World-class entertainer and moonlighting Sens scout Vaclav Burda did not get the vote of confidence (or did not like anyone enough to pick) until the 7th round in this year’s edition of the NHL Entry Draft, and to no-one’s surprise, it was a pick out of Sweden.
Mikael Wikstrand, who spent the year with Mora IK of the SEL-2, was the 196th pick in Pittsburgh, was bumped up and down the line-up in the second best men’s league in the beautiful country of meatballs and tubed caviar. He played the majority of games on the second or third pairing on what was a disappointing season for his team as they failed to qualify for promotion playoffs.
Or, as Vaclav Burda would put it, “he plays with a man."
Playing with a man, he obviously didn’t get a very prominent role as a 17-year-old, and didn’t put up great numbers for a player that likes to describe himself as an offensive guy. However, as you might know from some other cases with European players, ice time in general and power play time in particular is hard to come by for a young player in any European league. However, as Mora is going into next season with a very young defensive group (featuring Kalle Ekelund and Patrik Andersson of OHL fame) there’s a good chance that Wikstrand will find a way to earn more ice-time on special teams.
Even though he didn’t get to show much of his offensive flare and the power play abilities that produced some points at the junior levels in Sweden, he definitely didn’t look out of place at the senior level. He’s a good bet to make the Swedish WJC team for the tournament in Ufa this winter, and was one of 10 defensemen invited to the summer camp that’s the start of the U20 team’s season, with a camp in Sweden late July followed up by a tournament in Lake Placid.
Wikstrand, who likes his name spelled with a “W” despite the passport saying “Vikstrand”, is a decently sized, mobile defenseman that can transport the puck with his skating and easy-solution, crisp passes. As a young player in a men’s league, he would often opt for the simple play, as we’ve seen so many times with other young defensemen. Smart decisions defensively and while he’s not a physical force by no means, doesn’t shy away from contact and is fairly strong on his skates.
After the draft, Mikael was kind enough to share his thoughts on a few matters..
What kind of person he is..
I am an 18-year-old from Furudal, Sweden. I moved to Mora to play junior 3,5 years ago. I like playing video games and spending time with my girlfriend and family.
His style of play..
I’ve got good hockey sense, I'm mobile, a good passer, and can play on both the power play and the kill. I'm a two-way defenseman with good offensive qualities.
Expectations on this season..
I want to play a lot with Mora. I'd especially like to get some PP time, make the WJC roster (obviously), and develop my foot speed, shot and skating.
Who he likes to watch to improve his game..
When I was a kid I liked Lidström. I still do, but now it’s going to be guys like Erik Karlsson and Gonchar.
His favourite team..
I've had a thousand favourite teams growing up, but now it's the Senators.
His draft experience..
It was very tough waiting for so long, but I never gave up. I knew there were lots of interested teams. I thought I would be gone a little bit earlier, but the important part is that I’m going to a team that believes in me.
Whether or not the draft is a lottery..
The draft is a lottery.
If he knew that the Sens would call his name..
Ottawa had told my agent, Christian Sjögren, that they were interested, but I didn’t meet with them like I did with a few other teams, so I was a little surprised that I got drafted by the Sens.
His most immediate plans..
I’m going back to Sweden but won’t be home for many hours since I’m just getting my stuff and heading back over for development camp on Tuesday morning. I’m probably going to miss the first day of camp.
If he can find the right gate at an airport..
I know Mika really well from the national teams, and hopefully the other Swedes will be very helpful with practical stuff since I can’t even find the right gate at airports.
What his plans are for the next few years..
I’ll stay with Mora (SEL-2) next year and, if things go well, I’m hopeful I can play in the SEL. I’ve got a good agent who can handle all that so I can just focus on the next game and this season. If the Senators think I should play in the AHL, I will, but many are staying in the SEL and have turned out fine. When the Senators, myself and Christian (his agent) think I’m ready, I’ll head over.