Our seventh annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown has begun! The rankings were determined by a combination of reader voting and our staff’s own voting. We then combined the reader rankings and the staff rankings to determine the top 25. To be eligible for the countdown, a player must be 24 or younger on October 2, 2019, when the 2019-20 NHL season begins.
Swedish forward Samuel Fagemo becomes the first of the 2019 draftees to appear on our countdown, and that probably has a lot to do with the fact that he’s already playing in a league against men, and already has a championship and a playoff run under his belt.
Fagemo put up 10 points in 16 games with Frölunda en route to capturing the SHL championship — that’s in addition to the Champions Hockey League title the team captured earlier in the season as well. That was after a solid season split between Frölunda’s U20 team, where he recorded 14 points in eight regular season games, and Frölunda’s men’s team.
The 5’11” winger scored 14 goals with Frölunda, a mark that represented the most goals scored by a SHL player under 19 years of age since Daniel Sedin (21 goals in 1999). Now, we’re not saying that Fagemo is going to be the next Daniel Sedin — first off, he doesn’t have an identical twin for the Kings to acquire — but the fact that he’s already developed a scoring touch in a men’s league is a good sign.
Fagemo likes to shoot the puck and has the skating skill and agility to get himself well-positioned in order to take prime chances at the net. He can score in many different ways — crashing the net, getting the goalie to move out of position, a well-placed shot over the shoulder — and plays an energetic game.
He also has the kind of character the Kings want to see in their players — as someone who was passed over in his first year of draft eligibility, he didn’t let himself dwell on the snub, but instead buckled down and focused on improving his game so that he wouldn’t get passed up again. Even in a small sample at this year’s World Junior Summer Showcase, Fagemo showed both grit and resilience — being the kind of player who doesn’t hesitate to block a shot or to get into physical battles — and a bounce back after several quiet games, recording a hat trick in Sweden’s final game of the series.
With another year to develop on the SHL’s reigning top team, Fagemo will have a chance to work on things like consistency and defensive awareness, two areas that are nearly always issues for young players outside of the upper echelon of prospects. Another solid year in the SHL could both raise Fagemo’s profile for the 2020 Top 25 Under 25 list and increase his chances at making an NHL debut sooner rather than later.
The bulk of our readers put Fagemo solidly in the back half of our rankings — the “we like what we see, but we want to see more of it” area. JFTC writers were a bit more skeptical, giving him three votes out of seven in the top 25. I suspect that if voting was extended until after the end of the World Junior Summer Showcase, Fagemo may have shown up on a few more lists. For a prospect drafted in his second year of eligibility, playing in a league many fans don’t get to watch, it’s a respectable showing for the newcomer, however.