Erik Brannstrom is one of the top defensive prospects in the upcoming 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The New York Rangers clearly need to add defensive depth to their prospect pool. With this being said, Brannstrom is a prime candidate to be selected by the Rangers in the draft.
The New York Rangers hold the 21st overall pick in this year’s draft and will have plenty of options when they make their selection. While this draft may not feature a “Connor McDavid” or an “Auston Matthews”, there are still plenty of skilled players available who will have a future in the NHL.
One of the players that the Rangers should take a look at drafting with their first round pick is Erik Brannstrom, an offensive-defenseman from Sweden.
So who is Erik Brannstrom?
Erik Brannstrom is a left-handed defenseman known for his offensive prowess. He weighs in at 179 pounds and stands 5’10” tall. Brannstrom is 17 years old and will turn 18 on September 2nd, right around the time the NHL season starts.
Brannstrom spent parts of this past season playing in the SuperElit and the SHL. In the SuperElit he put up a line (Goals-Assists-Points) of 9-14-23 in just 19 games played. In the SHL (the top hockey league in Sweden) he had a line of 1-5-6 in 35 games.
There’s a big drop-off in performance between the two leagues but two things should be noted. First, he was a 17-year-old playing against grown men. Second, coaches in leagues like the SHL and KHL do not properly utilize their young players, which means that he likely did not play too many minutes per game in the SHL.
Brannstrom is a terrific skater and a lot of his skating ability comes from his agility. He is able to use his skating ability to slip past defenders. Often times it looks like he’s about to be trapped by a defender and is going to turn the puck over before he pulls off a quick move and starts a breakout going the other way.
Brannstrom is also extremely dangerous in the offensive zone. He uses his skating ability and his offensive instincts efficiently to create open space. This allows him to either take a shot from a higher shooting percentage area or to pass the puck to one of his teammates so that they can shoot it.
Most of the scouting reports on Brannstrom focus on his offensive ability, which is reasonable because he is seriously fun to watch when he has the puck. Because of this, his ability to slow down opponents in the neutral zone is underrated.
He is very good with his gap control. This means that he stays on his man and doesn’t allow the opponent to beat him very often. This forces his opponent to dump the puck in order to get it past him, and he does all of this is while he plays on bigger ice than the NHL does.
There is some concern about his size (or lack thereof). However, it is important to remember that he is 17 years old, which means that he is still growing. It’s also vital to understand that Brannstrom possesses very high offensive awareness and is an extremely skilled defenseman, which outweighs any concerns about his size.
If anything, Rangers’ fans should view him being “undersized” as a good thing because it is probably the main reason why he would fall to the Rangers. If he had the height of Michael Rasmussen (6’5″), it is very easy to see Brannstrom being taken in the top 10 or 15.
Another concern is where he would fit in on the Rangers’ blue line. The Rangers already have McDonagh and Skjei on the left side of their defense. While this is a valid concern, it should be noted that it is very likely that McDonagh will be at least 30 years old by the time Brannstrom is “NHL ready”.
That means that McDonagh will be edging closer and closer to his eventual decline. Because of this, it is very important for the Rangers to add a potential replacement for their current captain, which is something that they do not currently have in their farm system.
Will he be available?
Whenever you talk about draft eligible prospects, a big thing to consider is whether or not the player will actually be available when your team is on the board. As mentioned earlier, the Rangers hold the 21st selection in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Since the draft is still a month away, it is impossible to guarantee Brannstrom will still be on the board.
In most projections, Brannstrom tends to be a late first round pick. However, in some of the mid-season projections, he fell to the second round. Because of this, it is likely that Brannstrom will still be on the board when the Rangers are on the clock.
Overall, Erik Brannstrom is an extremely dynamic player. He is able to move the puck up the ice, force turnovers, set up his teammates, and bury the puck in the net. He excels as a power play quarterback, but he is much more than that.
The Rangers would be wise to use their 21st overall pick on him. He is a big-time player who is a fierce competitor. The only knock against him is his height, which means absolutely nothing when you consider everything else about him.
And if what I said in this article didn’t convince you that Brannstrom is the real deal, watch his Under-18 Tournament highlights and get back to me.