Readers of Eyes On The Prize were first introduced to Nils Höglander in January of 2017 when he scored his first professional goal with AIK in HockeyAllsvenskan. When AIK didn’t qualify for the SHL, Höglander made a move to the bold and upcoming Rögle team where head coach Cam Abbott is building a true challenger in the SHL.
Höglander became an integral part of the team that made the playoffs for the first time since 1994. He played 50 games, scoring 14 points (7G, 7A) and had a Corsi-for percentage of 47.5% (-2.2% relative to his team) while averaging 12:46 of ice time.
And he obviously won the goal of the year in the SHL thanks to this lacrosse goal:
Nils Höglander, a personal favourite of mine, with a lacrosse goal. #2019NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/LGEzbYPqAa— Patrik Bexell (@Zeb_Habs) January 23, 2019
Höglander is a speedy winger with great work ethic and fantastic skating. His top speed and acceleration are among the best of the draft class. His agility and edge-work help him separate from defenders and turn in sharply toward the net. He used his speed, and especially his acceleration in his first two steps, to great effect this season. Due to his skating and balance, he protects the puck well, and this is enhanced by his lower-body strength.
Birthplace: Bockträsk, Sweden
Date of birth: December 20, 2000
Weight: 185 lbs.
Team: Rögle BK
He has quick and soft hands which allow him to make highlight-reel plays. He could have had a few more goals if he had scored on even 50% of his breakaways. When he has had time to work, Höglander has showcased his talents, but he was put under pressure this season and missed some great opportunities, showing his youth and inexperience.
.... which he nets perfectly! #2019NHLDraft Nils Höglander. pic.twitter.com/5yacox7pee— Patrik Bexell (@Zeb_Habs) January 31, 2019
While he was cut from the Swedish U20 Team, he came back stronger upon his return to the SHL after what must have been a huge disappointment. He displayed that he is mentally tough and can handle adversity.
What Höglander lacks in size he makes up for in sheer determination and work ethic, and has drawn comparisons — as smaller hard-working players generally do — to Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher. Despite that comparison it has to be stated that Höglander is more of a goal-scorer whereas Gallagher is a more complete player. He isn’t bad in the defensive zone for his age, but he definitely needs to improve.
For obvious reasons, Höglander struggles against bigger opponents. He needs to fill out to really bring the game to his opponents in all areas. That will also benefit his shot, which is already great from within the dots, but he needs more power to be able to shoot from farther out as he has the precision and skill to be able to get a good shot from afar.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Dobber Prospects: #23
Elite Prospects: #18
Future Considerations: #29
Hockey Prospect: #25
NHL Central Scouting: #11 (EU Skaters)
Pronman/The Athletic: #18
Höglander has top-six upside, and many teams are aware of his progress in the SHL this season. There have been countless NHL representatives in the stands in Ängelholm, and the winger is projected to go somewhere toward the tail end of the first round. His fighting spirit, goal-scoring ability, and speed makes him an intriguing prospect for any club.
He would need to develop domestically in Sweden for another season or two before he is ready for the North American game. He needs to fill out partly to stand up to bigger players at a pro level but also in order to improve his shot. The problem here will be to fill up in the right way in order to not harm his fantastic skating ability.
Rögle’s coach Cam Abbott heaps praise on Höglander. “His speed is great, he controls the puck well, and his maturity speaks well of him. Many players would have come back broken after having been among the last cuts in the WJC. Nils came back and wanted to prove that [Tomas] Montén had gotten the selection wrong.”
After having started the season slow, Höglander picked up his pace in the SHL. While he is already a known name among fans in Sweden, North American fans should be readying themselves to be taken by storm by the Northern Swedish speedster next season no matter where he plays.