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Why Stian Solberg is the right pick for the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 2024 NHL Draft

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Steven Ellis
27 days ago
Stian Solberg’s foray into playing defense is a… unique one, to say the least.
At the 2024 NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo earlier this month, Solberg told reporters he only switched to defense at the age of 14. While playing in a tournament with his Norwegian squad, Solberg said one of his teammates got in trouble for urinating in the team’s shower, and they needed someone to help fill a spot on the blueline.
In came Solberg, and now the rest is history.
Viewed as a late-round talent early on in the season, Solberg quickly became one of the highest risers for the 2024 NHL Draft. And he doesn’t come from a league that scouts traditionally spend too much time following, having spent the past three years primarily playing with Vålerenga’s men’s team in the top league in Norway.
From the get-go, it was clear Solberg wouldn’t be an offensive producer. But what was evident was his value as a violent, defensive defenseman – and there might not be a better option in the first half of the draft than Solberg, who NHL Central Scouting ranked as the No. 20 European defenseman.
Keep in mind that ranking came ahead of the U-18 World Championship and Men’s World Championship earlier this spring. It was the latter that helped solidify Solberg as a first-round talent after watching him play such a valuable role for Norway, despite being one of the youngest players in the tournament.
Solberg only played a handful of senior national team games before making his World Championship debut earlier in May. He impressed with goals against Czechia and Canada—two of the best teams in the tournament. He got himself into trouble with some aggressive penalties, but it was huge to see him play more than 23 minutes a night on a team fighting for survival. Solberg was named as one of Norway’s top three players, and it was well deserved.
In a nutshell, we saw the complete package from Solberg during his two weeks in Czechia. He made it a mission to hit just about everyone that came into his presence, and launch them as far as possible. Solberg would get feisty after whistles, showing he wasn’t one to mess with.
Honestly, it felt like watching Jacob Trouba out there.
Solberg is such a fluid skater at 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds. He has an excellent shot, but he also has a mean streak that makes him so difficult to beat in a 1-on-1 situation. It didn’t seem to matter who he battled against this year – Solberg didn’t lose many battles.
Given it seems like GM Brad Treliving value size and toughness, Solberg seems like a good option for the Leafs. He even recently visited Toronto and met with the staff, so we know they’re definitely interested in him.
And it makes sense – he’s one of the hardest-hitting players in the draft, if not THE hardest. And the fact that he’s a play killer that skates well means he won’t be one of those tough guys who just floats into the NHL and struggles. Solberg has enough raw skills to be tantalizing.
I think his lack of true offensive upside will hurt him, but I have been impressed with his powerful shot and his improved two-way game. He’s not an all-around defender, but you could fit in a top-four sooner rather than later and be impressed with him.
Toronto doesn’t have a defender in the system built like him with his upside. He’s a big-time riser for the draft, and there’s still a lot of question marks to come. How will he adjust to the SHL with Farjestad next year? Can he improve the puck work? Can he hone in his physical game enough to limit the penalties but still be menacing?
In short: I think so. And if the on-ice physicality wasn’t enough to make him a fan favorite, maybe his personality will. Scouts and media alike have labeled him as one of the funniest, most laid-back players to talk into this draft class. Having come from a smaller hockey nation, he’s had to prove himself against the odds throughout his career, but he does it with a smile on his face.
There are plenty of interesting options for Toronto at No. 23. EJ Emery, for example, would be a great fit for his athleticism and rock-steady defensive presence as a 6-foot-3, right-handed blueliner. Aron Kiviharju could provide the team with puck-moving skill to capitalize on his fallen draft stock.
And then there’s Solberg, who wants to annihilate everyone in sight. Sound fun, Leafs fans?

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