With Rangers having four picks in the late 1st to mid 2nd range I thought it would be fun to look a little closer to some of the players the Rangers can target in this range.
The players I’ll write about here will be the more realistic targets for the late first to second round, so I will not be making draft profiles for the likes of Dominik Bokk, Ryan Merkley or Vitali Kravtsov in this series because odds are that they’re going to be gone before the Rangers step up to the podium in the second round. They’ll be covered at some point some way or another.
Today we’ll be getting to know this drafts biggest riser this year in my opinion, Nils Lundkvist. Lundkvist was barley ranked at the start of this year, and despite that he became an SHL regular at the age of 17 — and is now rocketing up the draft boards. If he continues his play at the U18 Worlds, he’ll probably secure himself as a sure-fire second round pick — or better.
Lundkvist is a puck moving RHD who is a very good skater and has good offensive instincts. That said, his best quality in my eyes though is his hockey IQ; he’s a very smart player both on and off the puck. The way he sees the ice on the offensive side is right at the top of this draft class among his defensive peers, and doing so at his age in the SHL is incredibly impressive. He’s been very good at suppressing shots this season (Relative CA/60 around -8) though there could be sample and/or deployment factors for that. He does need to work on his overall defensive game, though, as he does have some issues when he gets pinned down low. Like all young puck moving defenseman, he needs to find the balance between risk and reward when he has the puck on his stick.
Although he’s figuring it out right now, as an undersized defenseman he needs to learn how to better position himself on the ice — especially when he moves to the smaller ice surfaces in North America. And since we’re speaking of weaknesses, his shot can use some work, since he doesn’t score enough goals given the prime positions he finds himself in thanks to his offensive instincts and skating.
As one scout told me: “Luleås defense lacked the quality to move the puck and Lundkvist stepped in to fill that void very well. Not as flashy as the top ranked Adam Boqvist, but I think he has a better two-way game.”
Here are some clips of his play that I think illustrate the type of player he is and can be. In these two clips we can see how he uses his skating and vision to make clean exits and help his team transition quickly into offense.
Look at this pass from the same guy, #2018NHLDraft eligible D-man Nils Lundkvist (#3 in yellow) pic.twitter.com/wyLshmeCWr— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) February 12, 2018
#2018NHLDraft eligible D-man Nils Lundkvist (#3 in white) from Jan 20 #SHL game.— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) February 12, 2018
With his team down a goal late in the 3rd, he starts the play from his own end, joins the rush, takes opposing D-man with him and drives to the net to create disturbance for the goalie pic.twitter.com/k3mdqYv11w
While these two clips show his very high hockey IQ and overall offensive instincts, you can also see that he’s a very technical skater that can change his angles with ease to create space for himself.
Nils Lundkvist ser till så att Patrick Cehlin kan göra sitt 12e mål för säsongen. #LuleåHockey pic.twitter.com/HKZMe76Pd9— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) February 10, 2018
Nils Lundkvist hittar Oskar Bäck och 1-0 för Sverige mot Ryssland. #J18gifs #5NationsU18 #RusU18 #SweU18 pic.twitter.com/npZIa2ZpJ6— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) February 18, 2018
And finally, here’s an example of something he needs to do more of; using his positioning and skating to negate his size disadvantage.
Nils Lundkvist stoppar John Persson. pic.twitter.com/Obu0UyZuhL— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) March 1, 2018
In the end, there’s going to be plenty of players with a higher risk-reward ceiling in the second round. This is inherently true in any draft, but players like Lundkvist are exactly what the Rangers should be going after. A guy who is exceeding expectations, is on the younger side of the draft, and succeeding in a men’s league.
Nils Lundkvist, born 2000-07-27, 5’11”, 174lbs, RHD
Stats with Luleå in SHL: GP: 28 G: 2 A: 3 P: 5 TOI/GP: 16:00 SOG: 21 CF%: 51.12 Rel.CF%: 4.04
Luleå J20 in SuperElit: GP: 26 G: 3: A: 11 P: 14 Sweden U18: GP: 8 G: 1 A: 3 P: 4