Rasmus Asplund is a somewhat prototypical Swede: high hockey IQ and great skill level. He is noted the most for his speed, and playmaking abilities, but is also considered a hard working player at both ends of the ice: His two-way play has been noted as excellent. There have been some concerns regarding his lack of offensive production for Fajestad, but those are often put to rest by understanding that he is playing against men, and that he grew physically this last season as well. This is not to say that he is a "physical" player, as he is not known for using the body. Nonetheless, he is certainly worth looking at, as most mock drafts have him being taken in the range the Panthers will pick within. Asplund is ranked 24th by Hockeyprospect.com, 25th by Future Considerations, 22nd by McKeens, and 4th (for EU skaters) by NHL Central Scouting. This places him around the Panthers wheelhouse in the 20's at this year's draft.
Here is the "Draft Analyst" review of the young Swede:
March 30, 2016 - "Asplund is quick and shifty, using his speed and turning ability to gain time and space. He has a good touch around the net, positioning his stick in the right place and takes a beating to complete a play. His SHL numbers might not show it, but he’s a very good scorer with a quick, accurate shot. Asplund is strong on the puck and can make plays across the ice or diagonally while traveling at a high rate of speed. His work ethic off the ice is excellent, and it shows — he’s a tenacious forechecker and competes every shift from start to finish. Asplund is far from physical, but his excellent work in the faceoff circle coupled with his smarts makes him a perfect fit for the NHL’s puck-possession game."
Asplund is not as close as some of the other draft eligible prospects we have been looking at to NHL level play, and that may, or may not be an issue for the Panthers (who have more prospects likely emerging on the roster next season with Michael Matheson and Lawson Crouse). He must continue to add weight to prepare for North American hockey as well. But there is also some risk involved with this player:
Asplund can be an effective two-way centre if he can continue to develop. His speed is a real asset and his offensive skill set is good. He does a lot of things well, but if there is a criticism, it is that he does not do anything at an elite level. He projects as a second or third line centre at the next level.
This player is likely to be on the board when the Panthers made their first pick and maybe even early in the second round, when they use the pick acquired from Vancouver. The question is:
Does he fit in Florida?
Here is the concern with fit in Florida, or the NHL, as noted by scout Mike Morreale, at NHL.com:
He is considered to be more of a finesse player than an aggressive performer
Contrast that with this review:
Rasmus Asplund shows a good variety of offensive tools. His stick handling and good balance allows him to create plays off the cycle game
Did someone say "cycle game?" Indeed, this awakens a Panther interest, as Gerard Gallant appears to be a heavy proponent of the cycle possession offense, with less concern with shot totals. The continued development period would not necessarily be a detriment for the Cats, who may be looking to spread out some of their prospects towards future contributions down the road, bringng them aboard piecemeal. Nonetheless, the lack of brawny play is something Dale Tallon and (previously) Scott Luce tended to stay away from. It will be a telling change if the team goes in this direction.