Nils Höglander of Rögle BK. Photo courtesy of https://www.roglebk.se
The infamous year 2020 is almost over, and I am bringing you monthly news and prospect updates from the SHL in my November report. Even though the COVID has been striking in Sweden, and some teams were unfortunately affected by it, let’s stay positive (not in that way) and focus on hockey for a while. I hope you will enjoy it!
In case you have missed it…
- Noel Gunler, the Hurricanes second-round pick from the past draft, has moved to Brynäs IF. He was not getting a lot of opportunities in Luleå, so he has decided to leave the team and join Brynäs for a bigger role and more ice time.
- The Canadiens prospect Jacob Olofsson is another player who was struggling in his old team. He has decided to leave the SHL and joined Timrå IK from the Swedish second-tier league HockeyAllsvenskan in hopes of bouncing back and getting more ice time.
- Departures to the NHL are slowly beginning. The first players to be recalled are Isac Lundeström (ANA) and Jesper Boqvist (NJD), who both played for Timrå IK in HockeyAllsvenskan. It is probably just a matter of time until NHL teams start calling up players from the SHL as well.
- All Swedish junior leagues are done for the rest of this year. There have been several players like Zion Nybeck (CAR) and Elmer Söderblom (DET) who were sent down to the U20 league at some point during this season because of their inconsistency and lack of ice time. Right now, they are both in the SHL. It remains unclear whether they stay there and do not play much or whether their teams try to loan them to a different league until junior leagues come back in 2021. The first option, however, seems to be more likely.
Nils Höglander, RW/LW, Rögle BK (Vancouver Canucks)
We all knew that Höglander is an extremely skilled forward and a very smooth skater. He has been showing great progress and maturity in his offensive game throughout the season, which is quite apparent just by looking at his stats. Two goals and nine points in 14 outings are not bad at all, considering that his average ice time is only 13 and a half minutes per game.
However, the 19-year-old winger has been showing great improvement in the physical department as well. He has been very competitive, strong, calm, and precise with his passes, even while being under pressure from his opponents. For a better part of this season, he has been displaying that his NHL career might be closer than we think.
Moritz Seider, RHD, Rögle BK (Detroit Red Wings)
What a debut month for Seider! Two goals and seven points in his first eight games in the SHL speak for itself. The 19-year-old Red Wings prospect has quickly become one of the most important players on the team. Since his arrival, he has been paired with former Devils and Avalanche defenseman Éric Gélinas, who has taken the german youngster under his wing.
Seider has been given a lot of trust from the coaching staff as well. He has been a vital part of the team’s second power play unit and penalty kill, which has been strongly reflected in his average ice time (19:38). He has been steady, reliable, very efficient in all situations, and I think he is going to be even better down the line.
Joe Veleno, C, Malmö Redhawks (Detroit Red Wings)
Veleno is yet another newcomer from the Red Wings organization. The 20-year-old versatile centerman has had a bit of a slow start in the SHL, but now is steadily getting used to the European style of hockey and wider rinks. Up to now, he has been able to score just two goals and four points in ten games, but it is important to mention that he plays for the team ranked fourth-worst in goals for. He has had some offensive flashes and scoring opportunities, so it is not like he has not been trying out there.
However, he has been especially noticeable on the power play where he plays on the right wing. It might sound a bit surprising, but this role fits him very well. As a lefty, he creates a lot of quality chances from the left circle and uses his vision to find the best play available. He is also not afraid to rush to the net and create high-danger scoring chances.
Helge Grans, RHD, Malmö Redhawks (Los Angeles Kings)
It is such a shame that Grans gets so few opportunities this year. As of now, he has scored two goals and six points in 11 outings while averaging only 12:23 of ice time per game. With those six points, he is fifth among his teammates, and although the Redhawks are next-to-last and certainly need some scoring help, he has been a healthy scratch for three games in a row now. I have to say that I am surprised by this decision. Mainly because he has not only been good offensively but reliable in his own end as well.
I have liked him a lot this year, so I cannot help myself but be disappointed that the Redhawks decided to leave him out of the lineup for three straight games. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for him. If it is going to continue likes this, it would probably be better if he moves to a different team.
Albert Johansson, LHD, Färjestad BK (Detroit Red Wings)
A complete, fearless player. Johansson has done a lot of good work since the season began. He has been one of the most exciting prospects to watch, mainly because of his offensive boldness and great confidence. He likes to take the puck on his stick, rush up the ice, and create some stir in the offensive zone with a smart shot or a very well executed pass to his teammates.
Sometimes he does not even look like a defenseman out there, but more like a fourth forward with a responsible defensive game. It is just great to see that he has been having a lot of fun out there. As every month passes by, he seems to be closer and closer to being ready for the NHL.
Noel Gunler, RW/LW, Brynäs IF (Carolina Hurricanes)
Gunler has been having a rough year. He was struggling and could not find his spot on Luleå’s roster right from the start of the season. He mostly played on the fourth line or as a 13th forward with just slightly over seven minutes of ice time per game. It was time to move on. His next destination became the city of Gävle with its local club Brynäs.
The 19-year-old winger has played in just two outings in his new home so far, but his ice time has markedly increased. It was 11:19 in his first game and 11:51 in game number two. He has not been able to celebrate his arrival with any points yet, but I think it is only a matter of time until he gets his first one. Although there was a bit of a hesitance noticeable in his first games, he is talented enough to bounce back. However, he certainly needs to be more consistent and better off the puck to achieve this goal.
