As the 2020 NHL Draft approaches, there are more interesting players to talk about. No matter how you categorize a draft, whether you say it’s deep or not that deep or 45 players deep, there are always players who might show great improvement in the future, and Zion Nybeck may be one of those players.
Smaller wingers can now make it in the NHL and be productive offensively. That’s not an issue. At 5-8, 176 pounds, he’s already got a sturdy frame that comes in handy when he plays against men in the SHL. His teammate, Emil Andrae, is an NHL hopeful as well. Andrae is a 5-9, 175-pound defenseman who has a lot of offensive ability. Both players recently signed contracts through 2023, but there’s probably a way out of them if their NHL teams desire them earlier.
SHL teams are loaded with veterans and sprinkled with younger players like these two. At 18, it’s hard to expect huge numbers when their ice time and opportunity are usually limited, but the experience is great, and teams letting their players develop there haven’t been upset about the results for the most part. A good example would be Oskar Lindblom. When he was 20, he played in some games for the Flyers AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley. That’s the best-case scenario but waiting on players with talent is no different than having college prospects who are committed for 3-4 years.
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I think both players go somewhere in the second round of the draft. Every team in the league can use good puck-moving NHL defensemen who have offensive upside. The fact that Andrae is on the small side will limit the teams willing to take the gamble. I can see Detroit going in on Andrae. With three picks in the second round, they can play the board. So far this season, the prospect has a point in three games with HV71. He’s expected to have a good season, and we’ll see how many points he can put up. Andrae has excellent stick and puck control, terrific vision, and a great wrist shot. As you would hope, he’s a solid power play quarterback as well.
I can see Ottawa or Montreal (they both have a trio of picks in the second round) going for Nybeck. Both teams have a decent stable of young players, and they don’t seem to mind having players in faraway places. Nybeck is going to need some time. His shot and vision are really good already, and he is dangerous around the net. If he can get a bit stronger that could continue at the next level.
“I think my best spot is around the net. I’m good at finding an open spot and where the puck will go,” said Nybeck.
Some players just know where the puck is going to end up. They have a built-in sense for it. You can’t teach that, and that’s one reason, he’s been able to continue up the ladder and play against men at a young age. That’s one of his gifts. He worked over the past few months at getting faster and has been eager to show that off. Nybeck is scoreless in his first three games, but he doesn’t get power-play time, and he doesn’t get as much opportunity as many of the veterans do.
Let’s see what happens to these teammates. Maybe both get selected together by one of the teams with three selections. That would be interesting and fun, and it would make life easier for those teams’ European scout. It’s easy to say a draft isn’t as deep as last year or pick a year. When there are players like this that will take some time to develop, but if they do can be effective NHLers, that’s when that narrative gets exploited. The draft is a waiting game but many times the criticism is too immediate.