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Maybe Later: Nils Lundkvist

The NHL draft starts tonight, so let’s get some last minute reading done on who the Leafs might select!

This post is about Nils Lundkvist, who is a great talent but perhaps not consistently good enough defensively to earn a top round selection.

Who is Nils Lundkvist?

Other than a spelling nightmare for Rangers fans, Nils Lundkvist is a right handed defenseman playing for the Lulea HF system in Sweden.

Lundkvist spent half of the season with the SHL playing with adults, and the other half playing with the J20 team.

One might worry about an early birth date helping him to compete in the adult league. Often this is the case, where a player has an advantage due to developing a little earlier than their competitive peers. But that’s not the case: Lundkvist is in the younger bracket of draft eligible prospects, being only 2 months off of falling into next year’s draft.

Alternately, you could worry that Lundkvist’s physical dominance has allowed him to compete with players older than him. But at 5’11” it’s not a towering-over effect that causes Lundkvist’s success. It seems he’s just a very, very good player.

Here’s the quick hit facts:

  • Birthdate: July 27, 2000 (17 as of today)
  • Birthplace: Pitea, SWE
  • Frame: 5’11″/ 174 lbs
  • Position: Defense
  • Handedness: Right
  • Draft Year Team: Lulea HF(SHL)

Where is Lundkvist ranked?

ISS HOCKEY NOT TOP 31
THE ATHLETIC – PRONMAN NOT TOP 31
FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS 35
THE ATHLETIC – WHEELER NOT TOP 31
CANUCKS ARMY – DAVIS 37
SPORTSNET – COSENTINO NOT TOP 31
TSN – MCKENZIE 36
DOBBER PROSPECTS – ROBINSON 24
NHL CS – INTERNATIONAL 14
MCKEEN’S HOCKEY NOT TOP 31
TSN – BUTTON 45

As mentioned in the lead, Lundkvist doesn’t seem to be ranked high enough to earn a top round selection. It seems highly probable that he’ll end up an early second round selection. This is exactly similar to players whose profiles I did previously, David Gustafsson and K’Andre Miller.

To get there, as mentioned previously, the Leafs may look at trading down their first round selection. An example to target could be the Detroit Red Wings, who own two early second round picks and may be open to moving one if someone they have ranked highly starts go unpicked late in the first.

What do the numbers say?

As mentioned in the David Gustafsson post, there’s a 51% rule. It goes like this: if a draft-eligible player is in the SHL and gets more than 0.11 points per game, there’s a 51% chance that the player will make the NHL. Unfortunately the source material has since been removed from the web when the people who discovered the trend were hired by the Florida Panthers.

Overall, though, his stats don’t really suggest that he’s a dominant offensive player, even in the J20 league. It should be mentioned that Lundkvist won Defenseman of the Year in the SuperElit (J20) despite only playing 26 games there.

What are the scouts saying?

The scouts all say pretty much the same things about Lundkvist as they do about likely top-10 pick Boqvist, but obviously not to the same elite level.

Here’s an excerpt from Ryan Biech’s profile for Canucks Army:

He is an intelligent defender who can skate very well and uses those skating abilities in a variety of ways.

He is quick to join the rush or just carries it himself – he loves having the puck on his stick and making things happen.  At first glance, you’d think his stick is too long and thus limit his ability to control the puck but he is so fluid on his feet that he makes it work.

Lundkvist is aggressive on the attack, regularly dropping below the circles to make things happen. It can get him into trouble though as a turnover and the other team is going in the other direction. But he does have the skating ability to get back if needed.

On the defensive side of the game, he is a work in progress. He is very good at getting the puck out of the zone when he does retrieve it, whether that is through that crisp first pass or via carrying it out himself. His long stick does help him keep opponents honest as they can’t just attack straight him.

And here’s one from Steve Kournianos’ scouting report from the 5 Nations Cup in February:

Lundkvist is a speedy puck mover with a lot of flair to his game, and the risks he takes make sense when you consider how many defensively-responsible forwards Sweden had. He’s an excellent skater and playmaker who takes multiple ventures deep into opposing territory, but the overwhelming majority of them are timely. His defensive play is decent at best when you consider how often the puck is on his stick, but Lundkvist can be guilty of wandering too far from the slot and overcommitting to the strong side. He’ll improve his play in the corners when he bulks up, but his few shortcomings are minor when you factor in his speed and puck skills.

Highlights

Why should the Leafs draft Lundkvist?

This player definitely seems like he could be a good project at the right side of the Leafs’ defense. He carries most of the rewards of drafting a Ryan Merkley, but fewer of the risks. He possibly could be picked up later, and has already been proving himself against adult competition. I think Merkley is still the better player, but with the rumours circling around him, one might be better off to swing with Lundkvist instead.

Overall, I think that Lundkvist is too raw to be taken in the early second as suggested above, but maybe at the end of the second. Regardless, he’ll be an interesting addition to any teams’ prospect pools at a position of need for 90% of the league.

I’m now catching myself imagining a Leafs team with Liljegren, Merkley and Lundkvist down the right side absolutely steamrolling up the ice for constant zone control. It’s a nice thought, for sure, though I imagine some will wonder how they’ll ever defend the net.

MLN Draft #Content

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