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Top 25 Under 25: #20, Jesper Sellgren

The Swedish defender has spent the past two seasons on European ice and that trend will continue this year too. Will he be able to make the transition?

IHOCKEY-EURO-CUP-FIN-SWE Photo by VESA MOILANEN/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images

Editor’s note: Introducing Canes Country’s top 25 under 25 series. Last week, a group of us set out to rank the top 25 players 25 years of age or younger in the Hurricanes’ organization. We were successful in that endeavor. We took into account what players have accomplished to date, their likelihood of making it as a regular NHLer and the level of impact they’re likely to have.

On this list, you’ll find players currently on the Hurricanes’ roster and prospects scattered across the AHL, Canadian junior leagues and Europe. We’ll be revealing one player each week day (with a couple exceptions for holidays) from now through early January.

We continue today with a late-round pick who has been outgrowing his current league:

Sellgren was a 2018, sixth-round pick — 166 overall — selected out of the Swedish SHL. A strong transitional skater, Sellgren has good two-way upside being both a play driver and a reliable defender.

He has been a steady producer in the SHL where, in three seasons, he has 12 goals and 34 points in 123 games.

In his current season, Sellgren leads his club in average ice time (21:11), blocks (23) and points by defensemen (10) while also being a top power play option.

Although he signed a three-year ELC with the Canes in 2019, Sellgren, however, will not have played a single season on North American ice yet.

He wound up returning to the SHL for the 2019-20 season, and while he had a solid chance of being a big contributor in the AHL this year, the league restart delays meant that he was loaned back to the SHL for the entire 2020-21 season.

This means that already, two years on his ELC will have been burned with very little North American experience to show for it.

That little experience was quite strong though, as he did join the Charlotte Checkers on a PTO during their Calder Cup playoff run when his 2018-19 SHL season ended. In that time, he registered three goals — including one in his first game — and four points in 11 playoff games.

The biggest issue for Sellgren has simply been the complete lack of opportunity in Carolina’s organization. Not only is the NHL club stocked with some of the best defensive talent in hockey, but any chance for standing out in the AHL will more than likely have been overshadowed by last year’s AHL defenseman of the year, Jake Bean, or the newly acquired and recent AHL All-Rookie Team member, Joey Keane.

Sellgren may see an opportunity arise as the salary cap remains stagnant for at least another season or two where young, inexpensive talent is a commodity. Whether that be with Carolina or as a bargaining chip that can be brought to the table.

Currently, I feel that Sellgren has already outgrown the SHL where he currently plays top minutes with Frolunda HC and, for his development’s sake, he will need to make the jump to North America next season if he wants to keep his NHL hopes afloat.

Seeing him in person at a few NHL training camps with Carolina so far, has shown that there is plenty of talent there, but it isn’t quite enough to pass by the Hurricanes’ tremendous depth.

Void any major shakeups in the system, the odds of Sellgren making it with Carolina seem slim. Though I think there is still time to make some bounds in his game, I feel like the question will be with who he can be given a shot.