Nils Lundkvist, Luleå HF (SHL)
Position: Right Defense
Age on Draft Day: 17.92 Years Old
Height/Weight: 5’11.25, 173 pounds
2017-2018 SHL Stats: 26 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 0 PIM, +2
2017-2018 SuperElit Stats: 26 GP, 3 G, 11 A, 18 PIM, +2
NHL Central Scouting: 14th (European Skaters)
Future Considerations: 35th
Canucks Army: 37th
Craig Button (TSN): 45th
Scott Wheeler: 50th
ISS Hockey: (Not Top-31)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): (Not Top-74)
This is a scouting report of 2018 NHL Draft eligible defenseman Nils Lundkvist. Not to be confused with Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Nor Henrik’s brother, Joel Lundqvist. Nor recent Rangers’ signing Michael Lindqvist. Got it? Good.
We will be repurposing Tobias’ report of Lundkvist published earlier, and adding thoughts from both Alex Nunn and myself. All videos were gathered from my viewings, while the cited advanced statistics were given to Tobias by an SHL source.
Lundkvist, maybe the biggest riser in this year’s draft, was barely ranked at the start of this season. Despite that, he became an SHL regular at the age of 17 and is now rocketing up the draft boards.
Lundkvist is a puck moving right-handed defenseman 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 Corsi Against/60 around -8) though there could be sample and/or deployment factors impacting 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: “Luleå’s 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.”
Editor’s Note: You can read Tobias’ full article on Lundkvist from April 12th via this link.
Lundkvist is a proficient puck-moving defensemen who uses strong wheels and high-end smarts to push the pace in all situations. He lacks the similar flash of fellow Swedish blueliner Adam Boqvist but carries few of the same question marks given his consistently solid play in all three zones and draft-year acumen at the senior level.
A more authentic stylistic comparison, for me, would be 2017 Vegas first-round pick Erik Brännström. Lundkvist ventures deep into enemy territory to set up plays, mostly making sound calls on when to commit and release the puck. He’s good on the powerplay and has already quarterbacked Luleå’s man-advantage unit at SHL level without looking out of place. He sees the ice very well and keeps his feet moving to provide team-mates with a passing option at all times.
Like many other undersized defensemen, Lundkvist can be outmuscled in his own end from time to time. He’s always willing to battle for pucks, though, and offers a great outlet when it comes to exiting the zone in possession. He transitions from defense to offense quickly while rarely making a bad first pass.
It says much for Lundkvist that his SHL club trusted him to play major minutes throughout the season as a 17-year-old. He’s reliable, responsible, and has adjusted his game to the rigours of playing against men earlier than most young Swedish defensemen do.
Both Tobias and Alex did a great job breaking down Lundkvist’s game, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here and will instead point out a few things I noticed and then explain why we’ve ranked him 22nd.
As they both pointed out, Lundkvist is inconsistent in his defensive coverages. There are times where his gap control looks very good.
And then there are times when he gets way too aggressive and leaves himself exposed.
The world “inconsistent” tends to be considered an inherently negative one in hockey circles. With Lundkvist, I do not mean to convey it as such. He has shown the ability to defend well one-on-one. But he’s also 17 years old, so he’s hardly perfect. It’s all about developing his game further to make the successes more repetitive and the mistakes less common. I have no reason to believe he won’t get there.
As I have made clear numerous times throughout this series, our rankings strongly favor players with upside over perceived “safe” players. However, that is not an absolute mandate. It’s a balancing act. There are players with higher upside than Lundkvist, such as Bode Wilde and K’Andre Miller. I do not think Lundkvist is far off, though, and he blows both away in terms of polish. Lundkvist was trusted by Luleå to play regular minutes against men in arguably the second-best league in the world, averaging 16 minutes per night. That’s not something that could be said of likely top-10 pick Adam Boqvist, nor could it be said of 17-year-old Erik Karlsson, among plenty of other successful Swedish defensemen.
A late July birthday, Lundkvist is also very young for this draft class. He is already a well put together product and should have plenty of room for improvement. It’s not hard to imagine Lundkvist as a strong two-way, second-pairing defenseman who eats up minutes against tough competition and plays in both special teams situations. As a late-first or early-second round selection, Lundqvist is not a sexy pick, but would provide tremendous value to any team that drafts him.
What Others Have Said
Ryan Biech, Canucks Army:
“Like many 17-year-old defensive prospects, Lundkvist does need to work on his defensive play but there is little doubt about the offensive side to his game. He makes a great pass, moves with the puck, and is smooth on his feet. He may take a few more years to make his mark in North America but there is a lot like about this young Swedish defender.”