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Canadiens Prospect Review: Adam Engstrom Shines In Sweden

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Canadiens prospect Adam Engstrom

The Montreal Canadiens may have hit a home run at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.

Beyond their two first-round picks, the team put their hands on players such as Lane Hutson, Owen Beck, Vinzenz Rohrer, Jared Davidson, and Cedrick Guindon, all of whom rated highly when compared to pre-draft models.

And yet, there is a rarely-mentioned player in the draft class that may end up overshadowing his counterparts when it comes to surpassing expectations.

Adam Engstrom.

He’s a smooth-skating defenceman who turned heads in Sweden due to his excellent play for Rogle BK.

The 2022 third-round pick turned 19 in November, though it’s worth pointing out he initially earned a job on Rogle’s top defensive pairing as an 18-year-old, a rather impressive feat given how rarely teenage defencemen are given roster spots in Sweden.

Engstrom was eventually shifted around the lineup, but his creativity and offensive instincts continued to shine brightly.

By the Numbers

Engstrom scored six goals and 10 assists in 43 games, which may not seem like much for those who do not pay close attention to SHL games.

However, a quick overview of other scoring rates in the league gives us ample evidence to conclude his production was rather impressive given his age.

Engstrom led all SHL U-20 defencemen in scoring, with his closest competition earning just 10 points last season. Overall, he ranked third among U-20 players, trailing only 2023 top prospect Leo Carlsson (25 points), 2022 eight-overall pick Marco Kasper (23 points), and 2022 27th-overall pick Filip Bystedt (20 points).

Historically speaking, only 12 defencemen finished their U-20 season in Sweden with more points than Engstrom. It’s also worth noting Engstrom produced more points than players such as Victor Soderstrom and Erik Brannstrom, both of whom were among the first 15 players to be drafted at their respective drafts.

In addition, of the 12 defencemen that outscored Engstrom during their U-20 year, only two played fewer games: Moritz Seider and Rasmus Dahlin.

Engstrom’s excellent offensive production continued in the playoffs, where he earned three goals and two assists in nine games.

What The Prospect Experts Are Saying

Uffe Bodin, head of Sports Media at EverySportGroup

“To me, Adam was one of the biggest, positive surprises in the SHL this past season. When he came to Rogle, he barely had any experience of playing against men, but he proved early that he could handle it well. He grew as the season progressed and was basically their best defenseman in the playoffs.

“His offensive game is really intriguing as he has the skating ability and the confidence to join the rush. His decision-making can still be a bit poor at times, but it also got better as the season went on. I think he’ll get big minutes next season when he gets the chance to replace William Wallinder who has been signed by Detroit.”

Patrik Bexell, European Prospect Expert at HEOTP

“I think what stands out is Engström’s tenacity and drive, you give him an inch he takes a mile. He wasn’t supposed to play in SHL, but he did. He wasn’t supposed to play top pairing at the World Junior Championship but in the end, he did. And he wasn’t supposed to be one of Rögle’s best players (if not the best) in the SHL playoffs, but in the end, he was. This is what has impressed me the most.”

“His strong play is powered by great skating and Hockey IQ. His skating is very good, textbook even. His zone exits and first passes are strong, which adds another dimension to his game. Rögle wasn’t a very good team until they learned to trust Engström’s exits and breakout passes. His reach, skating and his understanding of the game help him in the defensive zone, but he needs to work on his physical game and his defensive reads next year to really be a first-pairing defender in the SHL.”

What Habs Fans Are Saying

As is often the case with a player developing in Europe, Canadiens fans are all over the board when it comes to establishing Engstrom’s potential.

Some think he has bottom-pairing potential, while others have a much more optimistic view of where he may land in the NHL.

Strengths

Skating. Skating. Skating.

Admittedly, I did not know much about Engstrom prior to his arrival at the Canadiens’ development camp, however, his silky-smooth skating quickly made him stand out from the crowd.

His lateral transitions are fantastic, and his clean first stride allows him to reach his maximum speed much faster than most of his counterparts.

