New York Rangers’ top prospect Nils Lundkvist began his 2019-2020 season yesterday when Luleå faced the Augsburger Panthers in Champions Hockey League action. Lundkvist played on Luleå’s top defensive pairing alongside Erik Gustafsson, and logged minutes on both special teams units and finished with 22:08 in a 3-2 shootout loss.
Lundkvist played a competent, though unspectacular, game. He displayed confidence carrying the puck up the ice and created multiple zone entries with possession for his team. Though he did not earn an assist on the play, it was Lundkvist’s entry into Augsburger’s zone that ultimately led to Luleå’s first goal of the game (#27 red).
Lundkvist also registered two shots on goal with another three attempts. In general, he showed an eagerness to get in shooting positions and put shots on net. Defensively, the Rangers’ defensive prospect had a solid showing. Here is one example of Lundkvist cleaning up an Augsburger rush.
There were a few instances where he won board battles or knocked a puck carrier onto the ice, which is an improvement from last year. Lundkvist struggled at times during the 2018-19 season when it came to matching the strength of pro players, so adding muscle was a major offseason priority for him.
The one knock on his performance is that he fumbled with the puck a few times towards the end of the game. In particular, he flubbed a few passing and shooting opportunities in overtime when Luleå had a power play. Given that it’s the start of the season, the lack of rhythm isn’t surprising.
That Lundkvist played so many important minutes for Luleå is notable and encouraging for two reasons. First, it indicates that the non-contact injury from a few weeks ago is not hindering him and he avoided a meaningful setback. Second, it may foreshadow that Luleå plans to offer him increased playing time this season.
In 2018-2019, Lundkvist often struggled to see more than depth minutes, if even that. They still have a strong group of defensemen and it’s a long season, so Lundkvist will be in a constant fight for playing time. Still, this is a good indicator that Lundkvist will play a prominent role in 2019-2020.
Luleå are back in action on Saturday against Liberec (Czech Republic).