Some players take a bit more time to shine than others. Mattias Norlinder is a second-year eligible prospect. He was passed over in the 2018 draft, but a solid season in the SuperElite U20 and HockeyAllsvenskan made him shoot up the rankings this season.
Norlinder was the U20 SuperElite MVP for his team, who won the championship where Modo beat Linköping in the final. Modo, the classic team, has brought up players such as Peter Forsberg, Marcus Näslund, and the Sedins twins.
Last year, Norlinder played 14 games with the Modo’s main team and had 6 points (2+4) with a plus 9 rating. When he played with the team, he was the second-most used defender with 19:38 TOI. Only Tobias Enström played heavier minutes (25:24).
He is a left-handed defenseman with a puck-moving upside due to his skating — which continues the theme established by Montreal with their second-round pick, Jayden Struble. Norlinder is an excellent skater and his early stride and acceleration gives him a high top speed. This is complimented by excellent lateral movement that helps him work the blue line with ease or push opposing attackers out towards the boards. His edge-work also stands out in his ability to change direction abruptly when he feels the forechecking pressure on him.
He loves to take a peak up ice, identify a breakout lane, and take the puck out of the zone.
Norlinder should be a cornerstone for Modo this season and should lead his team from the front thanks to his skating and poise.
While his stick handling is average, his passing has relatively high accuracy and he can stretch a defence with a good outlet pass to create havoc for the opposition. His shot is not the hardest but he has excellent precision.
Norlinder is casted in the regular high hockey IQ Swedish defender mould; great skating and a puck-mover’s game. However, it is his development throughout the season that made the Montreal Canadiens interested in the defender. He has shown maturity and dedication to develop, and the fact that he was ranked as high as 49th by Pronman, 50th McKeens and 51st Hockey Prospects (Black Book) makes this pick look very interesting indeed.