In every draft there is always a handful of players who spent their draft year in a men’s league. Some of the more high-profile 2019 draft eligibles that meet this description includes Kaapo Kakko, Moritz Seider, Victor Soderstrom, and Nils Hoglander, who will be the focus of this prospect profile.
From an evaluation stand-point, one of the major challenges that come from a prospect playing against men is deciphering how well they really played. Not looking out-of-place as a teenager is quite impressive, but it doesn’t always tell the whole story in terms of their long-term outlook. Therefore, the tools they posses become that much more important, as I found myself relying on their individual tools more often for evaluation compared to prospects playing against their age group.
In the case of Hoglander, not only did he look incredibly comfortable versus the best that Sweden has to offer, but he showcased elite skill and a persistent work ethic. I’d certainly listen to an argument that Hoglander is one of the ten most naturally talented players in this draft class.
|Birthday||December 20, 2000|
Skating: 50 – Puck Skills: 60 – Hockey IQ/Sense: 55 – Physicality: 40
Hoglander immediately jumps off the page because of his flashy stickhandling. He has some of the dirtiest mitts you’ll see, constantly trying to display his elite skill level. He can embarrass defenders with his one-on-one skills. He has the shiftiness, hand-speed, and creativity to be dangerous threat to score.
Hoglander’s elite puck skills allow him to work within limited space. It takes much more than tight gap control to take him off the puck. Surprisingly, he is very difficult to knock off the puck despite being 5’9”, having a stocky build. He doesn’t get overwhelmed with tight checking and that opens up the presence of mind to try different one-on-one dekes. It was a key factor in why he was a mainstay in Sweden’s top pro league.
The ability to create space for himself unlocks a lot of Hoglander’s strong attributes. He owns high hockey IQ and sense to recognize and executive golden offensive opportunities. You can’t overlook him as a playmaker or he’ll make you pay. He is a dog on loose pucks and knows exactly what he’ll do with it before even winning the race — a sign of great hockey sense. Some examples of what Hoglander is able to do with his elite skill level:
But what really has endeared me to Hoglander is his blue-collar work ethic. This kid will run right through you to win a loose puck battle. He is fierce and determined and is just a nightmare for anyone not on his team. He believes he can out-muscle anyone for the puck, and while that isn’t always the case, I absolutely love that mentality.
Being an undersized player, not backing down to anyone is a very important aspect of his game, more so then it would be for bigger players.
This fearlessness formulated into a fantastic rookie season in the SHL. He is slightly older than most first time draft eligibles this year, but that shouldn’t take away from the season he had. Hoglander looked incredibly comfortable against men, and it prompted his coach to give him top-6 minutes. That doesn’t just happen for any eighteen year old — it’s earned. Overall, he finished the season with 7 goals and 14 points in 50 SHL games. Being a 2000 birthday he wasn’t on many international stages during his draft year.
If there is one concern to have about Hoglander its his skating. He doesn’t have a separation gear, but he is always hustling so it’s not always noticeable. But when handling the puck it becomes clear his speed and first step isn’t the best.
What you’re getting in Hoglander is an immensely talented winger with pro experience and a hunger to best his opponents. He is a fan favorite type of player because he doesn’t just coast on his talent to get by, but rather implores a go get it attitude. He has potential to become a bonafide top-6 winger at the NHL level and if he escapes round one it will be a crime.
Hoglander is eligible to play in the AHL next season and I’m not completely against that idea. He certainty proved the SHL wasn’t a daunting task for him to handle. With his ability to work in tight space I don’t think the smaller ice surfaces will be to hard of an adjustment. He absolutely has the skill to survive the minors. The sooner he gets here the better. Not to say the SHL isn’t a fine place to develop, but I feel there is more benefits to making the transition to North America early on.
He still needs to work on his skating of course. The difference in pace between the AHL and SHL is not a staggering difference, so I’m not concerned in that regard. Ultimately it will come down to how committed he is to putting the extra work in behind the scenes. The competition he is playing against won’t play affect what he does on his own time, away from the main action.