Friday, April 27, 2018

2018 NHL Draft Preview: Nils Lundkvist

Hi everybody, and welcome back to another look at draft-eligible players for the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas.

Today we look at Nils Lundkvist.

Right-shooting defenseman for Lulea HF, SHL

5'11" 174 lbs
28 games, 2G 3A 5 points

His draft rankings as of today are:
HockeyProspect - #19
ISS Hockey - #NR
FutureConsiderations - #NR
McKeens - #27
NHL Central Scouting - #14 (EU Skaters)

Before we start getting into the more established players that folks may be hearing (guys like Bode Wilde, Jared McIsaac, and others), I wanted to touch on another quiet riser up the draft boards. At this point, Nils Lundkvist is a bit of an off the radar-type pick, but he's been steadily making himself more present in mock drafts and is becoming more of a dark horse first round pick, especially around the 20 spot. Lundkvist recently won the award for best defenseman in the J20 league for the 2017-2018 season (it's a little odd since he spent the majority of the season playing for the SHL club).

It's been interesting to watch Lundkvist's progression throughout the season, because he's been getting a lot more comfortable and confident in his play in the SHL as a 17 year old (this is his first season with the SHL), and as a result has been joining the offensive play much moreso than earlier in the season (not too surprising but it's still enjoyable to watch).

Nils Lundkvist is an excellent skating, puck-moving defenseman. In his first 13 games in the SuperElit U20, he registered 9 points. He is listed at 5'11", but he has a wide, low skating stance so he looks much shorter on the ice. Lundkvist's ability as a playmaker is excellent, and he has a good eye for finding passing lanes. I'll mention this here before I forget: I'm not sure if the points will ever be high-end. He reads the game really well and he is a smart player, but he strikes me as a Matt Niskanen type player - one who is an excellent puck mover and can help his team break out of the zone, and has some excellent offensive tools, but doesn't quite get on the scoreboard all that often. One other thing to note is that if you're on the ice, Lundkvist sees you - almost as if he has eyes in the back of his head. If he knows you're there, he'll find a passing lane to get you the puck...doesn't matter if he's below the goal or needs to make a move around a defending player...he'll get the puck to you. I love the idea of a player with this quick-thinking and quick/effective passing ability finding our big guns in the offensive zone.

Compared to another player in the draft, like Adam Boqvist, Lundkvist's high-end scoring potential is not as refined - that doesn't mean that scouts haven't taken notice of Lundkvist's fact there have been some rumblings that scouts may not see much of a difference between their games in the long run (especially given Lundkvist's play at the U18 Five Nations Tournament). During the U18's earlier this year, Lundkvist took a lot of risks in terms of reads, pinches, etc. in the offensive game. This is not a bad thing, but rather it was his own recognition of his skating ability, and the two-way ability of the forwards in front of him that helped allow him to make those decisions. I'm saying this because I think he would be in a similar situation here under the "Fast, Attacking *Supportive*" system that Hynes runs.

Defensively, Lundkvist is interesting because he is a very smooth and calm defenseman. He is an average defender and relies mostly on his stick work and really good Hockey IQ to make plays. Sometimes he wanders too far away from his post, but he has performed admirably on the defensive side in the SHL this season. He averaged right around 16 minutes per game this season. This included time on ice in all situations, including PK and Powerplay time where Lundkvist continued to show progression, growth, and confidence. Undoubtedly, Lundkvist's defensive play and board/corner play will improve when he adds some lower-body muscle to his frame.

What you're getting in Nils Lundkvist is a player who doesn't need anybody else to break out of his defensive zone, and can gain the offensive zone with ease. It's not too difficult to see why he's really rising up draft boards, because he is the ideal defenseman for the direction the league is going in - great skating, fantastic edgework, high hockey IQ, alert passing, crisp breakouts, etc. The list goes on.

CanucksArmy Blog refers to a threshold called the 51% rule in regards to SHL players and their chances of getting significant time in the NHL.

>Skaters who played in the Swedish Hockey League at 18-years-old or younger with a points per game of at least .09 ended up playing 200 NHL games or more 51% of the time. Even among players with just a handful of games, the rule applied.

Lundkvist meets those standards (and even produced at a higher rate than Erik Brannstom in his draft-eligible season). Granted there are more to a defenseman than points, but Lundkvist is a player that's going to have a lot of value if he continues to progress in the direction he's headed in. All NHL teams are looking for young, right-shooting, mobile, smart defensemen, and Lundqvist is a player that will out-perform his current draft ranking. I wouldn't be surprised if Ray Shero and Paul Castron, once again, rely heavily on the European scouting department and go with what seems like a bit of an off the board pick in Lundkvist at #17. He seems to be a very safe player with very high upside.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on Nils Lundkvist. Thank you for reading!

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