Sweden fell just short at the World Junior Championship this past weekend, but the country’s performance was quite notable for Boston Bruins fans.
The Swedes walked away with the bronze medal after bowing out of gold contention in the semifinals against rival Finland. It was the culmination of an uneven showing for Sweden, but there was solid consensus among experts that Fabian Lysell, the Bruins’ 2021 first-round pick, was arguably the team’s best forward.
“He was one of the lone bright spots for the Swedes up front, and he looked like the fastest player in the tournament,” The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler wrote in his post-tournament notebook.
That speed Wheeler mentions helped Lysell score a highlight-reel goal against Czechia in the bronze-medal game.
Among some of Wheeler’s other Lysell notes: “Hard to trap on the perimeter because of how slippery he is losing guys with cut-backs. Getting to pucks constantly. ? So fun to watch carry the puck up ice.”
Wheeler’s colleague at The Athletic, Corey Pronman, was a little more critical, especially of the Swedes in general. He labeled the entire forward group among his “disappointments,” but he did say this about Lysell.
“In particular, the efforts from Lysell, (Isak) Rosen and (Oskar) Olausson were quite disappointing as versus the good teams they could get very little going consistently,” he wrote. “Lysell was probably the best of the three due to his great speed and skill, but he stuck to the perimeter a lot when creating his offense, as did Rosen and Olausson.”
Up-and-down play is to be expected from younger players — Lysell is 19 — but it does speak to the situation in which the Bruins find themselves with the speedy forward. General manager Don Sweeney admitted the winger could see NHL action as early as this season, but his WJC performance does raise the obvious question as to whether he can handle the jump in competition.
Obviously, the world juniors is the best tournament in the world for those players, so competition — especially against the likes of Finland or Canada — will be difficult. But so will playing grown men in the NHL night in and night out. Lysell’s relatively slender frame, he’s listed at 5-foot-10 and 179 pounds, could probably use a little more bulk before he has to chase pucks into the corner against hulking NHL defensemen with kids and a mortgage.
Optimistically, though, Bruins fans should like what they hear about his speed and skill. Boston desperately needs to get faster, and that alone could make it tempting to speed up his ascension. Put Lysell on a line with a dependable NHL center and another winger who can help protect him, and maybe it’s worth the gamble at some point during the season.