One of the Vancouver Canucks’ tactics from the 2021 NHL Entry Draft was to use their late-round picks on Swedish J20 players. They went for these players as the league was shut down just 20 or so games into the year, this meant that the draft-eligible Swedes had to find another place to play to showcase their talents.
Some found time in the SHL or HockeyEttan leagues but others were going to have to rely on their 20ish games in the J20 league to help raise their draft stock. This resulted in many Swedish players falling in the draft and the Canucks found one of those fallers in left winger Lucas Forsell.
Forsell is a dynamic offensive winger who has a high compete level and is known for his playmaking abilities. His season saw him spend most of the season with the J20 team but he had supreme success as he scored six goals and added four assists in only four J18 games. His crowning performance from his draft-eligible season came when he had five primary assists in one game for Färjestad BK’s J20 team.
Canucks Director of Amateur Scouting Todd Harvey was pleased to see that Forsell fell to the Canucks in the seventh round. He spoke on the kid having to put on some weight as he is currently just 165 pounds.
“Obviously, he’s not the biggest guy right now but we like his compete level,” said Harvey. “Forsell has some really good skill, and obviously it was a tough year for him this year with starting to play [in the J20 league] and then getting shut down. The sample size was smaller on him, but we thought as a group, that it was going to be worth the pick. Now, he needs to fill out, but he’s stronger than he looks and he’s got some really good potential there.”
It’s true that Forsell will need to put on weight before he can come to North America to play but we are years away from that as he is still just 17 years old. The cutoff for draft-eligible players in the 2021 draft was a birthdate of September 15th, 2003 and Forsell was born on September 5th, 2003. He was 10 days away from being a highly ranked player at the 2022 draft. Forsell was the fifth-youngest player to play in the SHL this season and he impressed, even if he only got 3:33 of ice time in his one SHL appearance.
His high energy and agility were enough for him to get an invite to SHL camp this fall and while his goal is to make the team, he will also accept if he has to go back to the J20 league where he will put every team on notice with his high offensive skill.
Let’s get into some of those skills and evaluate what we like about his offensive potential. We broke down the tape on all 22 of his games this season and in most clips, you will see Forsell wearing number 92 in the J20 league, 18 in the SHL, or 14 when he is playing for Sweden’s U18 team.
The first positive that needs to be talked about is Forsell’s playmaking ability.
In tight spaces, Forsell does an amazing job threading the needle to his teammates on passes through traffic. Almost all of his passes are tape-to-tape seeds that find his linemates in stride and one of the most impressive parts of his passing is how good he is at finding the blade of the stick as his teammates are in tight while crashing the crease.
He uses his good hands to find space to make good passes and can make every pass at full speed.
The consistency in his passing is what I believe is a big reason why the Canucks drafted him. It’s not just in the offensive zone but Forsell also does a great job being the low winger on breakouts and constantly finds the deepest forward with a great neutral zone pass to set up breakaways and odd-man rushes.
Puckhandling with Pace
When playing in the J20 league, Forsell was often used as the swinging forward who comes around the net to take the puck from his defenceman and begin rushes that quickly turn into scoring chances.
He is not the fastest player in the league but there’s something about how he finds open space that gives him an advantage when carrying the puck. He not only does this when coming from the defensive zone to the neutral zone but his spatial awareness is a beautiful habit that he brings to all parts of the ice.
Forsell does an excellent job finding open ice in the offensive zone and it forces defenders to panic and aggressively come at him, this is when Forsell is at his best as he is able to use his playmaking ability to quickly find the open man and notch up another primary assist.
His shot didn’t result in many J20 goals this season but he is not shy to fire the puck. When on the power play, he was primarily used on the left half-wall and used his shot to draw defenders in to open up passing lanes for him to find better shooting lanes for his teammates.
Out of all of his offensive skills, his shooting is likely his weakest trait. Forsell did a good job of getting one-timers off but most were lacking speed and adding muscle and weight in the future will hopefully help him get more pace on his shot as the mechanics on his shots look good. The hope is that once he puts on some more muscle, both his slap shot and wrist shot will increase in velocity. Currently, there is more to be desired when it comes to him being a pure goal scorer. He needs to work on his shot a lot in the next two years.
