Although the New York Rangers signed Karl Henriksson to his entry-level contract this past spring, he will once again be playing back at home in Sweden this season. Among the training camp cuts today came news that the Rangers had loaned the skilled center to the SHL’s Frolunda HC, the organization with whom he has spent the past five seasons. Henriksson, the team’s 2019 second-round pick, will have to wait another year to make his North American debut.
Henriksson, 20, may be the Rangers’ top prospect not already in the NHL. A two-way center with strong skating and puck possession skills, Henriksson looks like someone who should be in the league at some point. He has already made his mark on the top level in Sweden with 54 games played as a teenager, and looks ready to take on an even bigger role this season after recording two points in four games with Frolunda in Champions League play this summer.
While the young pivot is certainly still developing, it is interesting to see the Rangers send him back to Sweden – and so quickly. New York has admitted that they have a weakness down the middle and need to find another top-six center. Yet, they are not giving much of an opportunity to their best internal option to eventually fill that role. Letting Henriksson adjust to the North American game in the AHL this season rather than returning to the SHL might have been worth some more consideration. Even if they still felt that he was best served going back home, they could have at least given him a taste of NHL play this preseason. Perhaps the club is not yet sold on Henriksson’s upside, something that the young center will try to change this season by establishing himself as a capable pro in Sweden.