Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Gustav Forsling has been named Sweden's top junior player of the year, the Swedish Ice Hockey Association announced Saturday. Forsling recently signed an entry-level contract with the Hawks and will look to crack the NHL roster in training camp next fall.
Being named Swedish Junior Hockey Player of the Year is a major honor in the country, where Forsling starred for Linköping HC of the SHL during the 2015-16 season. He also played a major role for Team Sweden at the World Junior Championships, and made his debut with the top national team during the 2015-16 Euro Hockey Tour.
Many prominent Swedish players currently in the NHL won the top junior honor before making the leap to North America. Among the current stars who Forsling joins on the list of winners are Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and the Sedin brothers in Vancouver. Other big names to win the award include Peter Forsberg and Niklas Kronwall.
So that should give you an idea of the kind of season that Forsling had. While the defenseman wasn't considered an elite prospect entering the year, he was well-regarded and has only improved upon his stock. Now, after signing with Chicago, it's fair to wonder whether Forsling might leap past Ville Pokka as the No. 1 defenseman prospect in the organization (if he hasn't already).
In 48 games with Linköping HC this season, Forsling recorded six goals and 15 assists. He also had two goals and an assist in six WJC games. The defenseman is considered a strong passer with offensive I.Q. to spare who probably just needs to polish up his work in other two zones before he'll be 100 percent ready for the NHL. We'll see if he's reached that point this fall in camp.