Scouts might see Emil Andrae’s slight stature and worry if a 5-foot-9, 181-pound defenseman can stand up to the NHL’s 6-foot-3, 220-pound forwards someday.
But the Flyers’ second-round draft pick (54th overall) doesn’t sound too concerned at all.
The 18-year-old native of Vastervik, Sweden said as much during a media conference call on Wednesday afternoon.
“They (the scouts) tell me I’m too short but in my opinion I know it’s not an issue for me,’’ Andrae said during a media conference from Sweden. “As long as you can move the puck (quickly), the stickhandling. . .it (physical play) is not going to be an issue for me.’’
As a member of Sweden’s HV71 (20 and under) team, Andrae led the Swedish Junior League in defense scoring with 38 points and was a plus-12 for the 2019-20 season.
As a testament to his maturity and competitive levels, Andrae was moved up to HV71’s senior program, where he played 10 games during the 2019-20 season. He signed a contract in March and has played in five games with the Swedish Hockey League for the 2020-21 campaign.
A couple talent evaluators don’t agree with the “size problem.’’
“A tough player who plays with exceptional confidence offensively,’’ said Max Bohlin of HV71.
“Andrae plays with a high work-rate when the puck is close and does whatever he can once he has committed to winning a puck battle,’’ was Eliteprospects.com’s projection.
Some analysts believe the Flyers will try to begin restocking their defense, partly because of the recent retirement of Matt Niskanen, plus the uncertainty surrounding the health status of Sam Morin, the former first-round pick who is recovering from his second ACL surgery.
Flyers scout Mark Greig has plenty of good things to say about Andrae, including the way he handles his size situation.
“He’s a little under-sized,’’ Greig said. “But he’s pretty aware so doesn’t get himself into trouble.’’
“I like the offensive dynamic. He’s a good skater and a heads-up player that’s a real crafty puck-handler. He has vision. At times you can see him slow down the game in transition and then going forward.’’
It should be noted the Flyers have had success in recent years with slightly undersized defensemen, including Kimmo Timonen, who is 5-foot-10, and Shayne Gostisbehere, who is 5-foot-11, 180 pounds.
General manager Chuck Fletcher was well aware of that when he made the pick.
“There’s not much you can do about the height,’’ Fletcher said as the draft was just about to end. “But there have been other players with his type of build who have succeeded. Typically, those players have high-end hockey sense, high-end compete and a lot of skill. He fits the bill.
“In our opinion, he was clearly the highest skilled player on the board at that time. We’re certainly looking to add skill.’’
Moving up to the top league in Sweden to play against adults also will provide lessons should Andrae eventually play in the NHL.
“I had to do some better things in the defensive zone to be a player that my coach trusts,’’ Andrae said. “I’ve worked a lot on my positioning with my new assistant coach. . .using my stick in the defensive zone.’’
Regardless of what he does on the defensive side of the puck, Andrae will always be a force on the offensive side of it.
“He (Andrae) can also be dynamic off the offensive blue line,’’ Greig noted. “And find offense. I think that’s the strength of his game.’’
Andrae said he was somewhat aware the Flyers were interested in his services.
“I’m very happy to be drafted by the Flyers, it’s an honor for me,’’ he said. “I was pretty nervous when they got the pick because I had talked to the Swedish scouts some days ago and they said I had a great chance.
“I also talked to my agent. He was very sure they were interested in me.’’
Asked to describe his style of play, Andrae indicated he’s somewhat of a complete player.
“I’m a two-way defenseman,’’ he said. “I like to play with the puck. I’m also very competitive and I like to play with confidence in my game, on the blue line and on the power play, to get my teammates in great situations.’’