The defensemen up for grabs at the 2019 NHL draft has been underwhelming to say the least. After the top prize in Bowen Byram, the next best at the position is anyone’s guess. But if you’re looking to go all in on one, Philip Broberg might be your guy. Hailing from Sweden, Broberg has enormous upside to be a star blue-liner at the NHL level. That is pretty significant. I’m not so sure I can say that about anyone else from this class.
Broberg has game-changing speed for his size. That alone puts him in the conversation for being a top-20 pick. What he is capable of doing with his feet is very rare. Some of his highlight reel rushes are mind-blowing. Players as big as him shouldn’t be able to move the way he does. His natural talent will take him far, but how far is the question, with some flaws in his game that are reasonable to be very concerned about. I want to completely buy in so bad, but a few too many mistakes prevented me from doing so.
|Birthday||June 25, 2001|
Skating: 65 – Puck Skills: 55 – Hockey IQ/Sense: 45 – Physicality: 55
Broberg is like a gazelle. The way he moves is breathtaking. Despite having a large frame he is incredibly agile to complement his speed. He is the fastest straight-line skater in this draft, and I want to say it’s not really close. He’s not just deceptively fast because of his size — this kid can fly. When he starts picking up his feet and makes the decision to attack with the puck its a terrifying sight for the opposing defenders. He tends to beat defensemen wide when leading a zone entry, and he has the puck protection skills and fearlessness to drive the net.
While Broberg’s straight-line speed is exceptional, the other aspects of his skating are not remotely close to being on the same level. I feel he plays a north-south game too much, mainly because he struggles to shift gears to incorporate more east-west. When he decides to go he takes off with little hesitation and that can at times backfire on him. He doesn’t think a few steps ahead, but rather what is in-front of him. Considering he is stretching such large ice surfaces (usually beginning his rushes from his own zone) that becomes a persistent problem. His poor hockey sense results in turnovers that could very easily be avoided. Many of his mistakes are self-inflicted because he tries to take on the world too much.
Broberg plays hero ball too much. He is his own worst enemy.
I’m also not completely convinced of him as a playmaker. What makes great puck-movers truly elite at the NHL level is by having the ability to create for your teammates. To be able to dissect the offensive zone and make plays. While Broberg is not stagnate at the blue-line he plays aimlessly and doesn’t showcase the creativity needed to be a threat when cycling the puck. Coming back to his decision-making, he has some pretty ugly pinches on his résumé.
Some have expressed doubt in how successful Broberg was this past season in the Allsvenskan (second-teir mens league in Sweden). I personally thought he played well against men, having the ups and downs you would expect from any teenage defensemen. But where Broberg really made a name for himself was on the international stage. He was a star at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and U18s, simply dominating his own age group. He also surprised many by making the Swedish World Junior team, albeit it in a limited role.
At his core, Broberg is a captivating talent because of his gifted skating ability and size combination. He has a wow factor that only few in this draft class have. It is for that reason he owns one of the highest upsides in the draft. If he figures it all out he’ll be a superstar defensemen in the NHL. But that is a pretty big if. He is a raw prospect who has some glaring weaknesses, but none bad enough to think he is a boom-or-bust type prospect. In a way, he reminds me somewhat of Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Timothy Liljegren, who was drafted 17th overall in 2017.
Broberg can still serve to be an impactful player in the NHL as a puck-mover at worst. At the end of the day, players with his set of wheels don’t grow on trees.
Broberg will be playing for Skelleftea in the SHL next season. Still a big step compared to the Allsvenskan, there will certainly be a learning curve. Nevertheless, I’m excited to see how he fares against Sweden’s best. Hopefully this time around he’ll be able to play straight though, having dealt with illness for a sizable portion of last season. He will also have a spot on the World Junior team, in which he’ll play a prominent role.
Broberg isn’t a project, per say, but he is raw. He needs time to refine his game and that doesn’t just happen overnight. I wouldn’t be so focused on his NHL arrival, but more so with developing him right. He’ll require careful development, with the hopes that he’ll blossom into the star player he has the potential to be.