Niklas Nordgren tore up the U20 junior leagues over the last two years and was able to get a cup of coffee at the Liiga level this season. He posted some really encouraging numbers in terms of goals for and rates very well with pGPS expected success rates.
He also tore up international tournaments this season culminating with an eight-goal performance at the U18 World Junior Championships this past April.
Nordgren is a small but extremely skilled winger who has some things to work out about his game. But there is so much to like about his game that you can be patient with him.
Given that high skill level, Nordgren lands in the 47th slot of the CanucksArmy 2018 NHL Entry Draft Rankings.
- Age/Birthdate: 17.37/ May 4, 2000
- Birthplace: Helsinki, FIN
- Frame:5-foot-9/ 170 lbs
- Position: Right Wing
- Handedness: Right
- Draft Year Team: HIFK(Liiga)
- U16 Pohjola Camp Roster (HIFK)
- Jr. A SM-liiga Bronze Medal (HIFK)
- Jr. B SM-sarja Champion
- U18 WJC All-Star Team
- U18 WJC Gold Medal
- U18 WJC Most Goals (8)
- U18 WJC Top 3 Player on Team
Nordgren appeared in regular season games for HIFK in the U20 league and then the Liiga. He also played in 5 playoff games for the U18 team, where he posted 13 points and appeared for the U20 team in their playoffs, where he had 10 points in 10 games.
He had four goals and two assists in two games for HIFK in Champions Hockey League play.
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Adjusted Scoring (SEAL)
As we can see above, there are limited graphs available as there isn’t a reasonable pool of players to take from the Liiga junior leagues that are the same size as Nordgren – thus hard to compare against those peers. Given that he only appeared in 15 Liiga games this season, and again because of his size, hard to create a balanced visualization. There are some raw data points that stand out though.
First and foremost, 54% of Nordgren’s cohorts went onto becoming NHL regulars with an output of 57.4 points per 82 games played. That is an extremely high success and production rate but is a bit skewed as it’s based on such a small sample size and lack of peer group.
His GF% and GFREL% were through the roof and there is some takeaway from that as it suggests that Nordgren was dominant on the ice in terms of goals in totality and compared to his peers. His offensive numbers in the U20 league during the regular season and playoffs are really good and his U18 playoff, where he had 13 points in 5 games, is a bit silly.
Nordgren is a really skilled puck handler and possesses a fantastic wrist shot that is deceptive in release and quick in velocity. His stat line for the U20 Liiga suggests he is a playmaker but all other league and tournament play indicate he is a goal scorer. In my opinion, he is just a well round offensive player who can adapt his game to the situation and create in a multitude of ways. The puck just seems to gravitate towards him.
He is a hard worker who will out hustle his opponents in all three zone but his skating isn’t very quick. Generally, players of his size have quick feet with good acceleration but I’ve found him to be a bit heavy on his feet and then lacks the strength to create speed through those strides. He is strong on his feet though when looking at controlling and protecting the puck. His low centre of gravity aids him in this area as he is able to keep himself over the puck well.
Nordgren is really smart on the ice with his movements that he puts himself in situations where those skating concerns aren’t an issue but it will need to improve for him to have a shot at a productive NHL career.
As we can see from the rankings below, having him ranked where we do is slightly ahead of consensus. But his small sample size of data in the Liiga produced some really tantalizing information. His international play was really good, and you don’t want recency bias to overpower, but he was good throughout the entire year against his peers.
Nordgren has an obvious flaw in his game but he seems to make it work. If he can improve his skating, then his overpowering offensive game makes him a home run selection.
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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. Nordgren has very soft hands and great vision but the one thing holding him back is skating which is especially worrisome for a small player like him. If he can improve his skating or find other ways to produce offensively at higher levels, he could be a gamble that pays off big time in fantasy hockey leagues.