What the Maple Leafs missed out on with Stian Solberg

Eric Cruikshank
13 days ago
Well, the Toronto Maple Leafs did it again.
As time ran out for GM Brad Treliving and his group, nobody began to approach the stage at the first round of the NHL Entry Draft Friday evening at Sphere in Las Vegas. It was then announced that the Maple Leafs had acquired the 31st and 58th overall picks from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for their 23rd overall selection.
The decision to shift down a few spots in order to build up more draft capital usually signals that one team doesn’t necessarily have the urgency to snag a player off the board. It’s a decision that the Maple Leafs have made before, they did it again with the second round selection they acquired, and they’ll probably do it again before the draft is over.
Considering this draft class contained much less value towards the end of the first round, it shouldn’t be surprising that we saw so many pick swaps as the evening progressed.
Although, it felt like there was one name that jumped off the page with the way things fell for the Maple Leafs with the 23rd pick.
Considering the Maple Leafs’ organizational needs, Stian Solberg, who was taken by Anaheim with the 23rd pick, was a perfect match. The Norwegian defencemen possesses a great package of intelligence, physicality, and compete beyond his years.
Solberg has a highlight reel of hits alone. At 6-foot-2, 205 lbs, he has a pro-ready frame to build on, and he uses it very effectively. While he was laying thunderous hits all year with Vålerenga in Norway’s top league against grown men, the 18-year-old’s physicality was most impressive when he represented his country at the IIHF World Championships in Czechia earlier this year.
When Solberg defends, he defends with purpose. He’s got a great motor, pressuring offensive players regardless of their positional advantage, and doesn’t give up on any loose pucks. Solberg also has solid gap control, keeping opposing players within range while defending the rush, and doesn’t get pulled out of position too. much when attempting some of those violent checks.
He’s also comfortable embracing contact in corners and will often anticipate forecheckers quick enough to lay reverse hits. Some of those moments are eerily similar to Rasmus Dahlin, who boasts a similar frame at 6-foot-3, 204 lbs. Overall, Solberg is incredibly frustrating to play against, and to see him show off these skills against some of the best players in the world was the main reason his stock rose leading up to the draft.
Solberg isn’t just a bruising defenceman either. While he only managed to put up 15 points in 42 regular season games this season, he was a significant contributor in the playoffs for Vålerenga, recording nine points in 17 games. He has solid offensive instincts that don’t necessarily get the love they deserve because of his low success rate on more ambitious plays.
There’s going to come a time when he’ll have to decide what his role is, and his skillset will likely lean more toward being a play-killer than an offensive creator, but Solberg is trying to explore different areas where he can be more valuable, and that is tremendous for a growing prospect. The Ducks have a solid foundation of offensive defencemen with Olen Zellweger and Pavel Mintyukov, and Solberg will provide a little more bite to their blue line in the future.
While Ben Danford will likely fit a similar mold as a shutdown d-man in the NHL someday, Solberg’s ceiling is undoubtedly higher. His defensive philosophy is exactly the type that will make him a valuable player in the playoffs, and with a more refined offensive approach, he has the upside to become a regular top-four defenceman someday.

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