Senators Prospect Profile: Mikael Wikstrand

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Mikael Wikstrand (DL, 6’2, 1993, 7-196/12)
2011-12 Allsvenskan Mora 47-1-2-3 +8 14pim (0.06 ppg) 9th-D pts
2012-13 Allsvenskan Mora 45-11-11-25 +9 35pim (0.55 ppg) 2nd-D pts
2013-14 Allsvenskan Mora 27-4-16-20 +5 14pim (0.74 ppg) 3rd-D pts
SHL Frolunda 19-4-7-11 +1 4pim (0.57 ppg)
2014-15 SHL Frolunda 42-5-13-18 -1 10pim (0.42 ppg) 3rd-D pts (6 games left in the season)

The Sens picked Wikstrand after he was projected to go in the 2012 draft (among the top-30 Europeans according to Central Scouting, while other sources had him as early as the third round).  Because of where scouting agencies slotted him, we have good scouting reports on him along with comments from the organisation at the time.  Tim Murray called him well-rounded, as he does everything well.  Vaclav Burda, the scout most responsible for his selection, emphasized his skating.  Burda and fellow scout Mikko Ruutu also liked that he was able to handle himself in the men’s league, but wanted to see him work on his physicality (virtually a cliché for any European pick).  The International Scouting Service (ISS) assessed most of his skills as good, with his puck skills and hockey sense average:

A good mobile, two-way defender that moves the puck effectively. Vikstrand [Wikstrand] accelerates well in all directions and exudes maturity, already having played over 75 pro level games in Sweden. He stands out most in situations when he has a little bit of extra time and space to make a play, such as the PP- but proves to be capable in 5 on 5 situations as well. He has good upper body strength & battles hard along the boards & can throw the odd big hit here and there.

Future Considerations offered these thoughts on him:

A smart and safe two-way defenseman. Skates well with good speed and quick feet but is not overly dynamic. Has nice vision and makes strong breakout passes. Can get his point shot off quickly and on target. Defends well with an active stick and strong body positioning, closing gaps quickly and blocking off passing lanes. He does many things very well, and is a smart defensive player coupled with decent puck moving skills. However, he’s not extremely physical, and he does not possess much in the way of a high offensive upside. His cool and calm all-around game and the confidence he brings to his blueline are like what you see in a ten year veteran. Might be more ready for pro hockey than many others in this draft out of Sweden, but the upside is certainly not as high as some. He will need to add some more strength over the summer to have a shot at cracking an NHL lineup. NHL POTENTIAL: Bottom pairing two-way defenseman.

The year after he was drafted, Wikstrand was on Sweden’s WJC team and accounted well for himself (6-0-4-4).  This was the same season he got to spend time with Anze Kopitar due to the NHL lockout, and there was some thought that his inflated numbers were because of it.  However, he put up even better numbers the following year, so the offensive ability at that level was clearly his own doing.  At the time, Corey Pronman saw his potential as a top-four defenseman who needed to bulk up and work on his puck skills.

Wikstrand is signed by the Sens, but with a year left on his deal with Frolunda remained in Sweden (his opt-out clause only applied to making the NHL club).  He plays behind Edmonton draft pick Erik Gustafsson and Swedish veteran Elias Falth, but his numbers are respectable (he’s 14th in the league in scoring by a defenseman).  When he was signed, Randy Lee said:

We’re pretty happy about this signing, Mikael Wikstrand is a really solid player. I had a chance to go over and see him this year with Rick Wamsley when he was playing in Mora, he’s a very strong, two-way defenceman, he has a lot of offensive upside and he’s a guy that we challenged to play at a higher level. He changed and went to Frölunda in a higher division which was good for us. He got to play against better players and really showcased himself.

Josh W, citing SHL contacts, mentioned that Wikstrand is tied for the best prospect offensively in the league (with Gustav Forsling), but is a better all around, mistake-free player.  It’s hard to find anything negative about the defender, although his ceiling is difficult to determine.  When drafted he seemed like a safe, punchless, bottom-pairing player; now the upside seems to be top-four with a little offensive talent.  Given the glut of middling defenseman in the organisation, it’s almost a certainty that Wikstrand will play for Binghamton to start next year and it’s in the AHL that we’ll truly see how well his game translates across the pond.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)