The Montreal Canadiens used many of their draft picks to select players based on the enticing talent they held, including the one they spent at 92nd overall to draft Adam Engström. At this point in his hockey career, Engström can be best described as a pool of skills rather than a complete hockey player.
First and foremost, Engström has the skating stride that some of the top all-around players in the draft class were missing, so that is a perfect starting place for him. Good hands let him handle the puck easily, so he can carry the puck well while he’s moving. To go with those traits, he also has a 6’2” frame to provide plenty of reach when he’s in possession.
Those are important abilities to have, but he’s essentially received a package full or tools with no instructions on how to use them, and is in the process of testing all the switches and levers to see what they do.
Birthplace: Södertälje, Sweden
Date of birth: November 17, 2003
Weight: 185 lbs.
Team: Rögle BK J20 (J20 Nationell)
The feet and hands were the first thing he got the hang of. His most notable plays are the ones that find him carrying the puck out of his zone and through the neutral zone, dodging defenders to get the play moving in the right direction.
At this point, that’s about as far as he’s gotten through the various features. He hasn’t yet discovered what the size can do for him. He’s among the least physical players in the class despite playing the game as a defenceman, mostly knowing how to scoop up loose pucks and advance them forward, but he’s at least figured out that he can box out most attackers around the net, and that’s the type of defence he prefers to play.
He rarely barged his way into a corner to win a puck battle, nor did he throw hits on rushing forwards to start his draft year, but as the season went on, these elements began to show up more as he developed his game, increasing his stack of defensive cards to draw from. That type of play showed that he has plenty of room to grow, and is probably what convinced the Canadiens to draft him.
While the improvement of his defensive game continues, he’ll also be trying to develop his offence. Right now he’s at a loss as to what to do in the offensive zone. Usually, his tendency is to just keep skating and stick-handling, and all that does is see him dispossessed of the puck as he tries to beat opposing defenders. The sheer volume of plays he was able to make through his transition skill led to some points, and a stationary slapshot from the point resulted in eight goals and several more assists, but he’s far from what could be called an offensive defenceman.
This is a long-term project that the Canadiens have taken on. It could be four or five years before Engström has progressed far enough to reappear on their radar. He was already among the older players of the draft class having been born in November of 2003, so there will likely be some concern among the fanbase that his game hasn’t grown at the same rate he has. He will be moving to Rögle BK next season, so at least he will continue to progress in a top European system, and hopefully see time on the SHL team that made the semifinals last year as well.
I choose to go to @roglebk because of their development program and the trust the Cam and Chris [Abbott] gives young players. The facilities in Ängelholm (Rögle) is also fantastic. It really should help me going forward." - Recent #Habs Adam Engström on why he left Djurgården.— Patrik Bexell (@Zeb_Habs) July 8, 2022
In a conversation with EOTP’s Patrik Bexell following his selection, Engström listed his physical play as a major area of focus for next season, but also wants to improve his shot to be a more dangerous offensive player. It doesn’t seem to be so much the shot itself that is the issue; it’s quite powerful from distance, as evidenced by his eight goals. The weakness is that he doesn’t get into the best places to use that shot, so improving his offence from set offensive-zone presences will be more about his feet than his hands, which brothers Cam and Chris Abbott will be sure to communicate to their new player. That said, bulking up will increase the power of his shot, and that’s something he’ll be doing in the off-season.
Engström’s best projection is more as a dependable defensive player at this point, one who keeps the puck from getting to forwards near the net or who ties up an attacker’s hands if it does. There is value in that type of play, but there’s a lot more value in a player who can add a physical element to be proactive rather than reactive is defensive duties. He doesn’t have to be a bone-crushing hitter or flirt with cross-checking calls every shift, but being able to clamp down a cycle in the corners will be a key addition to his defensive repertoire.
The stock rises significantly higher if he adds to his offensive play at the other end, becoming a three-zone player. That was the dream from the Canadiens’ front office that earned Engström a pick among the top 100 selections of the draft, and one he is committed to making a reality.