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2019 NHL Draft prospect profile: Simon Holmström is among the top puck-handlers

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Speed and crafty hands are the Swedish forward’s ticket to a high draft slot.

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Sweden’s offence at the Under-18 World Championship came mostly from the forwards eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft: Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond. They will be among the very top players picked in next year’s selection due to their amazing tools and offensive minds. But a good supporting performance out of Simon Holmström also helped lead Sweden to their gold medal.

Birthplace: Tranås, SWE
Shoots: Left
Position: Wing
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 185 lbs.
Team: HV71

Holmström possesses a strong offensive kit, which allowed him to be an impact offensive player for both the Swedish National Junior Team and the Under-20 squad of HV71.

He missed the beginning of the season due to hip surgery, and that forced him to start his draft year without a solid off-season preparation, yet he still managed close to a point per game in the J20 league, distinguishing himself as one of the more interesting forwards available in the draft class.

EliteProspects

The first element that stands out with Holmström is his skating ability. Even if he doesn’t have the top speed of some of the other top prospects, he has enough of it to beat some defenders in the wide lane to cut to the net from the bottom of the circles.

His agility is a major piece of his offensive game. he loves to open up his skates, going heel-to-heel below the goal line and on the half-wall to look at his passing options. He can change direction quite abruptly off the rush to gain the offensive zone for his team, which he often does successfully as he is one of the best puck-handlers in the draft.

He is consistently able to make defenders miss, and shows that he is as comfortable pulling off moves either at maximum reach or very close to his body, and doing so with some speed. He actively challenges the defence, and his superior hands allow him to turn to face his options on the wall and avoid pokechecks in situations where other skaters would simply present their back to protect possession.

Simon Holmström wears #20 with HV71 J20 and #25 with the Swedish National Team

This ability helps him set up teammates — what he likes to do on the offence first and foremost. He knows how to thread the puck around or through the opposing defence, extending his stick to slide a pass behind a defender’s back or aiming through sticks and skates to reach friendly targets in the slot.

But the winger also occasionally shows that he possesses a dangerous shot. This sequence at the World Junior Championship is a testament to it.

The winger found a hole in the coverage of Yaroslav Askararov — arguably the best goalie at the tournament despite being the youngest — and beat him with a well-placed wrister glove-side.

Here is another sequence at the same tournament that showcases a lot of Holmström’s playstyle: his handling skills, his skating, how he likes to drive below the goal line to find passing targets above the goal line, and his scoring ability at the end.

There is even a glimpse of Holmström’s occasional penchant for physical play. In puck races, the Swedish winger will sometimes lay hits to make sure he is the one taking away the prized puck first. At 6’1” and 185 pounds, he had the advantage of size over many of his counterparts in his draft year.

Rankings (not all rankings are final)

EliteProspects: #49
Future Considerations: #26
McKeen’s Hockey: #14
McKenzie/TSN: #50
NHL Central Scouting: #27 (EU skaters)

The rankings for the forward places him as a likely second-rounder at the 2019 Draft. Due to his injuries, scouts had to evaluate him over a smaller sample size, and it likely played a part in the discrepancies between the different services — some fell in love with the display of skills, while other remained more conservative.

While Hölmstrom generates his share of offence and has an interesting toolkit, he doesn’t combine those tools with as much of a deceptive act to manipulate the defence and open more dangerous plays, unlike the top-ranked forwards in this draft. Right now, he relies a lot on the speed of his hands and his skating to beat the opposition.

NHL teams looking at the prospect will have to project if he is going to evolve to include the more high-level offensive abilities more consistently, which will allow him to make better use of his skills against professionals.