Isak Rosén had a bit of a coming out party at the under-18 men’s hockey championship, and was it ever fun to watch.
At the Texas tournament, the dynamic playmaking winger helped Sweden to a bronze medal, co-led his team with nine points in seven games, good for 11th overall, and was named one of the top three players for his country by coaches at the event.
“He's one of those guys that makes the plays where he's worth the price of admission,” said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting, who was on hand at the Frisco, Texas, event.
“He was very, very entertaining. I thought he was very, very valuable and a player that rose to the occasion for Sweden at that tournament,” he added.
Hard not to be entertained when he scores goals like this final devastating blow to the already floored Finns in the bronze-medal game, his second of the contest.
— Eliteprospects (@eliteprospects) May 6, 2021
While Rosén opened the eyes of scouts at the U18s, there’s a wide array of possibilities as to where he might slot in at the 2021 NHL Draft, with Marr saying that teams are expecting him to be picked anywhere from 10-15, 15-20, 20-25, even in the 30 range.
Here’s a closer look at the electrifying but diminutive Swede, what makes his potential so intriguing and how he stacks up to other forwards in the draft:
Team: Leksands IF (SHL)
Position: Right winger
Age: 18 (born March 15, 2003)
From: Solna, Sweden
Weight: 156 pounds
If the U18s were Rosén's coming out party, his SHL season was more of a stay-at-home-in-sweats pandemic winter — a tad more low-key.
With the Leksands big club, Rosén’s opportunities were few and far between as he averaged just 5:45 minutes a game, often relegated to the press box, and recorded a single assist in 22 games.
Before the J20 Nationell was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rosén notched 12 points in 12 games in his second tour of duty in the junior league. The season prior, he had racked up 35 points in 38 games, one point less than projected top-10 pick William Eklund who had 36 points in 31 games.
Despite his up-and-down 2020-21 campaign, evaluators, like Marr, aren’t holding his performance in the pros against him.
“I put a lot more value in watching him play peer against peer at the U18s than I do on his playing is his regular development path in Leksands,” he said.
Marner and Kane comparisons?
There’s plenty about Rosén’s game that indicates the numbers will come.
Marr said the 5-11, 156-pound playmaker boasts excellent NHL speed and quickness, good puck control and hands, along with a stable of moves to help him slip through defences and fire his deceptive shot or find open teammates.
“He would come up with the big plays, chances and the goals when they were needed,” he said of watching Rosén.
“Everything about his skill game was impressive,” he added.
The super-slick forward loves to skate the puck up the ice and lead the rush, often cutting through traffic and using his speed to slash to the net.
“(He showed) excellent hockey smarts as far as making plays, setting up plays and, like I said, he can do it at top speed and he could do it while he was being checked.”
It’s the kind of big-time game in a small package that’s reminiscent of some of the top players in the NHL right now.
“(When) you go back to the same age you're talking about a guy who's showing the same skills and talent as the Mitch Marners and the Patrick Kanes,” said Marr.
“These little guys who when they're soaking wet they hardly weigh anything, but they have this elusive speed, smarts and skills that they can go out and generate offence.”
Worth stepping up for?
However, Rosén isn’t the only diminutive but highly skilled winger available in the 2021 NHL Draft who offers that kind of tantalizing potential, with the aforementioned Eklund being chief among them.
Central Scouting had Rosén slotted in at No. 8 among European Skaters with Eklund at No. 1 and other vertically challenged wings such as Nikita Chibrikov and Aleksandr Kisakov above him (Nos. 4 and 7, respectively) and Fabian Lysell one spot below.
What separates fellow Swede Eklund, in particular, from Rosén is his drive and his all-around game. Eklund — who’s 20 pounds heavier at 5-10, 176 — also has “a bit more balance,” and can hold off bigger and stronger players.
“Rosén competes with his skills and assets,” said Marr.
“But (Eklund) was Rookie of the Year in the (SHL), he was consistent at it, he got the ice time, he was able to produce (and) the team actually struggled when he was out of the out of the lineup,” said Marr of the late-2002 birthday who had 23 points in 40 games with Djurgårdens IF.
“It's just he plays that high-character game where he has an unbeatable work ethic out there, he competes on plays (and) he's not afraid of anything.”
Though he expects teams will be more cautious with Rosén given his slight frame, Marr said his play against his peers isn’t “by accident or fake” and someone will take a chance on him.
“If I have a team, I'm stepping up for Rosen at the right spot,” he said.
“This is a legitimate prospect … With our international list, he could have been in the top five. It's tough to get the order in this draft class … For the Europeans that are going to go, he can be anywhere from five to 10 and we think there's going to be a lot of European players selected in the first round this year.”