söderström were the biggest stars. He was the captain for team Sweden all season and he is a great leader and he leads by example. He only put up 8 points in 21 international games, despite being the quarterback on the first power play unit for the whole season, which is a role he wont be put in, in the NHL since his offensive upside aren’t that big. Even internationally his puck retrieval is just fantastic, he never gets caught to forecheckers and has the ability to determine whether he should distribute the puck to his forwards or skate it himself. His outlet passes are accurate and crisp, but he rarely tries low percentage passes. His skating is powerful.
Asked Tobias Björnfot about which NHL D he patterns his play after, he cited Ducks Hampus Lindholm.
Björnfot has signed a 2 year deal in Sweden so Kings fans will have to have patience before they see him. pic.twitter.com/zJixkZUZU5
— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) June 22, 2019
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