Engstrom shines brightest in the offensive zone, where his creativity, mobility and vision allow him to serve as a quarterback, regardless of whether his team is on the powerplay or not.

He also possesses the type of confidence that allows him to attempt high-risk, high-reward plays, which is rather unusual for such a young defenceman in a professional hockey league.

His shot is not elite, though you’d be hard-pressed to argue it’s a weakness. Engstrom also has a penchant for taking the right type of shot at the right time, which served him quite well during his rookie campaign.

Weaknesses

Like most puck-moving defencemen, Engstrom needs to improve his defensive positioning when defending the rush.

He also tends to hold onto the puck for a little too long in the offensive zone, an issue he shares with fellow Canadiens prospect Lane Hutson.

Simply put, Engstrom needs more experience.

As it stands, he’s working through a trial-and-error development path, which puts an onus on maintaining his high level of creativity while also allowing him to improve upon his shortcomings in the defensive zone.

It’s the type of development path that often leads to issues in North America, where coaches tend to crush creativity in favour of a mythical form of defence that involves making little to no mistakes.

Truth be told, defencemen will make mistakes. Such is life on the blue line.

The most important question becomes whether their good plays outweigh their miscues, which is certainly the case for Engstrom.

What’s Next

Engstrom will continue to develop in Europe unless he manages to earn a roster spot with the Canadiens. However, despite his impressive skillset, there are very low odds the team currently considers Engstrom as a potential NHL player as of next season.

In a sense, developing in Europe is probably a safer bet for a player like Engstrom, especially when we consider few other prospects in the organization matched Engstrom’s impressive growth last season.

Coaching styles are slowly changing in North America, but there is always the risk a coach may want to mitigate his offensive prowess in favour of attempting to instill a stalwart defensive style of play, which is almost always a mistake that leads to a player who no longer relies on his strengths, and consequently, loses his confidence.

Playing in Europe allows some of his mistakes to go unnoticed, a significant advantage for a puck-moving defenceman.

Seeing as he’s already progressed well beyond Draft-day expectations, the Canadiens should be quite content with the impressive work Rogle has done in Engstrom’s case.

And they don’t have to worry about ice time given that William Wallinder signed his entry-level contract with the Detroit Red Wings, which means Engstrom will have an opportunity to play on Rogle’s top pairing, and more importantly, stay there throughout the season.

Adam Engstrom may not be the most popular Canadiens prospect, but thanks to his fantastic rookie campaign he very well may be the most underrated player in the prospect pool.

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morrisk

All this is fine, but we are overloaded at the LD position. Even on the CURRENT roster, there are 4 LD. Matheson, Guhle, and Harris are staples on LD at this point. So unless the universe decides one of these can’t cut it by next season or the season after, there is no room for either Hudson or Engstrom…let alone what do you do with Arber? So this implies that someone would need to be moved out to make room for either Hudson or Engstrom. Two guys would need to be moved out for both.

I know this sounds controversial, but I say we trade either Hudson or Engstrom for a boatload return, or to move up significantly in this years draft. This years draft is the best in a while and its worth it to do this now to capitalize on this bevvy of talent.

For example, Engstrom can be dangled to move up to get Rinebacher – a top RD…which we NEED! We don’t NEED LD Engstrom!!!

Curtis Ault

He spent most of the season on the right side of defense. I would prefer the Canadiens hold on to him and see how he develops the next year or two in the SHL. This kid is a good hockey player.

Billy739

Engstrom is Lehkonen type Personality
He trained all year with 2 team(SHL and Junior)
Its why he jumped ahead so far despite being drafted a year ago basically.

Why is he special?
He learned to play RD at the highest levels including Team Sweden and SHL.

