Prospect Profile: Alexander Urbom

Alexander Urbom was drafted in the 3rd round (73rd overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, he was a relatively unknown player to most Devils followers.  Late round picks, especially those playing in Europe, are a little harder to find information on.   Most of the information initially reported by any Devils website had some variation of the following description:

Great size, shutdown defenseman, can contribute offensively, but not that much (oh, and he was Jacob Josefson's roommate when both of them played with Desjardins).

More recently, Urbom was an intriguing prospect to many Devils fans when he received some ice time in 2009 exhibition games there was talk that he could possibly be a longshot for the team.  To not rush his development, he went to play for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL (part of the CHL).  After his rookie campaign there he was ranked 4th at Hockey's Future in the Devils prospect listing (behind Matthew Corrente, but above Brandon Burlon  in defensemen) and he seemed to have a lot of ‘upside' as a prospect.   It was assumed he would either head to Albany in the AHL next year or stay in the WHL for another year.   That assumption changed quickly when Lou Lamoriello made the following comments following the free agent signing of Henrik Tallinder (emphasis mine)

Lamoriello said Urbom, a 6-4, 215-pound Stockholm native (same town as Tallinder) is, "our top prospect" and expects him to compete for a spot on the NHL team in training camp.

Now, on a big day in Devils free agent history (the loss of Paul Martin, signings of Anton Volchenkov and Tallinder) I feel like this quote didn't really get the evaluation it deserved.   Top Prospect?   Maybe Lamoriello meant to say "top defensive prospect"?   Even if that was the case that would mean Lamoriello rated him higher than Jon Merrill, Matthew Corrente, Eric Gelinas and Brandon Burlon, which is pretty impressive off only one year of North American hockey.  

Urbom, at only 20 years old does not have the extensive North American playing history (or even European playing history) of fellow defensive prospects Matt Taormina or Tyler Eckford.   For me that is both good and bad.  It is good, because there isn't that much information to find on the player. It is also bad for the same reason, especially because most of the information regarding his early career in Swedish Juniors and the Swedish Elite League are hard to find and once found hard to translate properly.  

That said, there is still a decent amount of information to look through to profile his past.  After the jump I will look at his recent past in Sweden and the CHL.  Please set your viewing mode to wide. 

Alexander Urbom Career Stats
Year Team League GP G A Pts Plus/Minus
2005-06 Djurgardens IF Under 18 Premier 2 0 0 0 1
2006-07 Djurgardens IF Under 18 Premier 14 4 4 8 17
2006-07 Djurgardens IF Under 18 Elite 17 2 7 9 10
2007-08 Djurgardens IF Under 18 Premier 6 2 6 8 11
2007-08 Djurgardens IF Under 18 Elite 1 0 0 0 1
2007-08 Djurgardens IF Under 20 SuperElite 39 3 8 11 3
2008-09 Djurgardens IF Under 20 SuperElite 16 5 6 11 8
2008-09 Djurgardens IF Elite 28 0 0 0 -6
2009-10 Brandon Wheat Kings WHL 66 12 21 33 45

 (Note:  I did my best to try to be chronologically correct with his various promotions in the Swedish Leagues and I believe I named all the leagues correctly when I did so)

Beyond the initial scouting reports provided by Devils media outlets we were able to get a short synopsis of Urbom from his Desjardin teammate and Devils' 2009 1st Round Pick Jacob Josefson.

"He's a very good defensively, but he's good everywhere. He has very good positioning and he's a very good skater. He makes a good first pass. I really like him a lot as a player."

