The Toronto Maple Leafs signed former 57th overall draft selection in 2016, Carl Grundstrom, to a three-year entry-level contract on Friday.
The 19-year-old winger finished tied for 24th in goal scoring in the top-flight Swedish league this season with 14 in 45 games. He slowed down as the season progressed after scoring 12 goals in his first 31, which at the time had him sitting in the top ten in SHL scoring as a teenager. Grundstrom added one goal and one assist in 14 playoff games for Frolunda this Spring.
Despite a slower end to the season, it was nonetheless an impressive year for a teenager in the SHL. He doubled the goals output of his draft season (7 to 14), finished first in goals among U20 players (five ahead of the next highest scoring U20 player), and also led the league in points scoring among U20s with 20.
Grundstrom turned some heads at the 2017 World Junior tournament this past winter as well. He went point per game, played all situations minutes, and showcased a combination of scoring touch, defensive ability and physical play that has Leafs brass high on his NHL potential as a gritty winger who can plug in up and down the lineup. Team Sweden’s head coach, Tomas Monten, told Postmedia’s Michael Traikos that he sees a number of similarities to a former player of his in current Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist:
“He works hard and his competitive level is through the roof. I think the Maple Leafs have a guy who in the future will work hard for them. He likes to score goals and go to the net, but he can score off power and skill. I think they have a pretty good prospect. I coached a player a few years back on the club team in Stockholm, his name is Patric Hornqvist. They have the same edge. Patric was the same as a junior. He competed the hardest every day in practice. His skating wasn’t super, but he worked on it and a lot of scouts told me he wasn’t going to make it into the NHL because he’s not a good skater, but I said he’s going to make it because he wants to make it. I think those two are pretty similar in terms of character.”
“He’s hitting people, he’s taking the body, he’s involved in scrums and you do notice him just from the physical side.”
– Mark Hunter on Carl Grundstrom’s World Junior performance
Grundstrom also played in the top Swedish league for MODO in his draft season in 2015-16, accumulating 16 points in 46 regular season games and adding four points in seven playoff games. While the story of the Leafs’ 2016 draft largely centered around off-the-board selections, Grundstrom was a pick who came in later than consensus at 57th overall. He was ranked 36th by HockeyProspect.com, 40th by Bob McKenzie, and 41st by McKeen’s Hockey in the final draft rankings.
Leaf pick Carl Grundstrom can score. In Jr, had top PPG [ahead of Alex Nylander.] This yr, #1 scoring 18 yo in SHL [on a bad MODO team.]
— Quinn MacKeen (@quinnesq) June 25, 2016
Having two seasons worth of experience competing against men in the SHL could make Grundstrom a darkhorse candidate to push for a spot on the big club roster in the Fall if he crosses over. Grundstrom is under contract with Frolunda for one more season.
Carl Grundstrom Scouting Report
Courtesy of the 2016 NHL Draft Black Book
Grundstrom logged a full season with MODO in SHL, putting up a respectable 16 points in 49 games and also appeared for the Swedish U20 squad internationally. Coming in at 6 feet and 194 pounds, Grundstrom already has a fairly strong build which helps him compete against men. He has a strong compete level which is apparent in his will to drive the net with and without the puck. Once he gets going he shows above average skating ability, which helps him arrive to the net with speed and cause havoc. He likes to play a power-game at a high pace that when working continually drags the defense out of position and causes coverage break-downs as the defense will need to continually re-assess their position.
Grundstrom also likes to play a physical game, throwing his body around on the forecheck. In fact, we have seen him make some borderline dangerous hits which resulted in penalties. His physicality and compete along with speed allow him to play an up-tempo game full of energy, but he also has enough puck skills to play with more skilled players.
That said, we have also seen Grundstrom make some rather questionable decisions with the puck. He has at times struggled to let the play develop. Instead of making a smart play, he would be stuck in his uptempo mindset and force passes that weren’t there or take himself out of play. For Grundstrom to project as a player that could play with skilled players at the NHL level, he will need to iron out those decision-making qualities and add some polish to the way he processes the game.