Filip Berglund -- a 6’3”, 205-pound defenseman from Sweden -- checks in at #23 in this year’s Top 25 Under 25. Coincidentally, Berglund landed here last year, too. Here’s what Corey had to say a year ago:
”While it seems unlikely that Berglund has the upside to be an impact player at the NHL level, he does have the size, and possibly the defensive acumen to occupy a bottom-of-the-roster spot in the world’s top league.”
Berglund appears to be on a similar trajectory after another season in Sweden’s top league, as his offense regressed some, counting a meagre 2-9-11 in 52GP, while failing to register a point in 6 postseason contests.
The verbal out of Sweden has been that while Berglund lacks the flash, pizazz (pizaz? pizaaz? pizzas?), and offensive upside to be a gamebreaker at the NHL level, there is a frame that’s both large enough, and moves well enough (ish), to still project as a bottom-pair defensemen in the world’s best league. There isn’t much excitement here, but capable right-shooting defensemen are forever coveted (see: Ryan Mantha, who might never play again, still landing in our Top 25 this year) in the NHL, and if the Oilers sign him before June 1, 2020, he might challenge for a job here as early as next season.
Of course, prudence suggests that a player with so far to go might benefit from a year of seasoning in the AHL, but a contract might be a hard sell to a 22-year-old who sees guys like Evan Bouchard, Ethan Bear, and Joel Persson ahead of him on the org’s depth chart.
What They Say
“Big and strong two-way defenseman with good hockey sense and passing ability. Valuable on the man advantage with a strong release and good puck control. Not a speedster and should use his large frame to his advantage.” - Eliteprospects.com in 2016
“Very calm-looking on the ice and makes a very good outlet passes. A real weapon from the point on the power play, his shot is pro ready” - Futureconsiderations.ca in 2016
“Admittedly, it was an oversight not to rank Berglund amongst the Top 20 prospects in the Oilers system. If you recall, he was what became of the third round pick (91st overall) the Oilers acquired when they traded Justin Schultz to the Pittsburgh Penguins in February 2016. He’s still unsigned and is yet to debut in North America. He’s now playing in his eighth season within the Skelleftea organization which he’s been with since his U-16 days.
Whether Berglund ends up coming to North America or not remains to be seen. We should have an answer soon though. He signed a two-year extension with the Swedish club team back in December 2017, and there’s always the possibility there’s an NHL opt-out clause in that deal. The Oilers have four years from the time Berglund was drafted to sign him to an NHL entry-level contract (ELC), which gives them until June 2020.” - TheHockeyWriters.com in 2018
What We Say
It doesn’t appear as though Filip Berglund has reinvented the wheel -- or himself -- in the few years since he’s been drafted. His largeness and hockey sense has seen his average ice time per game grow north of 19:00 this past year, but the aforementioned powerplay, pro-ready shot has not yielded much in terms of offense. Obviously there are usage considerations here but consider that if he were offensively good enough to be used differently, he probably would be by now. Berglund has been in the Skelleftea setup since he was 16, so it’s likely they know what they have.
The update from 2018 seems to paint a pretty rosy picture of a player who is emerging as a top-pair talent, when his deployment and outcomes suggests he still slots behind 26-year-old SHL veteran Johnathan Pudas on the right side of defense.
Berglund presents as a poor man’s Adam Larsson to me -- so, very similarly to how Adam Larsson performed last season, Gord bless him -- a capable enough defender whose lack of offense provides a very real ceiling as to where he can be deployed. Players like Filip Berglund simply don’t occupy top pairing slots for good teams in the NHL, and I wouldn’t expect him to buck that trend.
Similar to Corey’s conclusion from last season, Filip Berglund isn’t an exciting prospect. He’s a decent one, though, and that’s why he remains relevant enough to earn a spot on our list despite being unsigned and failing to blow the doors even ajar in Sweden. He’s tracking as he has been, if perhaps slightly below that after his most recent work, but his projected -0.12 WAR/82 (H/T to Corsica) puts him in the middle of the pack among the 40 or so players we ranked this year, and that certainly influenced my rankings some. The underlying numbers suggest there may eventually be a player here, and that’s more than you can say for some of the guys on our original list.
Look for Berglund to continue developing in Sweden for at least another season before both sides have a decision to make next summer. If he shows really well in Winter ‘19, don’t be surprised if the Oilers do indeed tender him an offer before their reserve period ends. But probably don’t be excited about it, either.
If they do indeed go that route, it’s likely that Berglund plays the entirety of next season in the AHL. If not, the Oilers might do well to engineer a trade similar to the recent John Marino deal, in which they managed to recoup an asset for a player they’d have otherwise lost for nothing.
As with all of these guys to varying degrees, time will tell.