Photo via Brynäs IF, with permission
There are two important things that should make Calle Jarnkrok immediately attractive to the Oilers. He's Swedish and he's little.
Size is always the first thing we have to talk about with Calle Jarnkrok. He's 5'10" and 158 pounds. Sam Gagner, to pick a name, is 5'11" and 191 pounds. Brian Gionta is shorter but twenty pounds heavier. Sergei Samsonov, more than thirty. Calle Jarnkrok is really, really little. If Jarnkrok made the NHL, he would be the lightest player in the league. This doesn't matter as much as it used to, but that doesn't mean it doesn't matter at all. With a total of one minor penalty under his belt last season, he also seems to lack that protective layer of sandpaper which has kept some smaller forwards from being cracked like overripe melons.
Also, he doesn't shoot. Like, ever. He had eighteen shots in thirty-three games of league play last season, which seems like the kind of thing I'd do if I played thirty-three professional games. Since he scored four goals, that means he shot 22.2%. Which is a lot, but in a sample that small how many conclusions can you really draw? Scouts rave about his "great hands", and by all accounts Jarnkrok is a soft touch, but all the same that's an awfully dangerous number to rely upon.
Jarnkrok is also old for his draft class. Born on September 25, 1991, Jarnkrok missed eligibility for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by a shade over a week. This, again, is not a dealbreaker on its own. But it's a complicating factor when considering statistics and comparables and it's one a wise man will bear in mind.
Yet this old, soft, seldom-shooting midget has thundered up everybody's draft board, from a still-not-bad twenty-second on Central Scouting's European board all the way up to fourth. SB Nation's NHL mock draft has Jarnkrok going in the early second round, and our Columbus Blue Jackets blog The Cannon wants Scott Howson to consider Jarnkrok if he makes it that far. This kid is getting more good press than any hobbit since Frodo Baggins. He's got a great head on his shoulders, he skates like the demons of Hell were pursuing him, and he's got a great attitude. All the non-quantifiable arrows are pointing the right direction.
He's not the best player in this draft. But there's a lot to like here.
Calle Jarnkrok's resume, more or less, goes like this. Last year, Jarnkrok put up a competent but not all-world season in the Swedish U-20 league. He was a point per game player in their junior playoffs, but those were only seven games long. 26 points in 41 games is a perfectly respectable total and if Jarnkrok had been ten days older he probably would have been selected in one late round or another, but may have passed through. It is, approximately, Linus Omark territory when the Swedish Captain YouTube turned eighteen, and he had to wait for his twentieth birthday before the Oilers took a flyer on him. Jarnkrok did raise his stock with a strong appearance at the U-18 championships, averaging a point and a half per game although the Swedes slumped to a fifth-place finish.
But since then Omark and Jarnkrok have been diverging. Whereas Omark followed up his 18-year-old season by potting one lonely assist in 18 Elitserien games, Jarnkrok tore the Swedish U-20 league to bloody pieces in 2009-10. He had 31 points in 19 games with his hometown team, the Brynäs IF U-20s, and that is a dominant pace. Such utter destruction of his fellow teenagers could not fail to earn a callup, and soon the man they call "Ironhook" was a fixture in the Brynäs senior lineup. Brynäs in 2009-10 was quite a good mid-table team, captained by NHL veteran Andreas Dackell and home to one-time Oiler goaltending prospect Bjorn Bjurling.
The team boasts a strong centre ice combination of European veteran Mads Hansen, NHL cameo man Stephen Dixon, talented scoring youngster Jonathan Granström, and checking centre/New Jersey Devils draft pick Alexander Sundström. It was not an easy lineup for Jarnkrok to crack and at first his ice time was fairly limited. Even by the end of the season, when he had earned a regular shift, his final total was only 11:06 of ice time per night. This isn't like Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson being relied on for a hefty chunk of his team's offense: Jarnkrok was on a first name basis with the bench and he was producing anyway.
(Was this a strong team able to shelter a solid prospect or a coach who had no confidence in a kid? Well, now, that's a really good question.)
So what did Calle Jarnkrok do with Jean-Francois Jacques's ice time? Not much. Just four goals and six assists in thirty-three games, fourteenth in team scoring despite playing less ice time in fewer games than almost any of his comrades. His points-per-game in his first season in the Elitserien was better than Linus Omark's points in either of his first two despite Omark receiving significantly more ice time. In his draft year, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson himself had only three points in thirty-five games, and even in his breakout sophomore season MPS was only two points better than Jarnkrok's pace as a rookie (MPS as a sophomore was only seven months older than a rookie Jarnkrok, but Paajarvi-Svensson also went tenth overall).
Jarnkrok's scoring at the U-20 level, alone, would mark him as a prospect to watch. Combined with his stellar Elitserien debut, he moves close to the front rank of prospects this year. Luck was obviously on Jarnkrok's side if he could shoot 22% as a rookie no matter how selective he is and how soft his hands are, but divide that in half and Jarnkrok still has two goals, six assists, and a rookie season that would impress even the most jaded scout.
By no means am I saying the Oilers should grab Jarnkrok first overall. There are likely to be better options at number thirty-one as well. But if we start to fall down a bit, if Jarnkrok is still available at forty-eighth overall or if we pick up a pick in the forty-odd range through trade, he would be a great selection. Guys who shoot up the rankings late but have question marks physically have been known to dip in the draft before as teams are scared of the undersized European who may just be a flash in the pan. The Oilers should be circumspect as well. But they should also pounce on the opportunity to take him if it comes in the right place.