The vast majority of high-end draft prospects that head to American collegiate hockey after their draft year do so after playing prominent roles either with the United States National Development Team Program or excelling in the USHL. Swedish defenseman Tom Willander, a likely first-round selection in next week’s 2023 NHL Draft, will buck that trend. He told NHL.com last weekend he’s now committed to spending 2023-24 at Boston University after spending all of last season with Rogle BK J20 in the J20 Nationell, Sweden’s top junior league.
Willander’s strong performance at the 2023 IIHF U18 World Championship with Sweden saw him rocket up most public draft boards, displaying his high-energy two-way play en route to scoring eight points in seven games and posting a +6 rating. The 6-foot-1, 179-pound defender is ranked 12th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting but has been rumored as an option some teams are considering in the early teens of the first round. Willander dressed for two SHL games with Rogle early in the season, but he didn’t ever touch the ice – maintaining his collegiate eligibility in the process.
Other tidbits from the NHL news cycle today:
- 2019 Stanley Cup champion Alexander Steen could return to NHL work in some capacity, surmises Bally Sports Midwest’s Andy Strickland. The 2002 first-round selection of the Toronto Maple Leafs would go on to play just over 1,000 NHL games, 765 of which came in a St. Louis Blues jersey. A revered versatile two-way forward, Steen retired 18 months after lifting the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career. If he is to join the ranks of NHLers to keep working in the league in front-office roles, it’s hard to imagine it being with another team than the Blues.
- NHL coaching hopeful Brock Sheahan will have to wait a little longer for his first role on an NHL bench, as he’s rejoined the University of Notre Dame in an associate head coaching role. Sheahan, 39, rose to prominence behind the bench of the USHL’s Chicago Steel, guiding them to a Clark Cup in 2021 and coaching many high-end NHL prospects, including 2023 draft-eligible center Adam Fantilli, Calgary Flames winger Matthew Coronato, Montreal Canadiens center Sean Farrell, and Florida Panthers winger Mackie Samoskevich. He joined the Carolina Hurricanes in 2022-23, taking over as head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. With the Wolves deciding to operate independently of an NHL organization next season, Sheahan found himself on the open market after just one year there. He returns to Notre Dame, where he played four seasons from 2004 to 2008 and spent the 2013-14 campaign as an assistant coach.