I can’t imagine there’s a more rewarding feeling to a scouting department than instant gratification on a debated pick. While Carl Grundstrom wasn’t the most contested selection by Toronto in 2016, he still came with his share of doubt; and a year and a half later, the story has changed to the impatient anticipation of his arrival.

But how do you get from there to here?

Age 19 (December 1, 1997) Birthplace Umea, Sweden
Pos Left Wing (LH) Drafted 2016 (Rd 2, Pick 57)
Vitals 6’0, 194lbs Acquired Via Draft

I don’t think that the sense of doubt was alleviated very much when Grundstrom returned to the ice later that summer and did this:

Thankfully for Grundstrom, it didn’t lead to an opposing goal in the way that Patrick Stefan’s famous gaffe did, and for those in the know, they knew that this wasn’t the type of finish that you were to normally expect of Grundstrom.

After all, this was a prospect that the Leafs drafted after he finished 1st in the SHL in U19 points, and second in U19 goals. Someone who the year before that, was just five goals short of the SuperElit crown, despite playing 17 fewer games than the league’s goal-scoring leader. A prospect who continuously led his U16 and U18 teams in goals-per-game, thanks to his nose for the net and his willingness to do anything to get the puck into the net. Even getting rid of the goals, this was still a teenager that already had an established body of work in the third best league in the world.

So, rather than thinking that an empty net whiff with a team he had just joined would define his season, they waited it out and were rewarded generously for it.

15  2012-13  IF Björklöven J18  J18 Elit 19 10 8 18 12.4 24 12
15  IF Björklöven J18  J18 Allsvenskan 14 3 2 5 4.7 18 -2
16  2013-14  MODO Hockey J18  J18 Allsvenskan 10 12 4 16 21 37 12
16  MODO Hockey J20  SuperElit 31 6 4 10 6.6 6 -6
17  2014-15  MODO Hockey J20  SuperElit 27 21 15 36 2.7 53 15
17  MODO Hockey  SHL 24 2 3 5 11.5 8 -4
18  2015-16  MODO Hockey  SHL 49 7 9 16 15.5 53 -2
19  2016-17  Frölunda HC  SHL 45 14 6 20 21.1 6 6

Grundstrom’s first season with Frolunda built upon the foundation he set himself with MODO. His 14 goals were tied for the team lead, and his 20 points landed him in the 8th seed on his team. In a league like this, though, age means everything, and he was the SHL’s U20 points leader by a hair (two others had 19), and the goals leader by a lot (nobody else had 10).

Grundstrom’s efforts also meant a second appearance at the World Juniors, where he picked up seven points in seven games, and an end-of-season ATO with the Marlies. He joined the team in the midst of the playoffs, and scored three goals and added an assist in six games, giving local fans a taste of what’s to come.

pGPSn pGPSs Exp. Success % Exp. P/82 Exp. Value
35 (21/31) 14 (T14/31) 39.3% (7/31) 48.4 (2/41) 19.0 (4/31)

The above numbers are products of the Prospect Graduation Probabilities System (pGPS), created by Canucks Army to project a prospect’s odds of becoming an NHL regular. For a run-down on what each of these stats mean, head back to the introduction.

The numbers seem to really believe in Grundstrom, which isn’t much of a shock when you consider the fact that we’re talking about a player that’s been respectable in the third best league in the world since he was 17. What’s surprising is that pGPS feels even better about his upside than it does his chances of sticking around, putting him clearly in Top 6 forward territory with his expected point totals.

Grundstrom plays a very “North American” type game. He forechecks hard, he throws a ton of hits, he enjoys playing on the penalty kill and he gets under the skin of his opponents. Many are already calling him the eventual successor to Leo Komarov on the Leafs, with perhaps a little less defensive ability offset by his ability to finish, particularly in and around the slot.

The Upcoming Year

While many hoped that Grundstrom would find his way onto the Toronto Marlies this season, his SHL contract combined with his status as a non-first round pick prohibits him from jumping over for at least another year, unless it’s directly to the NHL.

That’s not a terrible thing, though. Frolunda is an incredible program to play in, praised by a grocery list of Swedish players and staff, and getting another year there should be good for his own progression. Not to mention, he won’t be taking ice time from the other 3.6 million wingers that the Leafs seem to have playing in their North American pro depth chart at the moment.

Long-Term Outlook

To quote Mike Babcock, Carl Grundstrom is a player. Almost undoubtedly so at this point; he’s looked excellent from a young age at levels where it’s not easy to do so, instantly boosted the Marlies with his appearance last year, and has already left people wondering if he’s NHL quality in his second training camp and before his 20th birthday.

Will he be elite? I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. But we’re looking at a player well on his way to being a legitimate top-six forward in this league, with an edge to go with it. He’s looking like he’ll become the type of player that not only breaks through his competition but is good enough to make room for just to ensure it. We could be talking about him as a Leaf as early as next season, and that’s exciting.

To see the other profiles in this year’s series, please reference the full list.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully you enjoyed this post. If you did, don't hesitate to share it on Twitter or Facebook; having more readers will help the site grow. As well, consider a subscription if you're interested in reading additional work that isn't available to guests.