Lanky Defenseman Joins Flyers/Phantoms Organization for Third Pro Season
Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer / philadelphiaflyers.com
Originally selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the second round (35th overall) of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Swedish defenseman Helge Grans played in the American Hockey League for the Ontario (Cal.) Reign in 2021-22 and 2022-23. On June 6, the Flyers acquired Grans from the Kings in the three-team trade that sent Ivan Provorov to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound blueliner showed promise in his rookie season with the Reign. Being brought along gradually, Grans averaged 15-plus minutes of ice time. He was mostly paired with veteran Cameron Gaunce, veteran Christian Wolanin (who left for the Vancouver organization after the season), or a fellow Swede, Jacob Moverare.
While there were some hiccups in Grans’ play, there were also plenty of positive elements in Grans’ two-way performance. Offensively, the right-handed defenseman posted seven goals, 17 assists, and 24 points in 56 games along with a traditional plus-seven rating and time on the power play.. He also dressed in five Calder Cup playoff games and subsequently participated in the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship for Team Sweden.
Defensively, Grans showed progress as a rookie in terms of killing plays and triggering counterattacks. However, he had some issues with turnovers and failed clears. He was below the break-even point in terms of puck possession metrics, regardless of partner.
By his own admission, Grans’ second pro North American season was an overall disappointment. The Reign team as a whole saw its 2022-23 record dip to 34-32-6 after going 41-18-9 the previous year. Grans’ production slipped to nine points (2g, 7a) in 59 games but this was at least partially due to deployment differences by new Ontario head coach Marco Sturm (John Wroblewski was behind the bench the previous year). The Reign exited the playoffs in the first round, losing in two games to the Colorado Eagles.
In an end-of-season interview recently posted on the Reign’s official YouTube channel, Grans said that he’d hoped for better results this past year.
“I feel like it’s been a bumpy year this year. Lots of ups and downs with the teams and with me as well. I think we need to get more consistent, and so do I in my game. [I need] to work a lot on my defense and just my ability to make good plays all the time. Just try to be more consistent and not make as many mistakes,” Grans said.
The player said he wasn’t planning on taking time off during the 2023 offseason. Grans’ plan was to turn the page and begin his offseason training program quickly to start preparing for the 2023-24 season.
An NHL pro scout said that Grans has the potential to eventually develop into a regular starter at the top level. He’ll need patience and, likely, some further seasoning before challenging for a spot in Flyers head coach John Tortorella’s NHL lineup. Grans turned 21 on May 10. There’s no need to rush a player who is still largely a bundle of raw materials.
“I’d compare him to [ex-Flyer] Phil Myers in a few ways. Good size, rangy and athletic, good tools, decent stick, can move the puck. He’s raw and inconsistent but that’s part of the process… From a tools standpoint, he is intriguing. You hope that the hockey sense part comes along with experience and maturity as a player. If it does, you’re onto something. The potential is there,” the scout said.
Grans will know at least one of his new Philadelphia teammates. He and Emil Andrae were teammates — and also saw time as defense partners — on the Swedish national junior teams. They were together with the national team at the under-17, under-18 and under-20 level.