Admittedly, one of the reasons we bumped the age cutoff for this series this time around was to include someone of the ilk of Henrik Tommernes, who is set to turn 24 years old any day now. That distinction makes him the elder statesman of this list of players, and puts him a cool 6 years older than the youngest of the bunch (Jake Virtanen).
Yet despite his relatively advanced age for these purposes, Tommernes remains an intriguing prospect. The fact that he has dropped from 9th to 15th in our rankings since last summer is hardly an indictment against his play – which was for all intents and purposes a successful first go around the North American game – but moreso a testament to the collection of talent the Canucks have managed to bring into the pipeline since then.
Tommernes (there’s an umlaut in there somewhere) was taken as a 7th round flier by the Mike Gillis regime back in ’11, following a season in which he produced handsomely as a 20-year old blueliner in the Swedish Elite League. As was noted by Jeff Angus during last year’s write-up, the 20 points in 47 games compared favourably to the offensive output a handful of players – who have gone on to transition successfully to the NHL level – managed during similar points in their respective career’s.
That didn’t happen by accident, either. As those that followed the Utica Comets throughout their inaugural ’13-’14 campaign can lay witness to, Tommernes’ puck skills were readily apparent during his first year since coming over from the SEL. Aside from the shot he brandishes as a weapon, the thing that immediately stands out with Tommernes is his “above-average to plus skating skills“, which predictably translated beautifully to the smaller ice surface:
“He’s not a big guy, not very physical, but no shy, either. Great shot. Good passer. Pretty competent all around. Really reliable on PP. My recollection is that he got out-muscled on occasion but has room to grow. He looks bigger than his listed height and weight. Missed about 20 games to injury. I thought he had a quiet season, but he definitely was noticeable on the point on the PP.”
There’s no question that Tommernes’ strengths reside firmly in the attacking end of the ice, and the manner in which head coach Travis Green utilized him last season bears that out. While he wasn’t asked to log significant doses of even strength or on the penalty kill minutes, Tommernes’ ice-time estimates with the man advantage were noticeably higher than any other defenseman on the team.
As a result, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that despite suiting up for only 54 games last season, Tommernes’ 18 points from the blueline were good for 3rd most amongst Comets defensemen (with only Patrick Mullen’s 20 in 46 topping him from a per-game perspective). Looking at the admittedly primitive underlying numbers we have for the AHL, it doesn’t appear that his production was in any way fluky or unsustainable; in fact, his personal 3.9% shooting percentage on a solid rate (nearly 2 shots on goal/game) indicates that he could probably be due for some better fortune moving forward, if anything.
With all of that being said, Tommernes clearly has some work ahead of him to avoid becoming a casualty of the numbers game. He’s about to enter his age 24 season, which’ll be the last year on his entry-level contract.
With a crowded blueline at the NHL level, and a suddenly burgeoning group of defensemen in the lower ranks – including 3 players that came in securely ahead of him on this list, another 3 intriguing names we’ve already profiled that preceded him, and others that figure to patrol the back-end for the Comets like Bobby Sanguinetti, Peter Andersson, and Alex Biega – he’ll need to prove that he’s more than just a one-trick pony with the Comets next season, at the very least just staying afloat in his own end.
He’ll be given a chance to do so playing on what figures to be a markedly more talented and capable squad, which could certainly only help further accentuate Tommernes’ many aforementioned offensive talents.