With the Montreal Canadiens picking 31st overall in the NHL Draft, their first pick should be all about the best, most talented player available, and not just to try and fill a need. However, sometimes a player drops in that fills both of those spaces. This year that player just might be Swedish winger Simon Robertsson.
His offensive numbers won’t jump off the page, but with an outstanding work ethic on the ice and a powerful shot, Robertsson presents himself as an intriguing option if he should be available late in the first round. His shot will help lead him to his ceiling, and with some maturation in his hockey IQ, there’s great potential for a winger like Robertsson in the Canadiens’ system.
Birthplace: Piteå, Sweden
Date of Birth: February 5, 2003
Position: Right Wing
Weight: 190 lbs.
Current Team: Skellefteå AIK
The most projectable weapon that Robertsson possesses is his shot, with scouts noting how versatile it is, and how much he can create with it. While he doesn’t project as an elite high-end goalscorer, he is able to utilize his shooting mechanics to create rebounds or generate high-danger chances when given the opportunity.
While his stats above the junior levels might not stand out, they do require a bit of context. In the SHL, with Skellefteå, he wasn’t given a ton of ice time in a bottom-six role, and the team he played on in the Swedish third tier wasn’t exactly talent-laden. What did stand out to scouts though is that regardless of his ice time, Robertsson was always looking to push the puck up ice and create offence when he can. With a great shot, and a tenacity that is hard to match, it isn’t difficult to see why the Canadiens might be interested in him should he fall down the draft board.
Scouts have noted that Robertsson’s shot is heavy with very good mechanics behind it, and he generates rebounds extremely well for his teammates with regularity. He doesn’t project as a top-end goal scorer, but all the mechanics are there for him to grow and develop his offensive game in his Draft+1 season and beyond.
That offensive growth will most certainly be aided by his ability to receive passes of varying quality with ease and keep the play moving up ice. Robertsson has displayed the talent to have a pass sent into his skates, then smoothly transition it to his stick in stride and not slow down the play. His deception in the offensive zone is noteworthy, even if it is still improving, by utilizing good head and shoulder fakes he buys himself some time to figure out his next move.
His work ethic remains without question as well, and as a good skater, he is able to make himself a true dual-threat player at both ends of the ice. He manages to keep opposing forwards on their toes whether he has the puck or is defending in his own end.
Much like Marat Khusnutdinov in last year’s Draft, despite having plenty of tools to be a standout offensively, Robertsson does not project to be a big goalscorer at the current time. Alongside that, he isn’t quite the driver on any given line right now, which was apparent at the U-18 tournament as he struggled when trying to carry his line for Sweden.
There are also some inconsistencies in his playmaking and reading certain plays. He is able to buy himself the time with his agility and deception, but needs to refine his decision-making in that time as well. Reading plays as they develop will be a crucial skill for him to improve upon. He does well when receiving passes, but if he isn’t turning them into shot attempts immediately, he tends to lag behind the play and likely loses possession.
Elite Prospects: #30
NHL Central Scouting: #11 (EU Skaters)
TSN/Bob McKenzie: #28
When drafting so late in the first round, it’s all about drafting the best overall player available in almost every circumstance. This is an unfamiliar spot for the Canadiens in recent years, and it’s complicated even more by the Covid-19 pandemic hampering the usual scouting efforts for teams. A player like Simon Robertsson has all the tantalizing skills of a top-15 pick but has some flaws to his game that could see him very likely slip to the end of the first round.
As I read more from various draft guides and scouting services, a lot of his profile reminds me of Artturi Lehkonen. He has plenty of offensive talent, but can’t hone in the consistency to make himself into an elite scoring talent. Not yet at least. For the Canadiens, drafting so late means taking that kind of risk, and there’s plenty to like about Robertsson’s game even if his offence doesn’t grow much beyond a potential middle-six role.
His shot is great at generating chances for his linemates, and he has the deception and work ethic to make himself a nuisance with and without the puck in all three zones. With the pressure style that the Canadiens found very successful in the postseason, a player who has strong work ethic and offensive upside to pair with it could be just the combination the team is looking for.