How Jonatan Berggren has made good on Detroit Red Wings’ decision to draft him

Detroit Free Press

When the Detroit Red Wings drafted forward Jonatan Berggren, he was scouted for his playmaking ability.

Four years later, he is making good on that selection.

Berggren showed off his ability to make good decisions with the puck when he set up a goal in his debut, and consistently has helped create offensive chances.

“He’s just come in and he’s undersized but he’s got a really big skill set,” Dylan Larkin said. “He likes to make plays. He has the confidence to make plays and is always moving his feet. He’s someone you’d want to be on the ice with.”

Berggren’s development was waylaid by back and shoulder injuries soon after being drafted at No. 33 in 2018. He spent the 2020-21 season in Sweden and made his North American transition last season, posting 64 points in 70 games with the Griffins. He was sent to Grand Rapids out of training camp this year, vulnerable to a numbers crunch because he could be assigned to the minors without needing waivers. At that time, coach Derek Lalonde complimented Berggren for his performances during exhibition season, while noting he needed to show consistency with the Griffins.

As injuries piled up in Detroit, Berggren looked like a good option. He had an assist in his first game, a goal in his third, and had 10 points after 18 games.

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“He makes some plays on entries, has some offensive poise,” Lalonde said this week. “Sometimes skill shows up in different ways. He helps us get out of our zone at times. It might be as simple as being under pressure, and having the skill to flip, which gets you out of pressure, out of the d-zone. He does some of those things.

“His game is still growing. He gets himself in trouble — his fingerprints have been on chances against, goals against, but for the most part, he’s done a lot of good things, and this doesn’t surprise me from what I saw in camp, which is a positive.”

Teams can live with a player’s deficits when the assets weigh heavier in the balance. Berggren, 22, has mostly played on the fourth line, but his skill set has warranted inclusion on the power play. He is learning to be harder defensively, to not let up on opponents, but that will come as he matures. At 5 feet 11, 197 pounds, he impresses with how good he is at protecting the puck, and there’s no panic when he has it under pressure. That’s a lifelong lesson.

“I’m not the biggest guy, and I’ve never been the biggest guy,” Berggren said. “So when I was little, I had to be able to cover the puck so a bigger guy can’t take it from me. I think that has played a big role in how I can do it at his level. I just try to learn every game, and every game I feel more confident.”

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Over the coming days and weeks, the Wings are expected to gain the services of Jakub Vrana, Robby Fabbri, Tyler Bertuzzi and Filip Zadina. But even if the Wings achieve full health, Berggren certainly has shown he can play in the NHL. Nine games in, he had two goals and four assists. Zadina, selected at No. 6 the same draft the Wings took Berggren at No. 33, had no points when he suffered a lower-body injury in his ninth game this season.

“What Berggren can do with the puck is good, we don’t have a lot of that in our lineup,” Lalonde said. “He is able to make plays, he makes poised plays. He just helps our team.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter.

Last-minute Holiday Gift

What: “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft“

Author: Helene St. James, who has covered the Red Wings at the Detroit Free Press since 1996. Foreword by Jimmy Devellano, Wings senior vice president and former general manager.

Publisher: Triumph Books.

Pages:  350+.

Price: $19.95.

Availability: Leading bookstores and online from booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Get it signed! For a personalized copy contact St. James at hstjames@freepress.com.

About the book: In “On the Clock: Detroit Red Wings,” Helene St. James explores the fascinating, rollercoaster history of the Red Wings at the draft, including franchise legends like Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, and Pavel Datsyuk. Readers will go behind the scenes with top decision-makers as they evaluate, deliberate, and ultimately make the picks they hope will tip the fate of their franchise toward success. From seemingly surefire first-rounders to surprising late selections, this is a must-read for Red Wings faithful and hockey fans eager for a glimpse at how teams are built.

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