The 2020 NHL draft will feature many top Swedish prospects, particularly in the first few rounds. Let’s look at some of the high-end talented forwards available.
The most complete player, and likely the first player taken from Sweden, is winger Lucas Raymond. He initially caught my attention at the 2018 U-17 World Hockey Challenge with his superb play in helping Sweden take home the bronze medal. Raymond scored the shootout winner to down Canada Red 4-3 in the bronze medal game and finished with four goals and three assists in six games. Raymond split his most recent season with Frolunda, between the Swedish Hockey League and SuperElit clubs, recording 14 points with the junior squad in nine games and ten points with the SHL team in 33 games.
With his high-end hockey IQ, elite vision, and complete 200-ft game, he is expected to be a top-five selection at the 2020 NHL draft. Raymond is a constant threat in the offensive zone and is equally dangerous with his deadly wrist shot as he is with his playmaking ability. Furthermore, he possesses soft hands, an explosive skating stride, and a tremendous work ethic. There is very little to not like about his game.
Dynamic winger Alexander Holtz is the other member of the super Swedes ranked in the top ten for the 2020 NHL draft. I became aware of Holtz and the same event as Raymond, as the two were linemates. Holtz led Sweden in scoring at the 2018 U-17 World Hockey Challenge edging out Raymond with an additional assist. It is hard to speak of one without comparing him to the other.
Holtz has had better success at the SHL level than has Raymond. However, he plays for a weaker team and has been afforded more opportunities in terms of ice-time. In my opinion, Holtz is the more natural goal scorer and possesses a better shot.
He shows the ability to find soft spots in the defensive coverage and puts himself in prime scoring areas more readily than does Raymond. Both are exceptional playmakers, but I would give a slight edge to Raymond in this category. Raymond has the upper hand when it comes to the defensive side of the game and is better on the forecheck. Both players possess the necessary skills to enjoy lengthy and successful NHL careers.
Lulea winger Noel Gunler has one of the best shots of all 2020 NHL draft prospects, and he loves to use it.
His offensive skillset is undeniable and should translate well at the NHL level. However, his skating stride and overall speed will need to improve, as will his work ethic. Gunler doesn’t show the same level of commitment to his play without the puck as he does with it. He has been a frequent omission from national team events due to his attitude. His talent level is top-ten. However, he may slip to the 12-20 range in the draft due to the deficiencies in his game.
Forward Zion Nybeck is small in stature but is a big-time talent. The 5’8″ 176-pound winger led the SuperElit league in scoring with 66 points in 42 games this past season. Nybeck has a low center of gravity and is solid on his skates. His top-end speed is exceptional, with the ability to make plays at full velocity. Nybeck uses his quickness to get around defenders on the outside. However, he isn’t shy about taking an inside lane and driving hard to the net. Nybeck has an accurate shot and gifted hands when he gets in tight to the net.
He uses his speed to be aggressive on the forecheck while his creativity and work ethic are near the top of the draft class. In my opinion, he is likely an early second-round selection.
Following a devastating year in which Theodor Niederbach missed the entire 2018-2019 campaign due to a knee injury, the Frolunda centerman experienced a bounce-back season. He began the 2019-2020 season at the J18 level playing in both the Elit league and the Allsvenskan, where he combined for 21 points in 14 games. Promotion to the SuperElit J20 league resulted in Niederbach recording 48 points in 40 games. He led all players in the SuperElit Sodra division in powerplay points with 16 during the regular season, mainly due to his elite vision and playmaking ability.
Niederbach has the capability of beating defenders in one on one confrontations with his deceptive speed and stickhandling prowess.
His draft rankings steadily improved as the season went on. Unfortunately, with the season coming to an abrupt end, Niederbach may have climbed into the first-round had the U18 World Championships been played. However, he may still have shown enough to gain that status.
Rick Warman is a Vancouver Canucks and prospects contributor for Overtime Heroics. Follow him @statman1956 on Twitter
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