A possible top-line winger is the high end of the potential spectrum for Nils Höglander.
The question is not will he be an NHL player, the question is when. The Canucks selected Höglander 40th overall on their home soil at the 2019 NHL entry draft.
Many scouts believed that he should have been a first-round pick. He has an extremely high motor, tremendous hands, and never shies away from contact.
The Canucks had two top prospects at this past year’s World Junior Championship. Vasili Podkolzin will be back at next year’s tournament to put on a show but this year Höglander was the highlight reel.
He scored the goal of the tournament in his first game, using his skills behind the net to score a lacrosse goal against the Finnish squad. He would also win goal of the year in the Swedish Hockey League with his specialty goal.
The kid is extremely talented with the puck. He seems to be most effective around the net but is lethal when working in the corners. He had nine goals and seven assists this past season with Rögle in the SHL while trying to gain more trust from his coaches by being more accountable in the defensive zone.
I’m assuming a lot of you knew this though. Much has been said and written about Höglander so I’ll quickly give me thoughts on him and include some lesser-seen clips from his play.
Nils Höglander is almost the perfect European prospect. He plays with grit and knows how to be around the net when an offensive threat is on the horizon. The only reason he fell out of the first round in the 2019 draft is that he is five foot nine.
His game seems to show that a transition to the smaller ice would benefit him. The thing that I have always loved about the bigger ice is the extra passing lanes that it opens. There are cross-ice passes that are harder to make and the powerplay really opens up to create plenty of one-on-one battles.
Those one-on-one battles force players to be creative. That’s one of Höglander’s best traits, similar to how we have seen Elias Pettersson come in and break ankles at the NHL level, we could be seeing another young Swede come in and do similar things.
A similar part of Pettersson and Höglander’s games may end there though. Both players came through the SHL but played very different styles. As Pettersson was seeding passes through defenders like beers through me on a Saturday night. Höglander was battling in corners while using his lower center of gravity to lean on bigger defencemen.
Here’s an example of his relentless attitude to control the puck on the ice.
He has all the skill and drive to make this Canucks team out of training camp this fall.
The question is will Travis Green want to change the identity of his bottom six. The Canucks lineup is changing. No longer are we seeing the Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter line get the hard matchups. That is Bo Horvat’s duty now.
If the third or fourth line wanted to have a player with a honey badger mentality on it then Höglander has a chance of making this team next season.
Benning: Hoglander was a guy the majority of us liked him a lot. His ability to protect the puck, to play in traffic, he plays a hard game, he's strong on the puck. Petey knows him from over in Sweden, and I asked Petey his thoughts. He knew him and thought he'd be a good player
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) April 29, 2020
He has said in a couple of interviews that if he does not make the Canucks out of camp then he will be returning to Rögle and will continue to develop in the SHL.
This is not a bad thing either. He will either shock the organization and force his way on to this Canucks team or he will be back in 2021-22 with even more well-rounded skill and a bigger drive to be an NHL player.
It doesn’t look like we will see him play for the Utica Comets, which selfishly is too bad. I would have loved to see him toy with defenders after developing some confidence in a professional North American league.
I’m not sure if any player has ever won SHL goal of the year three consecutive seasons. If there were to be one, it would be pretty cool if it was Nils Höglander.
Would you be shocked if this kid makes the team this fall, are you expecting him to crack the roster or are you 100% sure because he is too young and needs more time to develop?