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The Swedish defencemen are getting all the attention heading into the 2018 NHL Draft but their neighbour and rival in Finland has produced a number of talented forwards in this year’s crop as well. Undersized winger Niklas Nordgren is part of that crop and helped Finland to the gold medal at the IIHF Under 18 World Championships. With eight goals in seven games, he led the tournament. He also put up 10 points, was named to the tournament all-star team, and was a top-three player on his team. Nordgren has also represented Finland at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge and at the Youth Olympic Games.
Nordgren also had a successful domestic season. He got his feet wet in the SM-Liiga, Finland’s top men’s league, playing 15 games and picking up three assists. Nordgren added four goals and two assists in just two Champions Hockey League games. In the Under-20 league, he put up 13 goals and 42 points in 28 games. He also added 10 points in 10 playoff games as HIFK took third place. Nordgren also had some games at the Under-18 level and dominated. He put up 13 points in 5 playoff games, as HIFK took the U18 Championship.
Niklas Nordgren Scouting Report
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born May 4th, 2000 — Helsinki, Finland
Height 5’9″ — Weight 169 lbs [175 cm/77 kg]
An undersized winger, Nordgren’s skating is a real drawback. He lacks explosiveness. Nordgren has a very choppy stride, that robs him of top end speed. He also needs to work on his first step and his acceleration. He could also use work on his edge work and agility. These are all areas that must improve if he is going to be effective at the NHL level. One area that is strong, is his balance. Nordgren has a low centre of gravity and is strong on the puck. He does well in battles in the corners and is tough to move when he establishes his position in front of the net.
Nordgren has a ton of offensive skill. He has an excellent wrist shot, with a very quick release. It is both powerful and accurate. He can fool goaltenders by varying that release. Nordgren also has a good snapshot and strong one-timer. He can even score with his backhand. Nordgren has good hockey sense. He finds soft spots in the defence, getting himself open for scoring opportunities. Despite his size, Nordgren is willing to go to the net. When he gets there, he is able to get deflections and can score on rebounds.
Nordgren is also a talented playmaker. He has the vision to see opportunities, and the passing skills to put the puck through tight spaces. He anticipates where his teammates will be and can hit them with a tape-to-tape pass. Nordgren is a strong puck handler. He protects the puck well on the cycle and can extend plays. This buys time for his teammates to get open.
Nordgren is committed to the defensive side of the puck. He is good at applying back pressure against the rush. He also supports the defence down low against the cycle. Nordgren reads the play well and cuts down passing lanes. His quick stick creates turnovers, and he can transition to offence quickly. Nordgren is a strong penalty killer, and can even be a threat shorthanded.
Projection and Comparison
Nordgren has many of the offensive and defensive skills necessary to be a top-six winger in the NHL. However, there are two large red flags. At just five-foot-nine, he is undersized. While more and more undersized wingers are succeeding in the NHL, the fact is that they are often great skaters. Nordgren is also deficient in this area of his game. If he can improve the skating, he has a real chance to succeed. His game is similar to Alex Debrincat, but this is a stylistic comparison only, and not one based on skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages of Nordgren that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Embed from Getty Images
PLYMOUTH, MI – FEBRUARY 15: Niklas Nordgren #15 of the Finland Nationals follows the play against the Sweden Nationals during the 2018 Under-18 Five Nations Tournament game at USA Hockey Arena on February 15, 2018 in Plymouth, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)