In this year's edition of the Top 25 under 25, Magnus Nygren reaches his highest ranking in the feature, at 12th overall. With this being the final year he is eligible for the project and the potential roadblocks to him gaining a permanent NHL spot, this may be as far as he ever gets as a prominent name to talk about when discussing the future of the organization's roster.
Nygren comes more as less as he is advertised. He is an offence-first defencemen who put up very strong numbers in the Swedish Hockey League this year, which came after he bolted from the AHL to escape the clutches of Sylvain Lefebvre and the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Nygren's scoring levels in the SHL over the past two years have been remarkable. He led the league in goals for a defencemen in 2012-13 with 13 in 51 games. Nygren then scored an impressive 12 goals in 25 games upon his return to the league at the halfway mark in the 2013-14 season.
Nygren's status in the Top 25 this year was not an overly divisive topic. No one ranked him above 15 and only two voters considered him a Top-8 player in the system. Therefore he advanced three spots from last year's position, thanks to a much more uniform ranking.
What is worth noting is the contrast from the 2013 rankings where some voters held him outside of the Top 25. I felt his skills package held him within the top-10 as even though he has some defensive issues, he has enough skill and offensive prowess to become a valued member of the organization.
His defining offensive attribute is his heavy shot. Nygren's slap shot set the record at the AHL All-Star game earlier this year when he represented Farjestads BK versus the AHL All-Stars. His launched an obscene 104.6MPH slap shot in the skills competition element of the meeting. It is not hard to see why he's been so dangerous in the Swedish league for the past couple of years, especially when he's rifling shots at a velocity that many NHL players cannot match.
Nygren is not an overly impressive skater, but he is capable in that department and has enough mobility to keep up with a developing play. His hockey sense is well-rated, as it does seem to give a very good instinct of when to shoot though. The key will be seeing how he adapts to the NHL, where the faster speed of play is more likely to key in on him if he becomes too much of a one-trick pony on the point.
He is also not an overly aggressive physical defenceman, but he has enough size and strength to engage as necessary in physical play and he does not seem to be intimidated by it when it comes his way. However without being tested against NHL competition, his true effectiveness has yet to be appreciated.
It is not often you talk about a Swedish defenceman with unremarkable defensive play, but Nygren is never going to be rated as a defensive stalwart. This really hurts his chances of ever being a potential Top-4 defencemen on a good team, or even holding a spot down as coaches conservatively tend to value defensive awareness over offensive skill, no matter how far the offensive skill is ahead of the defensive prowess.
He has definitely improved his defensive coverage over the past two years, but probably not to the point where you'd feel secure skating him in tough minutes. He's likely much more of a powerplay specialist than an all-situation player.
Given his limited defensive value but his high offensive value, you can read Nygren as an offensive specialist, perhaps ideally deployed like Torey Krug is in Boston, taking as many offensive zone starts as possible versus weaker opposition to exploit his talents. Nygren's talents make him a third-pairing/powerplay specialist and he should be considered as such. However, when the objective of the game is to score goals, Nygren is far more capable than a 'defensive specialist' who lacks puck skills to effectively contribute. Due to adjustments in the organizational depth chart, it is hard to find a place for the right-handed Nygren going into the 2014-15 season.
While Nygren has displayed good puck skills, it is an ill-advised move to put someone who is essentially a rookie on North-American ice on their off side. Due to the unlikelihood of a veteran being scratched to give Nygren a shot on his natural side, things aren't looking great for the young Swede. Not that it is an impossible consideration, but with the team wanting to also give chances to Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi, Nygren will have to make serious waves in training camp and the preseason to get a shot at the roster this year and make a name for himself.
While this is Nygren's last year in the Top 25 feature, this is also likely his last year with the Canadiens as well if he doesn't distinguish himself.