We’re kicking off our Top 25 Under 25 series with two of Sweden’s brightest prospects on the blue line and in net.
HM | Maja Nylén Persson | Defender | Team Sweden | Brynäs IF
Nylén Persson spent the season dominating the SDHL and repping Sweden at her second Olympic games. The 21-year-old defender turned in her most productive season yet at the pro level, outpacing her previous season-high in points by nearly 20. In all, she scored 15 goals, 32 assists, and 47 points for Brynäs. She helped the team get to the SDHL finals, where they lost against Luleå.
Continuing her stellar play with the national team, Nylén Persson also helped Sweden qualify for the Beijing Olympics. She posted five assists in three games at the Olympic qualifying tournament in November to clinch one of the last three spots in the tournament. At the Olympics in February, she was crucial to Sweden advancing to the quarterfinals; most of Sweden’s games were low-scoring affairs, and they needed her steady defensive play and smooth offensive skill to outmatch opponents.
In five games in Beijing, Nylén Persson scored the tournament-opening goal for the Swedes and tallied an assist in their win over China.
- She is the first women’s player to win the Salming Trophy, awarded to the best Swedish born defender.
- She finished fifth in scoring in the SDHL in 2021-22, and led all defenders in the league in scoring.
- She’s a two-time Olympian with Team Sweden and she’s been a member of Sweden’s senior national team since 2017.
- She was an alternate captain for Sweden at the 2022 Olympics.
- She won a silver medal with Sweden at the 2018 IIHF Women’s Under-18 World Championship and was named to the tournament all-star team.
- She won gold with Sweden at the Winter Youth Olympics in 2016.
What comes next
Nylén Persson has been touted as one of Sweden’s top prospects since the start of the last quad, if not longer. It feels like she’s already tapped into that potential. She’s a skilled two-way blueliner who sees the ice and her teammates well, and can impact the game at both ends. Her offensive game has seen tremendous growth over the past few years especially. She’s a star already, both in the SDHL and for Team Sweden.
The next step for Nylén Persson is to make an even bigger impact with the national team. Sweden’s program has been going through something of a transition, but Nylén Persson is exactly the type of player who can influence the flow of a game and help the Swedes get back into medal contention.
Too high or too low
You don’t win an award for the best Swedish-born defender—men’s or women’s—just to be named as an honorable mention on a list like this. Nylén Persson is only 21, has shown high upside, and has already tapped into plenty of it. This ranking is too low, but I expect many of our voters haven’t gotten the chance to see her much the past few years thanks to Sweden’s demotion from the top level of IIHF competition plus pandemic-related cancellations.
HM | Emma Söderberg | Goaltender | Team Sweden | Minnesota Duluth
Söderberg is coming off a senior season in which she backstopped Minnesota Duluth to their first national title game in 12 years. Over the course of the year, she posted a .925 save percentage and a 2.10 goals-against average to help the Bulldogs to a 27-12-1 overall record and a fourth-place finish in the WCHA.
With Söderberg in net, the Bulldogs’ record was 17-8-0. They made it to their second-straight Frozen Four and, in a rematch with Northeastern in the national semifinals, they took down the Huskies in double overtime to advance to the national championship game. Söderberg made 46 saves in that game and totaled 146 over the course of the NCAA Tournament.
She also played in the Olympics for Team Sweden, starting all five games for her team. She posted a .913 save percentage and 3.47 goals-against average, helping Sweden get past China and Denmark to advance to the quarterfinals.
- She was named to Sweden’s 2022 Olympic team.
- She earned a spot on the 2022 Frozen Four All-Star Team after her performance throughout the tournament.
- She was named to CCM/AHCA’s Second Team All-America in 2020-21, after posting a .944 save percentage and a 1.56 GAA.
- She was also named a USCHO Second Team All-American in 2020-21.
- She earned recognition as the WCHA’s Goaltending Champion in 2020-21.
- She earned Best Goaltender honors at the 2016 IIHF Women’s Under-18 World Championship and helped Sweden to a bronze medal finish.
Congratulations to the #WCHA 2020-21 Goaltending Champion, Emma Söderberg of Minnesota Duluth❗️— WCHA Hockey (@WCHA_WHockey) February 28, 2021
Emma posted a 1.34 GAA in league play this season to take home the title.#WeAreWCHA | #ChampionshipSeason pic.twitter.com/HyTVGMHT0T
What comes next
Söderberg will return for her fifth-year with Minnesota Duluth (every player who played the 2020-21 NCAA season has an extra season of eligibility). She’s a key part of a returning core of seniors who will hope to complete their run of the past few years and take home a championship.
She was also thrown into the starting role at the Olympics for Team Sweden and did fairly well for herself and the team there, although Group B starts aren’t quite the same as regularly competing for medals against the top teams. Söderberg will benefit from a bit more consistency in the next stage of her career; she’s had a couple of brilliant seasons at the NCAA level, but bringing that top form to the peak of pro and international hockey is the next logical step.
Too high or too low
This ranking feels about right for Söderberg. She has clear talent and potential, but she’s also one of the older goaltending prospects on this list, and there are others who are likely ahead of her as far as blue-chip ability.