Tobias Bjornfot had a fantastic draft-minus-one season that had many pundits excited about his potential. Unfortunately, the hype-train got a little ahead of itself and Bjornfot couldn’t quite live up to the expectations.
Those high expectations, however, have undermined what should actually be considered a good draft season for a defenceman that has all the tools to become an everyday NHL player.
Bjornfot is no longer a lock to be a high first-round pick, and may ultimately slide to day two; but there is a lot to like about his game and he would be a fantastic addition to any prospect pool.
- Age/Birthdate: 18 / April 6, 2001
- Birthplace: Upplands Vasby, Sweden
- Frame: 6-foot-0 / 203 lbs
- Position: Defence
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: Djurgardens IF (SHL) / Djurgardens IF J20 (SuperElit)
- TV-Pucken Best Defenseman (Lill-Strimmas Stipendium)
- TV-Pucken Gold Medal
- TV-Pucken Most Goals by Defenseman (4)
- TV-Pucken Most Points by Defenseman (7)
- U16 SM Best Defenseman
- U16 SM Gold Medal
- U16 SM Most Goals by Defenseman (6)
- U16 SM Most Points by Defenseman (11)
- U16 SM Most Valuable Player
- J18 SM Gold Medal
- U18 WJC Bronze Medal
- Hlinka Memorial Silver Medal
- J20 SM Bronze Medal
- J20 SuperElit Best Defenseman
- SHL SM-silver Medal
- U18 WJC Gold Medal
2018-19 Stat Rundown
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Bjornfot possesses a very mature game that uses his skating and two-way play to an impact in all three zones. Like so many defencemen to come out of Finland and Sweden over the last few years, Bjornfot’s skating ability is well rounded and polished. He has all the technical parts of his stride down using those to give him agility, acceleration, and straight-line speed.
He has an excellent balance on his feet with and without the puck due to some great lower body strength. There is still some room to add strength and mass muscle to his upper body but there are no concerns about his leg strength and feet movement.
Bjornfot has a surprisingly intriguing offensive game that combines his ability to move the puck well with a good wrist shot. The aforementioned upper-body strength issues inhibit the power of his slapshot, but he is very good at leaning into his wrist and snapshots to let his stick do the work.
He reads the play well when he has the puck, ensuring that he moves it to a player with space to continue transition. If that option isn’t there, he isn’t afraid to hold onto the puck and start skating with it. I’ve particularly liked that when there is the opportunity to do so, he is willing to follow his shot to the net and engage the opponent further to try to generate second chances.
Although he replicated his same production in draft year as his draft-minus-one year, there isn’t much concern that he won’t be able to continue to develop in that area and provide some offence from the backend.
In defensive transition, Bjornfot is strong at reading the play, forcing the opponents to the outside of the neutral zone and then cutting off their lane. Furthermore, he is very decisive about intercepting passes that might come through his space, disrupting them with a quick poke, and then turning the play in the other direction.
If the opponent has gained the zone, he follows a similar thought process of keeping his opponents to the outside. He uses his edges, pivoting, and agility to follow the puck out of danger and then uses his stick to obtain the puck.
He is strong at defending in front of the net and battling for loose pucks. He will need to develop physically do the same things against pros but the process and execution to his defensive game are noticeable in a good way.
Bjornfot has been a regular for Team Sweden throughout the various junior tournaments during his development and he was the captain for both the Ivan Hlinka roster and the World Under-18 roster to close out the season. Intangibles like leadership can easily be overvalued, but I do think it speaks to how mature of a person and player Bjornfot is. That maturity is readily apparent with every shift he plays. He does so many things right and leads by example. This shouldn’t be a primary reason for drafting a player, but is a positive that should be included in the overall analysis.
His role with Djurgardens J20 increased as the season went along culminating with him averaging over 20 minutes a game to close out the year:
His stagnant production from his 17-year old to his 18-year old season should be noted, but it is worth adding that he led his team in defensive scoring and was 3rd in all U18 defencemen scoring in the SuperElit. It’s not like he didn’t produce at all; he just didn’t take a big step forward.
He did, however, control the goal share at an extremely positive rate.
His 22 points this season produced the following output from the Prospect Graduation Probabilities System:
It’s important to note that the SuperElit is a pretty volatile league in terms of feeding the NHL, and though it has stabilized more recently, historical groups can have led predictable samples. This can muddy the picture a little bit, and is worth considering when discussing his 4.8% expected likelihood of NHL success.
Some scouts have suggested that Bjornfot plays a game very similar to Jonas Brodin and I think that is a fair comparison. Their overall play will have a larger impact than what their points suggest and mean that the chances of playing in the NHL would probably be higher due to that skillset.
Personally, I never walked away from a viewing of Bjornfot disappointed with what I saw. I would like to see more on the offensive side of the ledger, but there is certainly something there to give. He doesn’t do anything spectacular, but seems to make things go in the right direction. He did appear in seven SHL games this past season in a limited role, with an average ice time of 7:50; but I think he will get a better chance there next season.
His performance at the Under-18’s was a really good step forward for him. He was constantly in control of the puck, making smart decisions, and jumping up into the rush. He was limited to just one assist, but there were plenty of chances for him and if he kept doing what he was doing, the points would have followed eventually.
Expectations of him taking a big step forward after a fantastic draft-minus-one season resulted in many people softening on their projection, but I honestly feel it swung too much the other way. Bjornfot is firmly in the early parts of the second round of this draft class for me. He may need a couple of years of development in the SHL but I think he has all the tools to be a top four defenceman in the NHL if given the opportunity.
Rolling Season Data
Raw data for the charts used in this article came from eliteprospects.com, SHL.se and swe.hockey.se.
Some clips were pulled from videos from prospectshifts.com. Check out Tobias Bjornfot’s page here (paywall). Other clips were pulled from original broadcasts, with all rights reserved for the original broadcast companies.
Founder and analyst for NextGenHockey.ca — Contributor to The Athletic Vancouver, EliteProspects, CanucksArmy, and Canucks.com.
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