Upon the completion of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, The Rink will take a look at the players chosen by the Chicago Blackhawks on day two of the draft.
Next is the Blackhawks’ second third round choice, right wing Niklas Nordgren.
2017–18 Team: HIFK Jr. (Finland)
Date of Birth: May 4, 2000
Place of Birth: Helsinki, Finland
Weight: 169 lbs
NHL Central Scouting Final Ranking: 21 (European Skaters)
NHL Central Scouting Midterm Ranking: 19 (European Skaters)
NHL Comparable: Alex DeBrincat
Niklas Nordgren is a high-end offensive right wing from Finland playing for the HIFK Junior team. Nordgren dominated at the junior level and impressed in limited Champions Hockey League action with the main HIFK squad, marking four goals and two assists in two games. Nordgren was also excellent for Finland in the U-18 World Junior Championship, tallying eight goals and two assists in 10 tournament games en route to a gold medal.
Nordgren boasts a top-notch shot with a fantastic release. He has the ability to change the appearance of his release, which throws off goaltenders. While his wrist shot is definitely his main weapon, his snapshot, slap shot, one-timer and backhand are all good as well. He is a threat to score with all of them.
While having a high-end shot, Nordgren is a good playmaker as well. He has good hands and vision, which allow him to be a very good passer. Nordgren is able to locate his teammates and get the puck to them. He has surgeon-like ability to thread slick passes through tight gaps. Nordgren’s patience with the puck allows him to create space as plays develop, which he can either turn into a scoring chance for himself or distribute the puck to his teammates.
Nordgren is a very reliable player defensively. He regularly kills penalties because of his hockey sense and ability to break up passing lanes with his stick. He supports his defenders well and does not mind coming deep into his zone to do so. He takes pride in playing sound defense and clearly works hard defensively, as he is a good backchecker.
The big knock on Nordgren is his skating. He does not have top-end speed and lacks good acceleration. Improving his skating is paramount for him to become an NHL player.
Implications for the Blackhawks
Nordgren seems to be a high-risk, high-reward type of player. He has loads of offensive skill, enough to potentially contribute in the Hawks’ top six. But, if he cannot drastically improve his skating, he will not get to that level. He has a similar high-end offensive game as Alex DeBrincat, but does not skate as well as DeBrincat. Nordgren could prove to be a fantastic pickup for the Blackhawks if he can get his skating up to par.
Nordgren will definitely need at least a couple of years before having a shot at coming to the NHL. He needs to add muscle, as he has a very small frame at just 5’9” and 169 pounds. But again, the skating ability is the big issue. Playing in the top Finnish league should help get him to a workable level.
Nordgren oozes the offensive ability needed to be a top-six winger in the NHL, but his skating very well could keep him from getting there. He is very much a boom-or-bust type of pick, as he will either pay big dividends or will not contribute at the NHL level at all. Time will tell.
What others are saying
“Nordgren has a ton of offensive skill. He has an excellent wrist shot, with a very quick release. It is both powerful and accurate. He can fool goaltenders by varying that release. Nordgren also has a good snapshot and strong one-timer. He can even score with his backhand. Nordgren has good hockey sense. He finds soft spots in the defence, getting himself open for scoring opportunities. Despite his size, Nordgren is willing to go to the net. When he gets there, he is able to get deflections and can score on rebounds.”
— Ben Kerr/Last Word on Hockey
“Niklas Nordgren had a great start to his professional career when he scored three goals on his professional debut in a Champions Hockey League game. He hasn’t had the same kind of success in Liiga but his offensive production in the Finnish junior league has been amazing. Nordgren is a very talented offensive winger who works hard and understands his defensive responsibilities so that he’s not a liability defensively. He seems to be more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer but also has an excellent wrist shot.”
— Jokke Nevalainen/Dobber Prospects