There are, however, some nice flashes of potential for him to be a goal scorer.
He was able to score four goals in 13 J20 games after scoring six goals in four J18 games in which his speed and puck-handling ability gave him a ton of quality scoring chances that he capitalized on.
Here’s a clip of him breaking in during a J20 game and burying the puck over the goalie’s shoulder.
Forsell’s scoring doesn’t come from his pure shooting ability, it’s more about the areas on the ice that he goes to that should excite Canucks fans. He possesses excellent offensive instincts and that mostly shows during his playmaking but helps him get quality scoring chances for himself when he gets to open ice in the offensive zone.
He thinks the game at a very high level and that is clear to see on a shift-by-shift basis. It’s not about the next pass for Forsell, it’s about the pass after the next pass. He is often a step ahead of his J18 and J20 comrades and his speedy processing of the ice will be a massive help to him as he attempts to make the jump to the SHL this season.
Aggressiveness and Effort Level
He may not have the “steal your lunch money” attitude as we saw from Nils Höglander during his time in Sweden, but Forsell does a great job having an active stick on the forecheck. Once again, I’ll bring up the way he thinks the game and how that helps him a ton. His thought process helps him immensely on the forecheck as he can anticipate where the opposition’s best options are and close those lanes off.
Here’s a clip of him forcing a turnover and chalking up another primary assist on the finish.
He rarely takes a shift off and is not shy to be physical on the boards, it’s clear that once he gets bigger and stronger he will be able to win a lot of battles in the SHL because of his willingness to bang on the boards combined with his quick stickwork.
The angles that he takes while forechecking forces the opposition to make a quick decision as he closes in to take away breakout options. This part of his game was on display during his one SHL game.
He may have only played in 3:33 of ice time but the effort level was excellent to see from the fifth-youngest player to participate in the SHL last season.
In the first half of this clip, Forsell chases a dump in and engages on the boards to jar a puck loose from the defenceman.
In the second half of the clip, he is able to get his stick on the puck along the boards and regain possession for his team through some physical play along the boards and almost draws a tripping penalty.
Obviously, these aren’t highlight-reel plays but he also had two shots on net in his one SHL game and his skating did not look out of place throughout the 3:33 that he played.
For a 17-year-old kid whose league got shut down, he performed as well about as well as he possibly could before the draft. It’s somewhat of a surprise that he was able to be picked up by the Canucks in the seventh round and I believe a big reason for that was due to the limited viewing that NHL teams had on him.
It has to be re-hashed that he was one of the youngest players in the 2021 draft and was just 10 days away from being a prospect for the 2022 draft. There are some very intriguing parts of his game that will bring him success in his hockey future. His hockey IQ and ability to make great passes in all three zones of the ice will take him far in Swedish hockey and the hope is that he can develop his shot while continuing to improve his skating so that he can be considered a legitimate NHL prospect in a couple of years.
We are a long way away from Forsell considering coming over to North America and that conversation likely doesn’t start until the 2023 or 2024 offseason.
For now, he will try his hand at making the SHL team out of camp but will report back to his J20 team with hopes of being a callup as the season goes on. Forsell’s family has connections to Vancouver as his father has work-related visits to the city and when drafted, Lucas said that he couldn’t describe the feeling, it just felt so good that Vancouver was the team to take a shot on him with their seventh-round pick.
The next step is adding size to his 6’1″, 165-pound frame and pushing to get into the SHL so he can play against men.
There’s a lot to like about this kid and he has a long runway to develop the weaker parts of his game as he continues to build on his strengths. For a late-round pick, you could do a lot worse. There’s a lot to be excited about with this kid. There’s no doubt in my mind that he would have been selected in the first three rounds of the 2022 draft if he was 10 days younger.
The next two years of development are crucial for the 17-year-old Forsell and we will be following him closely as we love the potential in this kid’s game.