When a team selects a player in the first round, the hope is that the player eventually becomes somebody who can contribute significantly to the team. Projections are only that though, and not everyone hits what scouts may have thought when they were 16, 17, or 18 years old. At a minimum, you should hope that the player becomes at least someone who can be a regular in the NHL. Usually, a player with over a hundred appearances within their first two seasons of pro hockey in North America is a good sign can at least be a regular. However, what Mattias Tedenby hasn't really done yet is why he hasn't taken that next step. On the other hand, some of the skills that he does have has led to a #6 on our collective Top 25 Devils Under 25 List.
#6 - Mattias Tedenby - LW/RW - Height: 5'10" - Weight: 174 lbs. - Age: 22 - 2012-13 Team: Albany (AHL)
As indicated by his extensive list of stats from his profile at Elite Prospects, Tedenby came out of the HV71 system and eventually worked his way up to represent Sweden at the U-20 level and to the top professsional team. His 2009-10 season was the high point of his time in SEL, where he remained with the first HV71 team, had a good outing with Sweden to win the bronze medal at the 2010 WJCs, lead all juniors in the SEL in goals, and win the Elitserien title. It only made sense to bring him over in the following year to get him acclimated to a smaller rink, more physical hockey, and performing one level away from the NHL.
In 2010-11, as you may or may not want to forget, the New Jersey Devils were troubled early due to injuries, terrible shooting luck, and being coached by John MacLean. Tedenby was among the many players called up from Albany to fill in a role. He provided some pleasant spots for the team. In game action, one could tell he was fast and his game was all about using it. He skated smoothly, but quickly; and if he had space going forward, then he'd dart to it. More impressively was his stickhandling; he pulled off some excellent maneuvers with the puck on offense. His shot was pretty good too and he wasn't solely a just-shoot player. Tedenby was simply exciting to watch at times. Given that the team turned out to earn a whopping nine wins under MacLean, the season was essentially lost before the new year and so giving further ice time to guys like Tedenby wouldn't hurt that much.
However, Tedenby wasn't always on the best of terms of interim head coach Jacques Lemaire. He mostly remained on the team - he was sent down for a three-day spell during the All-Star Break - but he was benched for a few games. Watching him, it was easy to see why. Tedenby didn't so much commit to defense as he just considered the idea of it. His backchecking wasn't nearly as full of effort as his forechecking or offensive plays. Even with his offensive skill set, it didn't always lead to actual offense on a consistent basis so there were plenty of games where Tedenby was just "there." Back then, it wasn't that big deal as he was still a rookie and it's not like the Devils had any must-win games in the new year. While his point totals were modest, it wasn't a terrible debut and there was a hope that he could improve in the following season. He only had eight goals, but given those goals, including this gem I broke down last year, there was good reason to buy into that hope.
Tedenby did start on the New Jersey roster in 2011-12 with a new coach in Peter DeBoer. Tedenby did not finish the season in New Jersey, and he really has no one to blame but himself. He simply didn't improve. Tedenby started off slowly and the old habits that irked Lemaire remained. Up for attack, slow to defend if at all, and inconsistent overall. He showed flashes of skill that would leave fans talking about it after the game. Yet, those same fans then realize that the flash was the only thing of note he did all game. Flashes of great play aren't enough to stick around in the NHL and he didn't last season.
When he was up in New Jersey, you had to look for the little winger in the first or second periods as DeBoer often benched Tedenby for the third period. He simply couldn't trust him in the final third of a game, especially if it was a close score. He was that much of a liability. That's compounded when he simply didn't produce offensively. His shooting would be sporadic (one night: 4 shots, next night: 0, following night: 1), his production dropped, and . Sure, he wasn't skating with offensive players, but there was no way he was going to get ice time ahead of Zach Parise or Petr Sykora. He didn't even earn playing in the third period with anyone, much less get the right to see the rink with top players. He struggled early, he continued to struggle, and he ended up going from doing decently against weak competition in 2010-11 to doing poorly in 2011-12. After 43 appearances, Tedenby was sent down the to the minors to get his game right. While 20 points in 35 games isn't bad; not dominating a lower level of hockey doesn't suggest that he's some kind of offensive wizard. Basically, Tedenby has to improve to get back to the NHL because what he did and did not demonstrate in his 101 NHL games isn't good enough.
As negative as all of that sounded, you may be wondering why we all ranked him within our top ten and to a collective #6 overall. There are several reasons. First, his offensive skills currently make him the top offensive forward in Albany. OK, right now, there are two better forwards; but they were NHL players to start. Should the Devils need an offensive winger from the farm team, Tedenby is the only real choice available. Because of that reality, he has to be considered one of the better players on this list. Second, he actually has good offensive skills. He's swift, he's not afraid of contact (not that he'll win many battles), he's very good at handling the puck, he's got a good shot, and he's got good offensive sense. He just needs to utilize all of them more often and learn some kind of defensive effort to be a more effective player. Third, he does have the experience of 101 NHL games. While he's got plenty to prove and improve this season in Albany, for now, he's still ahead of the pack. Basically, we're not writing him off just yet despite our current concerns for the player.
He is 22 and there's still some room for growth. He may not be a top line or even a top six winger, but he could still be a NHL regular winger. In my view, and I think the other writers would agree, that should be his goal and he should meet that before thinking bigger. This means he's got to learn to backcheck, make an effort at both ends when things don't seem simple, and put his tools together more often. This means more complete performances more often and it'll lead to further advancement in the AHL and beyond. He can learn at Albany right now and anyone watching him - and I know Jerry is - should look for that beyond his goals, points, and shot totals. If or when he gets back to New Jersey, he can then work on what he needs to do to stick around. Then and only then can we consider what needs to happen. Tedenby was thrust into the NHL relatively quickly after coming over from HV71, and I'm sure he'd like to be back. We hope he does - but he's got plenty to prove first.
That's how we ranked and felt about Mattias Tedenby, and now we want to know what you think of that. Do you think we ranked him too high, too low, or just about right? Do you think Tedenby could still be a NHL player in this organization? Do you think he is working on his issues in Albany? If not, what do you think he should focus on? If so, has it rekindled any hopes of getting back to the NHL? Can he put his offensive skill set together more often? Can he learn any defense? If not, what should the Devils do with him? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Tedenby in the comments. Thank you for reading.