In the latest installment of the “2013 First Rounders: Where are they now?” series, we will take a look at Alexander Wennberg. Wennberg is a 6 foot 1 forward who now plays for Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League. He also is a fixture for the Swedish squad playing in this year’s World Junior Championship.
When and Where was he drafted?
The Columbus Blue Jackets have an relentless scouting department with heavy European ties. Wennberg was high on their radar and was the fifth ranked skater from overseas. This was with the understanding that the Swedish forward might be at least a year away from making a contribution in the NHL or so most scouts thought.
That is why there is no rush for the 14th pick of the draft either way. Columbus fully expects him to fill out while playing in North America possibly and develop skills more suited for NHL play.
For a 19 year old, Alexander Wennberg looks a little more mature than the average teenager, at least on the ice. There are still a lot of things for Wennberg to work on but it looks like he is progressing considerably.
After a good showing in the Swedish Hockey League, the Swedish forward was rewarded with a three year, entry level contract in May of this year. Columbus seems to think he will be ready to make the jump within the next season or sooner.
How His Season Went
One of the knocks against Wennberg was his “pass first” tendencies but in his rookie year in the Swedish Hockey League, the forward had 16 goals in 50 games with a pretty good shooting percentage. He still has a good bit to work on. The odd thing is the elite level in Sweden illustrated that his passing needs a little work to be near or at the NHL level. Go figure!
What Columbus fans should be encouraged by is the fact that Wennberg is growing and developing upper body mass which will be critical if he wants to play in the NHL. He is about 205 pounds currently which means he gained about 20 pounds over the last 15 months or so. Yet he appears to still be shifty and speedy enough to play in the NHL. How he plays in September after gaining that mass will be important especially to Columbus management. So far, so good for them.
Wennberg does have some more confidence and looks a little more sure of himself. That was illustrated in the last WJC where he had seven points in seven games. The Swedish center could also play the wing if need be but the pivot is where he excels.
Sometimes we do not realize what these players accomplish at such a high level. This video is from the Columbus Blue Jackets developmental camp. Most have probably never seen a full skating test but thanks to Youtube, you have the chance to. Here is Alexander Wennberg’s skating test below.
Thoughts on the Future
Again Columbus does not have to rush Wennberg at all and they do not have any intentions of doing so. It will be interesting to see what the 2014-15 season brings for the Swede as this may be an important year in his development. At the very least, he is going to be in North America it appears. Whether that is the AHL or NHL is up to Wennberg.
Jarmo Kekalainen (GM) and Paul Castron (scouting director) have to be very confident in what they have with the Swedish man in the middle. Alexander Wennberg is NHL.com’s number one ranked prospect for Columbus.
Thanks to Elite Prospects for this quote which is foretelling:
Wennberg is a skilled forward with smooth hands, strong puck-handling ability and quick feet. He has great vision, hockey sense and patience with the puck on his stick. A solid shooter, he should perhaps shoot more, but he is a “pass-first” type of player and a playmaking center. Is also a very hardworking player and should he not be able to transition his offensive game in the big league, he should at the very least become a very valuable role player. (EP, 2012)
There is still a distinct possibility that Wennberg could be sent to the AHL but with a strong camp a bottom six role could be very likely. Most seem to think 2014-15 is the season and here is what the Columbus GM had to say:
He’s such a reliable, smart, two-way player, with lots of skill and character, just in the way he works and plays on both sides of the puck,” Kekalainen said. “He was the best skater on the ice in the [WJC gold-medal game against Finland]
Anyone knows that coach Todd Richards will likely have the last word but the better he plays in training camp, the more we are to see of Wennberg in Columbus this coming year. Blue Jacket fans will like what they see, needless to say. Alexander Wennberg looks poised to make the jump to the coolest game on Earth.