After some searching and looking for initial pre-draft reports on Urbom I did come across the below profile.  I was able to find and translate the following profile via Swedish Hockey Site: 

Comment: Born late 1990 that he is almost 91. I was the one who revealed (although XP Jonas Fahlman pretended to be the first) to Urbom was ostracized by the Royal Canal, because he did not want to write new contracts for next season. It was very unfortunate for Urboms draft value, because he had so little exposure in the spring. However, I remain very high on Urbom and has been so continuously. Stockholm, namely bond has really nice and smooth skating for its extremely large size (192, 90), really good game inside, and is generally a 'hot-tempered tough guy'. A really wonderful leader who radiates authority and authority on the ice. Urbom could be even more physical in their own zone, but it is really up to their peers - and more than happy to throw the gloves - if it heats to.In the top division, he focused on playing solid and as a defensive back 5-6e, which is the same role as I believe he will be able to play in North America, although hopefully a little meaner. is a defensive giant who may be matched against the hard opposing team's stars and get a lot of playing time in BP and so on. One should not underestimate his offensive potential, so it might be something there too (?), Because he is quite adept at blålinjen in PP. He was otherwise fit right smart games, good first pass from own zone, responsive, good timing, and have really good traction with the puck in his possession. Will Urbom when NHL? Yes, I think I can safely say. However, it is very difficult to say how early or late. Hardly the first three rounds, but then it probably can be at any time.

OK, the translation is a little rough, (he is not really 91 years old) but you can get the sense from the write-up that the analyst feels that Urbom is a physical player, a defensive minded player who can sprinkle in some offense and was a very good leader.  At age 18 he played as a 3rd pairing defenseman in the Swedish Elite League he didn't put up any points, but he was only posted a negative 6 rating in his 28 games played. 

One interesting thing the writer pointed out was his late birth date.  Why is this important?  Well if you have ever read the book ‘Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell you would know that the statistical majority of hockey players are born in the early part of the year as opposed to later in the year.   I am not going to get into too much as you can read an interview he did with ESPN when his book was coming out  that talks about the analysis he did of hockey players.  

Think about it this way.   If Urbom was born 12 days later he would have been playing in the Swedish Elite League at 17 years old, and playing in a higher level league than 2009 Coyote 1st Round Pick Oliver Ekman-Larsson who was born in 1991.  Let me be clear, I am not saying that Urbom is better or comparable to Ekman-Larsson I am simply saying that he may have not had the time like Ekman-Larsson  to develop and was constantly at a disadvantage early in his junior career, possible inhibiting his development.  

Also, while he didn't produce many points let us not discount the fact that Urbom was playing against grown men at the age of 18.  Per BehindTheNet.ca the Swedish Elite League is only a small notch below the Russian Elite League (KHL) in degree of difficulty.   In fact, Urbom faced a lower level of competition playing in the WHL last year than he would have the SEL.    Knowing his competition, it is a bit surprising he was projected to be drafted in the 4th-7th round. It's surprising that he wasn't projected as a late 2nd/3rd round pick as he was ranked 61st by the Central Scouting Services for European Skaters in the Midterm Rankings but shot up to 21st in the rankings by the end of the year.   The Devils chose him in the 3rd round and while clearly not an overdraft it does seem to be earlier than most expected him to go.  (As an aside, one of the things I have noticed lately with Devils draft picks that might have been considered overdrafts like Joe Faust, Maxime Clermont, etc is that they have had later birth dates.)

After his stint in the SEL he was not only drafted in the NHL draft but also in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Import Draft by the Brandon Wheat Kings. However before he went to the Wheat Kings, Urbom attended the Devils training camp made the first cut, suit up for a preseason game (where it seems his only real activity was a penalty for interference) and make a great impression on coach Jacques Lemaire.  

I am not sure if the Devils considered him a candidate for a roster spot (I would be shocked if they did) but after training camp he went to Canada to play in the WHL. Playing in a league with some top tier NHL prospects like Brayden Shenn, Jordon Eberle and Kyle Beach (along with 31 players drafted in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft including 5 in the first round) Urbom put up 12 goals and 21 assists for a total of 33 points and registered a plus 45 in his 'rookie' year.   While he did show positive development in his game with the Wheat Kings it likely came with a cost. it seems the decision to play in the WHL as opposed to staying in Sweden was the likely cause of him not being able to represent his home country in the World Junior Championships at the end of 2009.   It has been implied that not playing in a junior league in one's own country was a large factor in not being selected for the team. 

Despite playing a defensive shutdown role he still found plenty of opportunities to contribute offensively. In the Devils April Top 20 prospect review by Hockey's Future Jared Ramsden wrote about Urbom's offensive progression.

An imposing 6'4, 200+ lb defenseman, Urbom has made a seamless transition to the CHL on a loaded Wheat Kings squad that boasts eight NHL draftees. While he is known as more of a stay-at-home defenseman, Urbom's offensive game has developed at a rapid pace. He rushes the puck up the ice with ease, and shows great decision-making ability in the offensive end, jumping into the play and pinching down low at the right time. For such a big man, he is graceful on his skates, both forward and backward, showing off his great mobility. Urbom may be ready for a promotion to the AHL next year. A potential No. 2 or 3 defenseman, Urbom is looking like a third-round value.

Alexander Urbom's WHL Month-By-Month Production
2009-2010 GP G A PTS Plus/Minus
October 16 2 6 8 8
November 10 3 5 8 4
December 11 1 4 5 8
January 11 1 3 4 11
February 12 5 3 8 6
March 6 0 0 0 8
Alexander Urbom's WHL Playoff Production
2010 GP G A PTS Plus/Minus
March 4 2 0 2 2
April 11 2 3 5 4

His play in Brandon earned him a spot on the 'Hot List' of players the Hockey News couldn't wait to see in the NHL.  Urbom, also not afraid to drop the gloves can be seen here in two fights via HockeyFights.com.

Urbom also helped the Wheat Kings get to the Memorial Cup which they eventually lost to the Windsor Spitfires.  The Spitfires were led by 2010 Top Selection Taylor Hall, they additionally had Devils prospects Harry Young and Adam Henrique on their roster.

Now if Lamoriello does think that Urbom is the Devils top prospect in the system -even better than fellow Swedes Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson- combining Urbom's talents with the acquisition of Volchenkov could bring the Devils' defense back to the level of years past when the Devils had Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko and a young Colin White shutting down the opposing offense.   OK, maybe I am getting ahead of myself but I believe the Devils are best built from the goalie through the offense.  Our goaltending has been solid the past few years and I think with the recent acquisitions of Volchenkov/Tallinder and the future promotions of Urbom and Corrente the Devils will regain that shutdown defense they once had.  Standing tall at 6'3 Urbom has the size to be a punishing shutdown defender in the NHL.

Urbom will once again attend training camp in the fall with the Devils. He does have 'options' though if he cannot make the NHL roster. He can play one more year at the Canadian Junior level as an overage player, (and considering his birth date, he is not that much of an overage player). He can also play at the AHL level in Albany which would be my preferred choice for him. Playing extended minutes at that level is probably more beneficial than seeing limited time on a 3rd pairing in NJ. That said, if the Devils think that he wouldn't necessarily gain anything by playing in Albany then let him start the year in the NHL. While his offensive game is something a lot of fans will be looking for, and it looks like it will come, it seems he is being groomed as an eventual replacement for Colin White and Bryce Salvador when their contracts expire in two years, playing extensively on a 2nd pairing and penalty killing unit with Henrik Tallinder.

Urbom is still a work in progress and still developing as a player.   When compared to Tyler Eckford or Matt Taormina, Urbom is at least 4 years younger than both players, which gives him a lot of untapped potential.  I wish there was more video footage or statistics out there to help give the community a better sense of the type of player Urbom will become.  Regardless of where he plays in 2009-2010 I can assure you all that there will be constant updates on his progression with looks at his special teams play, shooting percentage, etc. 

(Additional Video Content:  You can see a profile of Urbom on the Wheat Kings Website.  The following video is from the Devils website while Urbom was at the recent prospects camp.)

So does the limited information out there on Urbom leave you indifferent or excited for his future?  Do you think he should have stayed in the Swedish Elite League like Josefson or Mattias Tedenby did? Was the WHL the right choice for him?  Where should he play next year?   Sound off below!

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