Restocking The Cupboard: Daniel Gunnarsson & Christoph Bertschy
Posted by Nathan Wells on Friday, July 06, 2012
6'4", 191 lbs, Defense
Fifth Round (128th Overall), 2012 NHL Draft
In 2008, former Minnesota Wild General Manager Doug Risebrough used (what turned out to be his final draft pick) a fifth round pick to select a Finnish forward named Eero Elo after going to scout another player. The pick was so off the board it took well into round 6 before a placard with Elo's could be "found." He was never signed by current GM Chuck Fletcher and to this day he's often seen as a joke (i.e. a fictional player in the mold of Taro Tsujimoto) or an indictment of Risebrough's drafting.
Then there's overager Daniel Gunnarsson
Gunnarsson, a Swedish defenseman who plays on the same Lulea team as Wild prospect goaltender Johan Gustafsson, came away unranked by every major scouting service. Of course it doesn't help that the 20 year-old has already been passed over in the Draft twice and Sweden's WJC team (he was one of the last cuts). However, it takes something special to be a 20 year-old defenseman in the Swedish Elite League - he came up because of injuries and stayed there with his play - and Fletcher must have saw something he liked in Gunnarsson.
What exactly? Skating, size that is continuing to grow and playing a simple game. Daniel can play some offense (and in fact considers himself an offensive defenseman) but the key is that he can play tough minutes. Although he isn't the most physical defenseman, the Swede has size and is not a liability in a league playing against men.
(Plus he's a beast in the weight room as the first video shows. Fitting for a player who looks like he could play Ivan Drago's son in Rocky 7.)
It's a combo that fits the team's philosophy even if Gunnarsson projects to be a bottom-pairing defenseman in the mold of 2007 fourth round pick Justin Falk (who signed a new deal yesterday) or last year's fifth round pick, Nick Seeler. Gunnarsson will get a chance to make a more immediate impact due to his age and (in the words of Colton Gillies) manbody, however, otherwise remains more of an unknown. That's about what you would expect from guys picked in the fourth or fifth round. Anything more is a great surprise and anything less ends up being Eero Elo.
5'10", 170 lbs, Center
Sixth Round (158th Overall), 2012 NHL Draft
After three picks that were all above six feet and 180 lbs, Bertschy bucks the trend as a skilled, undersized Swiss forward. The 18 year-old had some early success with Bern of the Swiss League that had some projecting him as a first-round talent. Despite that turning out to be overhype, Bertschy was impressive in the World Juniors for Switzerland - scoring 4 points (2G-2A) in 6 games - and showed off some of that talent.
Besides having a wicked wrister and nose for the net (scoring eight goals in 31 Swiss League games), there are other reasons to take a late round flier on a project like Bertschy. Many players have offensive abilities in lower leagues that do not translate the higher they play and are forced to rely on other attributes. For some it is speed, for others it is size or grit. For Bertschy, one big reason pointed out by Dan Stewart of Future Considerations is that he has an underrated playmaker who has a high motor.
Despite that, Christoph remains the biggest boom/bust player of the seven drafted this year. There aren't too many undersized energy line players in the NHL and if anything, Bertschy appears to be a top-six or bust player. It wouldn't be surprising to see the 18 year-old with his skillset continue to fit in with Europe or the AHL and that's all the more reason to be taken in the sixth round.
Previous 2012 Restocking The Cupboard Articles: