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NHL Mock Draft 2019: Pittsburgh Penguins select Nils Hoglander with 21st pick

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The Pens take a speedy Swedish forward with skill to burn with their projected first round pick

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With the 21st overall pick in the 2019 SB Nation mock draft, on behalf of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Pensburgh selects Nils Höglander, forward from the SHL.

Basics

Name: Nils Höglander

Birthplace: Bockträsk, Sweden

Date of birth: December 20, 2000

Shoots: Left

Position: LW/RW

Height: 5’9”

Weight: 185 lbs.

Team: Rögle BK

NHL Player Comparison: hybrid of a Mats Zuccarello / Brendan Gallagher, style-wise

2018-19 season review

Nils Hoglander took a step up in competition in 2018-19, playing in Sweden’s top league the SHL as a 17/18 year old player. He performed well in a lower line role, and maintained his spot with the top club throughout the year. Hoglander showcased his speed, tenacity and hands to make a name for himself as one of the top draftable prospects in the 2019 NHL draft with an impressive first season in the SHL.

Also, like some kid the Pens drafted in 2005, Hoglander showed a willingness to make a splashy lacrosse style move to score a goal known as “the Michigan” in some places. This earned the SHL goal of the year honor.

Beyond that sizzle, there is some substance in his game as well.

Great work in the defensive zone here to start the play the other way, then jumping up and skating right to the net to score the goal.

Hoglander was among the final cuts for Sweden’s U-20 World Junior team, but generally expected to be on the squad next season as a 19-year old. He has represented Sweden several times, including winning bronze at the U-18 2018 WJC.

Draft rankings

NHL Central Scouting (NHL): No. 11 European skater

Corey Pronman (The Athletic): 18th overall prospect

Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): 18th

Elite Prospects: 18th

Dobber Prospects: 23rd

Hockey Prospects: 25th

Future Considerations: 29th

Bob McKenzie (TSN): 29th (mid-season)

Sportsnet (May): not ranked in top 31

Craig Button (TSN): 61st (yikes!)

Scouting Report

Tried to read as much as is out there on Hoglander, but the one line that really stood out from The Athletic’s Corey Pronman was the simple yet very direct comment of “Hoglander has the best hands in the draft”.

Pronman also said:

When he has the puck on his stick, he’s trying to make a skilled play. His puck handling is lightning quick and he often leaves defenders in a knot with how he dangles while in stride. He’s not a selfish dangler, though, as he’s a great passer and looks for his teammates constantly. He’s not a typical playmaker you see run a power play and hang around the half-wall hitting seam passes. He’s always in motion and makes creative feeds. Hoglander isn’t the biggest forward at 5-foot-9, but he plays with a lot of energy and engages well. He’s got a bit of an edge to his game, too.

Wheeler was a big fan of Hoglander’s game too,

Hoglander, despite his size disadvantage, has already played 94 games of professional hockey, accumulating 22 points along the way. His skills are obvious when you watch him. He’s got a bit of a shuffle to his stride but his feet are light and that allows him to propel around the ice and accelerates out of his turns. He’s got excellent stop-and-start puck control, which he uses to spin off checks or when coming out of puck battles. And most of all, considering he’s 5-foot-9, he always goes to the middle of the ice.

The Draft Analyst:

Hoglander isn’t big, but he is fearless in the corners and immediately bounces back from hefty wallops from older, larger opponents. Without the puck, he’s an aggressive forechecker with an active stick who will finish his checks and force turnovers or rushed passes with regularity.

Hoglander is a very good skater with first-step quickness who can accelerate to top speed in an instant. He controls his pace extremely well, and his quick feet and agility allow him to make sharp moves through the neutral zone. Hoglander is a capable stickhandler who weaves his way through a dense network of sticks and bodies, and his cutbacks lure opponents away from coverage before he exploits openings with hard, crisp passes on the tape.

