Hagelin shapes up as sixth-round steal
Rising Michigan star from Sweden was relative unknown in his draft year
By Dan David, newyorkrangers.com
Rangers fans who followed the 2007 NHL Entry Draft at Columbus, Ohio, were understandably excited about the Blueshirts’ ability land an elite prospect in winger Alexei Cherepanov at No. 17 overall. Cherepanov, it seemed, was destined to emerge as one of history’s great late first-round steals.
Tragically, the young Russian star passed away 16 months later -- a moment as sorrowful as his draft day was joyful. Three years later, Cherepanov’s selection remains a strong and proud memory of the Rangers’ 2007 draft. More recently, however, another European member of that draft class, who was hardly the talk of Columbus at the time, has emerged as a top prospect in his own right and become one of the better players in U.S. college hockey at age 21.
Left wing Carl Hagelin was not at Nationwide Arena when the Rangers called his name with the 168th overall pick in Round 6. That’s because he was back home in Sweden and no shoo-in to be drafted as he prepared to enter college at the University of Michigan.
In 2007, Hagelin wasn't even ranked as a prospect by NHL Central Scouting and was largely unknown outside his hometown of Sodertalje, Sweden. Despite Hagelin's low profile, at least one member of the Rangers organization knew about him, and that would prove to be a very good thing for the Blueshirts.
Christer Rockstrom, the Rangers' Director, Player Personnel-Europe, has a history of finding top European talent in later rounds of the draft. During his long career with the Detroit Red Wings and Rangers, he has been credited with identifying the NHL potential of Nicklas Lidstrom (Round 3 in 1989), Sergei Fedorov (Round 4 in 1989), Vladimir Konstantinov (Round 11 in 1989), Sergei Zubov (Round 5 in 1990), Sergei Nemchinov (Round 12 in 1990), Mattias Norstrom (Round 2 in 1992), and Kim Johnsson (Round 11 in 1994).
|In his junior year at Michigan, Carl Hagelin enjoyed a true breakout season, scoring 19 goals and adding 31 assists in 45 games to lead his team in scoring.|
Anyone who follows NHL prospects, particularly those in college, recognizes Hagelin’s names today. As a junior at Michigan this past season, he took the CCHA by storm, tying for 11th in the nation with 50 points and ranking 12th in the nation with 31 assists.
"He's a high-energy player that is a tremendous skater," said Rangers amateur scout Larry Bernard, who has watched Hagelin at Michigan ever since the Swede arrived on campus. "Right now he's scoring a lot of goals, but he's also a very dangerous penalty killer. I project him at the NHL level to be a third- or fourth-line energy player that will be a tremendous penalty killer and also a threat a man down."
Playing all 45 of his team's games, Hagelin led the Wolverines in numerous statistical categories in 2009-10, including assists (31), points (50), power-play points (18), and shots on goal (170). He was also second on the team in goals with 19 and in plus-minus rating with a plus-20.
In 127 career games with Michigan, he has scored 43 goals and 60 assists for 103 points. His plus-minus rating over that time is a remarkable plus-57. Yet the most impressive thing about Hagelin's three-year college career might be his uncanny ability to improve his offensive numbers each season. As a junior, he nearly tripled his assists total from his freshman year.
"It has been a very steady progression," Bernard said of Hagelin. "Last year, he really started coming on, and then this year, he just took off. For the last two years, he's really gone on a straight upward curve."
His consistency is remarkable. Hagelin scored at least one point in 35 of 45 games and had a career-high 11 multi-point games. His 11-game point-scoring streak from Jan. 29 to Feb. 27 was the longest by any Wolverines player in three years, and he also registered three separate six-game scoring streaks.
Hagelin raised his game in the postseason, leading Michigan to a CCHA title with three assists in a 5-2 semifinal upset of eventual NCAA finalist Miami and another assist in a title-game win over Northern Michigan. He then helped the Wolverines reach the NCAA regional final, where the Wolverines fell to rival and top seed Miami 3-2 in double overtime. Heading into that heart-breaking loss, Hagelin’s team had won seven straight games and nine of its last 10.
"I remember I really thought we were going to be able to go to the Frozen Four and watch him play there along with Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan," said Gordie Clark, the Rangers' Director, Player Personnel. "I was disappointed that Michigan didn't make it."
|Rangers prospect Carl Hagelin has represented his native Sweden in some international tournaments, including the 2008 World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic, where he won a silver medal.|
"He was on the power play and on the penalty kill, and he played all the time," said Bernard. "Because he's got such strong legs and he's such a great accelerator, he could go for longer periods of time than some other players, and his conditioning is excellent. He played a lot, but he was able to play a lot and be effective. They were able keep putting him right back out there if they needed him.”
Named a No. 1 Star four times during his junior season, Hagelin had his biggest offensive outburst on Jan. 9 at Western Michigan, when he scored two goals and added two assists in a 6-1 rout of the Broncos. He was also a No. 2 Star once during the season and a No. 3 Star three times. Many of Hagelin's goals came in special-teams situations, as Hagelin scored a career-high five times on the power-play and had two shorthanded tallies, which were no surprise to those following his career
"He's on the power play now in college, but at the NHL level I'm not so sure he's going to be a top power play guy," said Bernard. "In the NHL, he’ll definitely be one of the top guys on the penalty kill."
Hagelin, a Michigan alternate captain, raked in awards and honors in 2009-10. This included berths on the NCAA All-Midwest Regional Team and a spot on the CCHA All-Tournament team. Other awards included a second straight berth on the CCHA Scholar-Athlete Team and Michigan's Downes Award as team MVP, and Isaacson Award for academic achievement. An Academic All-Big Ten team member, Hagelin has one year left to complete his degree in Sports Management.
His biggest honor might be yet to come. Hagelin is considered a strong candidate for next year's Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey.
"With the Hobey Baker, it all depends on your numbers," said Bernard. "If his numbers keep escalating like they have, I would think he's going to have a pretty good chance to be up there next year."
In addition to his college achievements, he has also gained valuable international experience as a member of Sweden's 2008 World Junior Championship team, winning a silver medal in a primarily defensive role.
"His leg strength is impressive, but he's got to get stronger in terms of winning battles against stronger defensemen," said Bernard. "Right now he's so much quicker that he can dart in and out, but at some point you have to get in there and grind it out to the puck, and that's something he continues to work on."
Few sixth-round draft picks attain the degree of college hockey success Hagelin has already enjoyed, and there is more to come. It’s all a credit to Hagelin himself, who took a road less traveled for star European prospects in arriving at the brink of a promising NHL career.
"This is the player that we projected him to be," said Clark. "We weren't saying or expecting that he was going to rip it up in college by scoring a bunch of goals, but we knew he's an all-around player. Michigan has always used him on the defensive side, and at first they weren't using him on the offensive side, but now they are."
Bernard, who stays in touch with Hagelin during the season, recognizes just how much playing for the Rangers would mean to him.
"I know he's excited," said Bernard. He's excited going into this year and about possibly having a chance to play in the NHL down the road."