By now, you have probably heard of and become familiar with the top three names available out of Europe for this year’s NHL Draft: Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi. But how about the No. 4-ranked prospect out of Europe, according to Central Scouting’s final rankings?
That would be Rasmus Asplund, a small but quick centre who played with Farjestad in Sweden’s top professional league for the past two seasons. Who is Asplund and why is he being compared to Henrik Zetterberg? Here are some things you may not know about him.
Age on June 24: 18
Current Team: Farjestad
Weight: 176 pounds
From: Filipstad, Sweden.
NHL Central Scouting Rank (Europe): Fourth
Jeff Marek’s Take: Speed is this player’s game and is quick off transition and given how the game is trending his skillset will fit it well. Just needs more physical strength. Could be late-round steal.
HE’S PLAYED AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL IN SWEDEN FOR TWO YEARS
The cut off for the NHL Draft is a mid-September birthdate, so although last year’s class featured mostly 1997 birthdays, Asplund is available this year for the first time because he is a late birthday, born in December.
In the meantime, he’s spent two years playing against men in Sweden’s top professional league and he’s seen vast improvement in that time. In 2014-15, Asplund scored two goals and three points in 37 games after getting promoted from the junior ranks (where he scored 25 points in 19 games). This season, Asplund increased his scoring output by four times, finishing with four goals and 12 points in 46 games. For an 18-year-old, that’s a pretty good total.
“It’s going to be a fun experience if I get drafted,” Asplund said to hockeysfuture.com after a game at the World Junior Championship. “I just try to play my best and if an NHL team likes it, I’m happy.”
“I would like more points,” Asplund told Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News. “But I’m playing well and creating chances, so I don’t wonder about the points.”
HE’S A FAN OF THE WALKING DEAD
Rasmus Asplund on Twitter
Rough translation: “Walking Dead with the old man is too good Sunday.
HE PLAYED ON SWEDEN’S MOST PRODUCTIVE LINE AT THE WJC
When William Nylander went down at the annual under-20 junior tournament with a concussion, Asplund moved up the depth chart and took full advantage. Playing with Maple Leafs prospect Dmytro Timashov and draft eligible Alexander Nylander, Asplund’s line scored 21 points in seven games. They may have been the second line on the depth chart, but they were the top offensive trio Sweden had to offer.
Hockey podcast the Pipeline Show’s HockeyProspect.com segment interviewed European-based scout Nik Funa in February, and he had plenty of good things to say about Asplund’s game.
“He’s my top guy out of Sweden, not counting (Alex) Nylander who plays in the OHL,” Funa said. “I actually started the year with (Carl) Grundstrom at the top but Asplund has been really good in my recent viewings. And there’s a couple of other guys out there where the whole thing might still change because there appears to be no real slam dunk prospect in Sweden this year.”
“The thing that jumps out with Asplund is he’s a really smart player,” Funa continued. “A player in all three zones. I would say already quite mature being without the puck. Can really find open lanes for puck movement where he’s passing the puck or moving his feet to get open. Doesn’t mind going to the middle in the offensive zone and taking physical contact to make plays. Can set up people or score himself. I wouldn’t say he has a hard preference for shooting or passing. His feet keep moving pretty much all the time in all situations, which is something I quite like. One thing I also like is he has a bit of sneaky speed when checking players.
“Good compete level, but he’ll have to fill out his frame going forward. He can get those pounds up a bit. The thing I really like to see, even though he’s not really big right now he’ll engage as if he was bigger. So once he fills out that might look a lot better.
“He was great (at the WJC). He played on a line with the Leafs prospect Timashov and Alex Nylander. He’s still young, draft eligible, but I thought it was clear that he belonged there.”
YOU WILL NOT WIN A CEREMONIAL PUCK DROP AGAINST HIM
Gamesmanship? Troll job? On a couple of different occasions, Asplund has been pretty cheeky at the pre-game draw. Both of these happen to be against Team Canada. Here’s a link to one incident, and the other is below: