Isac Lundestrom, Luleå HF (SHL)
Age on Draft Day: 18.64 Years Old
Height/Weight: 6’0.25, 183 pounds
2017-2018 SHL Stats (Including Playoffs): 45 GP, 6 G, 9 A, 14 PIM, +5
NHL Central Scouting: 8th (European Skaters)
Canucks Army: 11th
Scott Wheeler: 16th
Craig Button (TSN): 17th
ISS Hockey: 20th
Future Considerations: 21st
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): 31st
Isac Lundeström is a well-rounded forward with a solid frame. He is a great skating, good in puck battles, good at playmaking and is very responsible defensively. In the offensive zone his biggest strength is the cycle game. He’s strong on the puck and has very good balance. Defensively, he reads the game well. He positions himself very well and he has a good, active stick.
He’s coming off a season in Swedish Hockey League which on the surface looks very good.
But when you dive a bit deeper into the numbers i think there are some real concerns about his game.
First, let’s compare him to Lias Andersson in his draft season, a player he’s been likened to (right or wrong).
Lundestrom is significantly behind where Lias was offensively. The most concerning part here to me is his shot generation. Under four SOG/60 is just not good enough.
I also don’t think he is as great defensively as it might look on paper either.
What would his GF% and GF% Rel look like if his 5v5 PDO wasn’t a staggering 103.99? His high PDO is mostly driven by on-ice save percentage (94.54%). The rest of his underlying numbers don’t flatter him either. These numbers aren’t disastrous for an 18-year-old playing his second season in a top-four league in the world, but for a potential top-15 or -20 pick in the draft it’s not good.
Given that Lias Andersson was seen as a big reach with limited upside by many (not me) I’d say any team drafting Isac Lundeström inside the top-20 (maybe even top 31) is making a mistake and playing it too safe. I think Lundeström will become a solid NHLer. His skating along with his all-around game and him being responsible defensively will take him to the NHL. I think he’ll be a very good penalty killer but I don’t see any real top-six upside. Personally, I have him ranked outside the first round.
Unlike Tobias, who has seen Lundestrom play in the SHL plenty, my viewings of Lundestrom are restricted to the U-20 2018 World Junior Championship. Lundestrom had a pretty good tournament for Sweden, playing key shutdown minutes for the silver medalists. He’s a very responsible defensive forward. Here is one example from the tournament.
After a perhaps too ambitious forechecking route from Elias Pettersson (#14) during a Sweden line change, the US have a lot of open ice and the potential for a major scoring chance off the rush. But what an effort made by Lundestrom (aided by good skating ability) to get back and break up the play before it can even develop, then working to put the puck back in Sweden’s possession.
As with Tobias, my concern with Lundestrom is that his impact in the Swedish Hockey League has been overstated. Luleå had a .923 save percentage this season at five-on-five, but that rose to .945 with Lundestrom on the ice. That sounds great in theory, but we know that individual on-ice save percentage is extremely volatile, constantly changing from moment-to-moment and year-to-year, and is not proven to be indicative of a player’s defensive impact. In other words, it’s unlikely that Lundestrom is the cause of that increased save percentage, and instead it’s likely a random, serendipitous outcome. Meanwhile, in terms of shot attempts for/against, Lundestrom struggled. I think it is more than fair to question how much praise heaped upon him for his defensive play in the SHL this past season is fool’s gold created by an unsustainably high PDO.
His play at other levels hasn’t exactly been earth-shattering, either. His production internationally has been good, but not great. in Swedish junior hockey in 15-16 and 16-17, he similarly put up pretty good numbers, but nothing that particularly puts him in a high-end category.
Furthermore, let’s look at some of his numbers compared to 2018 draft-eligible center David Gustafsson, who is almost half of a year younger.
Gustafsson put up similar production in 175 fewer minutes, and also had better underlying numbers. Obviously, this is only part of the picture, as Lundestrom played against tougher competition, for example.
I have to be extremely careful when publishing articles such as these because I often find people inferring that I “do not like” the player in question. I do like Lundestrom. At a young age he has already proven he is a bonafide SHL forward. He skates well, defends well, and can provide supplementary offense. He is a safe bet to make the NHL with a reasonable likelihood of success as a third-line center who eats up tough minutes. Perhaps there is also upside shading into the 2C range if everything goes right. That’s a really good player to have in the NHL!
But everything is relative. Tobias has Lundestrom early in the second round. I spoke to Alex Nunn, and he has Lundestrom in the mid-20s. In alternate universe where the consensus has Lundestrom as a late second-round pick, we’d be frantically waving our arms and shouting to the masses about how we think Lundestrom is set to become the steal of the draft. Instead, Lundestrom seems slated to go in the teens, or at worst early 20s. I don’t think that would be a tragedy by any means, but in our opinion it does not make sense to pay a premium price for Lundestrom when similar enough players - David Gustafsson, Jacob Olofsson, Ty Dellandrea, etc. - will likely be available later in the draft.
What Others Have Said
Scott Wheeler, The Athletic:
“He anticipates the play at an extremely high level, is strong on draws, and makes things happen away from the puck by recognizing when the play has broken down defensively and filling in the gaps.”
Former Luleå coach (now GM) Stefan Nilsson (via Hockey Sverige, translated by Tobias):
“Even as a 17-year-old he’s reverse hitting guys like Peter Forsberg used to do.”