We continue along into the offseason and checked in with another Canucks prospect to see how they thought their season went and what they plan to do in the offseason and future.
Today, we’re looking at 2021 sixth-round pick Hugo Gabrielson. The 6’1″ left-shot defenceman is coming off a season in which he played 40 games in the Swedish second-division Allsvenskan league.
When drafted, we liked Gabrielson’s skating, two-way play, and ability to play the right side as a left-shot defenceman. These initial strengths in Gabrielson’s game allowed him to fit right in at the Allsvenskan level as he made the jump from junior to pro hockey, but we didn’t see his offence translate to the pro ranks. Gabrielson only had three assists in 40 games this season and didn’t score a goal in his rookie season.
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“I think I had some ups and I had some downs,” Gabrielson told CanucksArmy. “I really learned about playing in a pro league this year. It was much tougher competition than in juniors but I learned so much about pro hockey and I want to take that knowledge into next season. Defending against pros got easier throughout the season. I feel like I really grew my defensive game and I felt much more confident going into the corners and battling in front of the net. Those areas are where I developed and improved this season.”
Gabrielson had a strong preseason and earned a spot on his Allsvenskan team. He scored a big overtime goal in the preseason and was one of only 12 teenagers to play 40 or more games in the Allsvenskan league.
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Gabrielson spoke about making an adjustment to a much more defensive team after being a part of Frolunda’s junior program throughout his younger years. His coach asked him to play a different style and be more of a calming presence on the backend than he has ever had to in his young hockey career.
“I felt ready for the Allsvenskan and knew that it is a very good league,” said Gabrielson. “The team I played on this year was very defensive and all my time with Frolunda, we played very offensive style. This season was definitely different but I really feel more confident in the defensive zone after this season.”
On top of his play in the Allsvenskan, Gabrielson was invited to play with Sweden’s U20 team and looked like he was trending towards being an option for them at this summer’s World Junior Championships.
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“It was a childhood dream for me to wear the Sweden jersey,” said Gabrielson. “Playing with the U20 team was really fun and it was the first time I was able to represent my country.”
Unfortunately for Gabrielson, he injured his shoulder late in the year and will miss the chance to fight for a spot on Sweden’s U20 team. Gabrielson will go for shoulder surgery this month and is expected to not be on the ice for six months. His goal is to jump into action in late November or December and play another year with Västerviks in the Allsvenskan. The shoulder surgery also means that he will not be able to participate in the Vancouver Canucks’ development camp in July.
It wasn’t a banner year for Gabrielson but he made the jump to pro hockey and earned an opportunity to showcase his talent with Sweden’s U20 team as well.
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His goals for the next year are to rehab his shoulder, jump back into Västerviks lineup, and be an impact defenceman in his second year of pro hockey. Gabrielson is still very young, as he turns 20 years old in October. His counting stats from the season definitely don’t pop off the page but he has developed his defensive game and will hope to take a step offensively this coming year.
The road for him to come to North America is still years away but we will continue to follow his progress through the Swedish ranks as he looks to have a strong sophomore season that could set him up to become an SHL defenceman for the 2023-24 season.