Canucks Army’s own Vanessa Jang made some waves on Monday in the wake of the announcement of the Sedins’ retirement when she drew attention to another pair of hockey playing Swedish twins: Max and Joel Wahlgren. The two young forwards are in their draft-minus-one seasons this year, playing in some of Sweden’s high level junior leagues.
— Vanessa Jang (@vanessajang) April 2, 2018
The similarities between the Sedins and Wahlgrens don’t end with their Swedish twin-ness either. Both are forwards, one a center and one a winger, and their current jersey numbers (44 and 55) are the natural progression from the 22 and 33 that will soon be hanging in the Rogers Arena rafters.
The Wahlgren twins even made an appearance on the TSN 1040 PM Drive’s segment, Hot Take Tuesday, with Blake Price boldly predicting that the Canucks would grab the pair in the second round next June, when the draft will of course be held right here in Vancouver.
The thing is, not many people seem to be aware of how realistic a suggestion this is. The Wahlgren twins aren’t well known prospects – only 15 months out from draft eligibility, they aren’t anywhere near household names, even among fervent prospect followers.
So how realistic is the idea of replacing our twins with these twins? Not very likely, I’d say. And I don’t mean one-for-one, value-for-value replacements – obviously the very idea of any set of brothers repeating the accomplishments of the Sedin twins is preposterous. What I mean is, I’m not really sure I see the Wahlgren twins as NHL players at all.
The first clue is, as it often is with young European players, found in their games played. Combined, the Wahlgren twins have played just three games at the Superelit level, all in this, their 16-17 year old seasons. Being eligible next year, at this point we’d hope future NHL forwards would have spent at least one full season at that level, with a handful of games at the SHL level. Take Simon Holmstrom for instance, a fellow Swede who is also eligible for the 2019 draft. Holmstrom played 28 games in the Superelit league this season, and made a single game cameo in the SHL.
At the same age, the twins’ older brother Tim Wahlgren got into 14 Superelit games. The following year, his draft year, he was well over a point per game in that league, but still didn’t get selected that year or after since. In the intervening years, Tim hasn’t amounted to a whole heck of a lot in professional hockey.
As it currently stands, it’s not entirely unlikely that both the Wahlgren twins at least get drafted. They are of average size, and they’ve had some international exposure, participating at this year’s World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Max Wahlgren had two points in five games, while brother Joel had one. Comparatively, the top prospect for that draft, Jack Hughes, had 16 points in six games, while fellow high end 2019 prospects like Cole Caufield, Kirby Dach, Alex Turcotte, and Dylan Cozens put up more than a point per game as well, and 2020 top prospect Alexis Lafreniere collected six points in six games.
Here are the top 15 prospects for the 2019 entry draft according to SEAL adjusted scoring, with the Wahlgren twins added in at the bottom for comparison.
|1||2.52||Jack Hughes||C||2018||USHL||Team USA|
|3||1.43||Jakob Pelletier||C||2018||QMJHL||Moncton Wildcats|
|4||1.30||Cole Caufield||LW||2018||USHL||Team USA|
|5||1.29||Raphael Lavoie||C||2018||QMJHL||Halifax Mooseheads|
|6||1.29||Trevor Zegras||C||2018||USHL||Team USA|
|7||1.29||Simon Holmstrom||LW||2018||Superelit||HV 71|
|8||1.24||Kirby Dach||C||2018||WHL||Saskatoon Blades|
|9||1.24||Matthew Boldy||LW||2018||USHL||Team USA|
|10||1.22||Alex Turcotte||C||2018||USHL||Team USA|
|11||1.20||Dylan Cozens||C||2018||WHL||Lethbridge Hurricanes|
|12||1.17||Samuel Poulin||LW||2018||QMJHL||Sherbrooke Phoenix|
|13||1.15||Blake Murray||C||2018||OHL||Sudbury Wolves|
|14||1.13||Ryan Suzuki||C||2018||OHL||Barrie Colts|
|15||1.12||Peyton Krebs||LW||2018||WHL||Kootenay ICE|
|85||0.41||Joel Wahlgren||C||2018||Superelit||MODO Hockey|
|137||0.28||Max Wahlgren||LW||2018||Superelit||MODO Hockey|
Everyone else on this list has played at least 10 games in their respective leagues (and usually more like 40-60), so if anything, the Wahlgren’s are getting a bit of a bump, having played just a couple of games at the Superelit level. SEAL converts their point rates to the equivalent of 18-year old CHL players, and as you can see, the rates are a bit lackluster.
Taking a quick peek at the cohort for Wahlgren twins, you’ll notice that the odds are stacked against them, with an awful lot of comparable players that didn’t make the grade in North America. There’s a non-zero chance of success though, and each player has a modest selection of matches, but, like the SEAL numbers above, the samples compared against here are of players producing with larger sample sizes.
It’s possible that with more opportunity in the Superelit league, the Wahlgren twins would produce at higher rates. We’ll likely get the answer to that next season, when they (hopefully) transition to that league full time. Their success at that level will be a major determining factor in their draft-year value.
If the Wahlgren twins are selected in 2019, it won’t be in the first round, and won’t even likely be in the next several after that. They’re more likely to be depth selections to be left in Sweden for several years on the off-chance that they develop into NHL caliber players.
Any team that drafts one of the Wahlgren twins would no doubt be tempted to grab the other as well, if possible. We’ve seen that brothers (and certainly twins) can often be worth more than the sum of their parts. However, I don’t think it’d be a good idea if the Canucks were the team to collect them both, especially with the draft in Canuck territory. I worry that the optics of them being Swedish twins would create undue expectations and unnecessary talking points, even if they were taken in the later rounds, which would be counterproductive to the patience required with lower end long shot prospects. As cool as it would be to see another pair of Swedish twins in the Vancouver system, I think it’s time to give another organization a chance at developing a matching set of Swedes.