Lias Andersson, C, HV71 (Los Angeles Kings)
Andersson is an interesting player to cover. To be honest, I was not sure whether to put him in the disappointments category (at the end of the article) or not. Why? Simply because I think that he can do better. He has put up only two goals and six points so far. However, he has played in only eight games. He missed five outings in October because of a suspension that he got for a check to the head, and there was a COVID outbreak in HV71 that caused some missed games as well.
He just has not had a lot of time to get into proper shape, so it would not be fair to label him as a disappointment. Although I still think that his performance could be a bit more striking. He was very flashy in the preseason, so it might be just a matter of time until he finds his old poise.
Johannes Kinnvall, RHD, HV71 (Calgary Flames)
As a defenseman with the best point per game ratio in the league, Kinnvall is very close to being ready for a departure overseas. The 23-year-old Flames prospect signed a two-year deal with the Canadian franchise earlier this year after a ground-breaking 2019-2020 season with 11 goals and 40 points in 51 games. Although he might not get as high totals as he did in the previous campaign, he has still managed to score four goals and collect 11 points in just eight outings so far.
He has been a huge weapon on the power play, where he fully uses his quick skating, great vision, passing ability, and a very solid shot. Kinnvall is just exceptionally skilled for a defenseman. He has no problem going one on one as he shows on the clip below. It is also important to mention his defense, which is also quite efficient, mainly because of his skillfulness and great skating.
Lucas Raymond, RW, Frölunda HC (Detroit Red Wings)
Raymond is on the right track. This sentence probably does not surprise anyone, but it is always good to remind ourselves why is he so special. The fourth overall pick in the past draft had recorded a four-game point streak from October 27th to November 12th. He scored two goals and collected five points during that period, and now has third-most points on the team (10).
It is also worth noticing that he has taken second-most shots on goal among his teammates (44), only behind the Hurricanes prospect Jesper Sellgren, who has fired 54 shots on goal so far and is fifth in the league. Raymond has been a big offensive asset for Frölunda. He has a stable role on the power play and good chemistry with his common linemates Jan Muršak and Simon Hjalmarsson.
Jack Drury, C, Växjö Lakers HC (Carolina Hurricanes)
This season might be a great preview of Drury’s future career. He has been given the role of a second-line center, which suits him quite well. Drury likes to hold on to the puck with his head up and waits for the right time to pass it or pull the trigger. He is also very good at using his body. He can either shield the puck to retain possession or battle along the boards.
One of his biggest strengths is not allowing opposing players to have the puck. This style of play is positively impacting the team’s performance. Växjö has taken 194 shot attempts for with Drury on the ice while allowing only 129 shot attempts against in his presence. Drury is a great play-driving force with a responsible defensive game who likes to be right in the middle of the action. Nine points in 15 outings with almost 18 minutes of ice time per game are simple proof of why he has been so reliable for the Lakers throughout the season.
Adam Wilsby, LHD, Skellefteå AIK (Nashville Predators)
Wilsby has been making slow but steady progress. The Predators prospect has a stable third pairing role in Skellefteå. He has been logging almost 14 minutes of ice time per game, which is not a lot, but it is still more than what Helge Grans gets in Malmö. The 20-year-old defenseman, however, cannot be compared to Grans in any other way. He is not as talented nor offensively gifted but contributes to his team by playing responsibly, even though he sometimes makes a needless mistake. He likes to hold on to the puck and rush up the ice to the offensive zone, which has mostly served him well but not all the time. If the opponent likes to forecheck, he might have some trouble with it.
2021 Draft Eligible Players
William Eklund, LW, Djurgården IF
Who would have thought that William Eklund would score more goals than his linemate Alexander Holtz (NJD) after 12 games? Probably not many of us, but here we are. Even though Eklund is only 18-years-old and still yet to be drafted, he is now tied for fourth place on the team in scoring with five goals and eight points in total. He has been a play-driving machine and I have liked his performance a lot lately. If you want to know more about Eklund, I recommend you to read the thread below focused on his biggest strengths supplemented with videos for better visualization.
Jesper Wallstedt, G, Luleå HF
Wallstedt is arguably the best goalie eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft. The 18-year-old has played four games in the SHL during this season and shined with a .929 save percentage and 1.92 goals against average. Not bad for a rookie in one of the best European leagues, right? Anyway, I have noticed that he is very calm and uses his big frame (6-3, 214 lbs) very well, but since I know almost nothing about goaltending, I cannot tell you much more. If you want to know more details about Wallstedt, you should check out Danny Tiffany’s thread instead. And give him a follow while you are there. He is quite good at this goalie thing.
Disappointments (Kind of)
Nils Lundkvist, RHD, Luleå HF (New York Rangers)
Lundkvist had a tremendous preseason. He was very fast, dynamic, and confident. He was just all around the place. Good defensively and exceptional offensively. However, this switched at the beginning of the season and has continued since. He has not been as active in the offensive zone and has not looked as confident as he did in the preseason, even though he still plays responsibly and does not make many mistakes. The 20-year-old defenseman has scored only two goals and four points in 12 outings so far. Frankly, it is nowhere near his 31-point total in 45 games from the previous year. He plays well, but I would like to see him play even better because he is certainly capable of it.
Fredrik Händemark, C, Malmö Redhawks (San Jose Sharks)
Händemark is another example of a good player who just cannot convert scoring chances, hence is not as prolific as he should be. Up to now, he has scored only two goals despite producing third-most shots on goal (33 in total) among his teammates. He has also marked seven assists and a total of nine points in 14 games. However, three of those helpers came in just one outing against Brynäs, the third-worst team in the league as we speak. To sum this up, Händemark is creating a lot of chances, but finishing is a big problem for him during this season.
Thank you for reading this article! If you liked it, please follow me on Twitter @TZahorak (https://twitter.com/TZahorak) for more updates throughout the season.