Anyone who seen those guys play know Hutson-Engstrom is an ideal pairing.
This all hinges on him coming over with atleast 1-2 years more Experience.
But he’s always in the Gym, Always on the Ice and just seems like an absolute workhorse.
He’s got the the hockey IQ to support Hutson while covering his turnovers on failed OZ entries that inevitably happen. Gorges used to do this for Markov and Subban switching from LD to RD as needed with Both having Career years beside him

In all honesty Harris was never long term
He signed here after hinting at free agency because the man who helped coach him to the point so he could turn Pro in Kent Hughes hired another Coach from Harris’s Childhood in Marty St Louis.(Same as Struble)

IMO
Harris is here until Struble’s ready
Matheson is here until Hutsons ready
Savard is here until either Kovacevic or Engstrom push him out
If not Savard or Kovacevic will be moved by 2024-25 TDL as both are pending UFA soon.

2025-26 last years Rookies will be out Veterans going into their 4th year
Though 1/2 of Mailloux or Engstrom are likely to fall off so maybe we re-sign Kovacevic

Guhle-Barron
Hutson-Engstrom
Xhekaj-Mailloux
Struble(Francis Boullion type player, Stronger then he looks and lives in the Gym)

CheliosForever

Its interesting what you said about Engstrom playing as a RD. With that in mind, this is my take on the defencemen pairings:

Matheson-Barron
Guhle-Mailloux
Hutson-Engstrom
Xhekaj (when reinforcements are necessary)

Billy739

Also no one’s giving up a top 10 for Engstrom
You give up top 10’s for Guhle’s

More then That Reinbacher is the most NHL Ready RD
He’s not the highest ranked all year long that was Axel Sandin-Pellika
He’ll require a year or two though is the issue.

Cheaper to by Jordan Spence or Sean Durzi from LAK
They’re selling a RD still and thats with them putting Clarke in the AHL
IF they want him the NHL both Spence and Durzi gotta go unless Roy or Doughty move

Peter

Trade Harris or Wifi before them.

Darren Marchand

Of course guys will get moved. You don’t just stop drafting 1 position because you think you have too many. Not every player you draft becomes what you expect. Better to have guys pushing each other for jobs.

Billy739

SHL for another year makes sense to me.
He trains Twice a day,Once with SHL team once with their Junior Team(as he’s U-20)

When his season ended they interviewed him asking Whats Next?
“Well im going to play some more hopefully, ive been with the Junior club all year and the hope is the league lets me join them in the Playoffs” (which he did)

He wont have the Access to that many Coaches and Trainers here.
Take FULL Advantage of that while you can is my Thinking.

I’ve been High on Enstrom since his first interview
He’s Lehkonen the way he talks and is so positive with Goals not Complaints in the face of adversity and a willingness to take on any Challenge knowing in time he’ll overcome it.

IMO that’s your partner for Hutson
He’s Big but not a Brute, That said he’s also not a push over.
He’ll tie players up and draw penalties but if they really go after Hutson
He’ll make sure next shift that he hits him with all his might with a big finish.
He’s not a Brute but he can lay out Hits with the best of them.

IMO he’s valuable above all else because as a LD he was having trouble getting minutes so he’s adapted to learn RD to the point Team Sweden trusted him there. It made him a lot more Versatile and easier to justify using for a SHL team trying to make the playoffs. That type of Maturity is seen Rarely and most recently Arber Xhekaj did the same thing after earning a contract in Camp with all those LD he jockied for minutes with so when he got back to Junior his final year having a breakout season after.

Overall he may not rank as a top 6 guy in our Defense depth pool today.
But by the time he’s ready to jump to the NHL there’s no doubt in my mind he will be.
At best we’re looking at a Joel Edmundson Type, At Best Lidstrom where he keeps getting better with age cause he trains 12 months a year. (Engstrom claimed to only take 3 weeks off the past year)

morrisk

Well, I stick to my guns on this…package Engstrom in a deal to move up in draft to get a top RD (Rinebacher). We NEED a true RD in our system, a guy who is NHL ready within a year or so. Experimenting with moving guys to “off-shot” positions throughout the D is not good. We have enough LD on the team and in the system…just one of them is expendable.

Last edited 3 months ago by Mike Klynsma