Photo Credit: Leksands IF
Electric. That is the word that comes to mind when you see Isak Rosén play. There are not too many 18 year olds who incite a palpable sense of anticipation when the puck finds their stick. While his name may be unfamiliar to many across the pond, the Stockholm youngster has been on the radars and lips of many in Sweden for several years.
At 14 years old he was already one of the best players on the Swedish u-16 circuit, on a Leksands team that had very little in terms of scoring support for him, as evidenced by year-on-year of “goal-heavy” stat lines despite being a good play-maker himself. By the time he was 15 he dazzled in the TV-Pucken tournament – where all the best u-16 year olds in Sweden compete for their region – top-scoring with 21 points in just 11 games. He has also represented his nation with aplomb at both u-16 and u-17 level, albeit mainly in a depth role.
D.O.B – March 15, 2003
Nationality – Sweden
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –161 lbs
Position – Left Wing/Right Wing
Handedness – Left
Rosén’s Style Of Play
So what is it about Rosén’s game that makes him a first round pick in 2021? As would be expected from a man whose father and uncle were high-end players in the Swedish leagues, young Isak’s years spent around rinks and the pro game have gave him an intuitive understanding of the sport, as well as a mature playing style. His hockey IQ shines, especially against players his own age. He is rarely out of position in any of the three zones, and is excellent at getting space in the offensive zone to unleash a shot.
His shot itself is quick and accurate, and a measure of his technical proficiency is the ability he has to shoot while in full stride. Many NHLers struggle to unleash high-end wristers while moving at speed, but it comes to Rosén naturally. His shiftiness and puck-handling ability mean he can be extremely deceptive with his shot as well, leaving goalies guessing where and when he will let it go until it nestles in the net behind them.
But none of these things are what the Leksands forward does best. Simply put, when he is in a game his team-mates want the puck on his stick no matter what zone he is in. Rosén may well be the best transitional player in the draft. The ease in which he scythes up ice is mesmeric to watch. He often picks the puck up in the neutral zone, evades the first forechecker, and is then off to the races. Once in stride the only way to stop him usually involves the potential of giving away a penalty.
With ice to skate into Rosén seems to see the game in slow motion. His decision making process through the neutral zone is exemplary, to the point it is rare to see him not get into the offensive zone with possession. There are also very few players in the draft with better skating ability. Not only agile, Rosén can burn past opponents on the wing.
Once in the offensive zone, especially when against the pros in the SHL, Rosén does not quite have the same confidence or impact. He can be overly prone to making the “safe” plays, and as a result simply drift out of the game. In turn simply being “solid” but rarely getting opportunities to shoot or looks for team-mates. However, this was never a problem for him when in juniors, and it seems likely that, quite frankly, the physically under-developed winger is not quite ready for the SHL yet. However, he is effectively “forced” to play there due to COVID, as the junior leagues were closed down.
In the offensive zone at the junior level, Rosén is a dual threat. He can use his high-end shot to score, but also dissect defenses with his plus-passing. For a smaller player he also drives to the net hard, and does not mind mixing it up in the tougher areas of ice, despite not being very physical.
As would be expected from a defensively sound winger with lightning in his skates, Rosén is dangerous on the penalty-kill, and in 4v4 or 3v3 phases of play simply owns the ice. His forechecking is also relentless, and he crowds lanes using his skating, IQ and active stick.
Going forward he needs to fill out and get stronger, as while a diligent two-way player who always takes care of his duties in the defensive zone, he can often get muscled of the puck, beaten easily in a board battle, or lose position to becoming engaged in a battle of bulk and not brains. This would also enable him to be less tentative offensively at the pro level, as right now he seems scared of making mistakes in his limited ice-time, as opposed to using his game-breaking talent to actually break games.
Next year it seems likely that with another summer of growth, as well as more acclimatization to the pro game, Rosén can really start to bring what makes him special vs his peers to both the SHL and international arena. It would be no great shock to see him break-out and become a good middle six SHL forward as soon as next season.
As for the draft? The young Swede has the talent to be taken inside the top 15. However, his relative lack of production this season and inability to stand out against men at this venture may well mean he falls into the late first round. If he is available in such a spot teams will be hard-pressed to find a player with more upside after he is gone. Down the line he has the skill-set to be a high-end top six winger who can put up close to 70 points a season over his prime. His “floor” is also higher than many potential first rounders due to the combination of skating, tenacity, and two-way play he possesses.
Nikolaj Ehlers, Left Wing, Winnipeg Jets
It may be a lofty comparable. However, while it is unlikely that the young Swede will reach the level of his Danish counter-part, their games are not dissimilar. Relentless two-way play combined with IQ are the foundations, but game-breaking speed and skill are what stand out. Both transition the puck at an elite level, and have the vision and shooting ability to be a real threat in the offensive zone.
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Alexander Appleyard. If you would like to follow Alex on Twitter, his handle is @alexappleyard.
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