Habs Eyes on the Prize scouted:

Höglander is a speedy winger with great work ethic and fantastic skating. His top speed and acceleration are among the best of the draft class. His agility and edge-work help him separate from defenders and turn in sharply toward the net. He used his speed, and especially his acceleration in his first two steps, to great effect this season. Due to his skating and balance, he protects the puck well, and this is enhanced by his lower-body strength.

The Hockey Writers:

What pushes Höglander into another level is his quick thinking on top of his other skills. He’s able to play the game at a very fast pace, and make the right plays while doing so. He even holds his own in the defensive end.

At 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, one of the most surprising attributes of his game is the grit he brings. He’s been described as “fearless” and has drawn comparisons to Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher but with the ability to score more. There’s a lot to like about his game as a hard-working, gritty goal-scorer.

Scouting reports are only as good as the scout who is writing it, but just about any credible source will unanimously praise Hoglander’s skating ability in many facets (edge work, acceleration, top-end speed), his hands get high marks for puck skill and despite his size he’s the opposite of a perimeter player. The highlights back this up, several of Hoglander’s goals this season came from the “dirty areas” or were redirections of the puck from in tight.

NHL Combine Results

Hoglander performed very well at the recent NHL combine, with a couple of notable finishes in the following events:

  • 1st place on the bike for Peak Power Output (watts/kg)
  • tied-1st place pull-ups
  • 2nd place on the bench press (players use 50% of body weight)
  • t-4th place in shuttle run test
  • t-6th place in the dreaded V02max bike aerobic fitness test for duration
  • t-9th place in another V02 max metric for (ml/kg/min)

Considering dozens of prospects went through testing, that’s a very impressive athletic showing by Hoglander to achieve multiple top 10 finishes. A quick scan shows his name appearing in more top-10’s for all the non-arm length/height type categories as much as anyone else.

Safe to say he has good upper body strength with the results in bench and pullups, and some quickness with the run and some good legs and lungs to show well on the bike for some of those notorious V02max tests that often lead to puking afterwards.

Hoglander may not be the biggest player but he should be just fine if he continues to develop since athletically he appears to be very solid and gifted compared to his age-group, regardless of size — which is exactly what an NHL team would want to see in this testing.

It’s variable just how much NHL teams really care about off-ice testing, but Hoglander’s excellent combine could have only boosted his draft stock.

Combine interview

SBN Mock Draft

Catch up with all the picks here, recent ones include:

16. NY Rangers(*) - Arthur Kaliyev

17. Vegas - Raphael Lavoie

18. Dallas - Moritz Seider

19. Ottawa - Bobby Brink

20. Colorado (*) - Cam York

(*) blogs made a trade with each other, speculative and hasn’t happened for the real draft

Why we made this pick..

The Pens don’t have a lot of speedy prospects at the moment, nor many (if any) with a credible chance of being a top-six forward at the NHL level. Hoglander offers that.

It also has to be a positive that he’s playing against strong competition in a men’s league for the second season in 2019-20, and could possibly be ready for the transition to North America by 2020-21, another key factor that we have mentioned for Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh doesn’t just need a prized prospect, ideally they would want one who can contribute in the NHL within a few years while the Sidney Crosby / Evgeni Malkin window remains open. Hoglander potentially offers that too.

Had Cam York fallen one more pick that would have presented a very difficult debate as to what direction to go, but that choice was made for us by him going #20. Seeing guys like Lavoie and Brink get drafted in earlier picks also made it a no-brainer to identify Hoglander as the highest ceiling forward on the board. Also due to a longer expected development time and skating differences, to be honest Pensburgh had Hoglander ranked ahead of Brink in the first place.

Of players still on the board and available to be mock drafted, we strongly considered Ryan Suzuki and also Philip Tomasino. Suzuki projects to be a skilled center, and was tough not to draft considering his skill-set. However, most reports give Hoglander’s skating an edge and his all-around skill-set was preferred.

We also didn’t forget at all about the over-ager Brett Leason who might be able to make an NHL impact sooner than anyone else drafted this deep in the first round.

In the end though, we were happy to select Hoglander and add what hopefully will be a valuable find for adding skill, speed and energy to the Pens group up front.