Hartnett: Rangers prospect Nils Lundkvist showing promise in Swedish Hockey League

By WFAN Sports Radio 101.9 FM/66AM New York

Rangers prospect Nils Lundkvist is adding to the belief that a promising NHL career is ahead of him. The 20-year-old defenseman has opened the 2020-21 Swedish Hockey League season with five goals and four assists through 16 games.

Lundkvist excels at generating offense through his excellent mobility and sharp playmaking abilities. He’s supremely confident with the puck on his stick and consistently generates high shot totals. His contributions have helped Lulea to a fourth-place SHL standing.

Most recently, he recorded seven shots in a 5-1 defeat to HV71 on Tuesday. One game earlier against Farjestad, Lundkvist set a career high with two goals while registering seven shots on goal in Lulea’s 4-1 victory.

Having been selected 28th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft, the Rangers have high hopes for the talented right-handed defenseman. The decision to select Lundkvist in the late first round was justified by a 31-point output in 45 games during the 2019-20 season.

It’s fair to say that if other organizations had recognized Lundkvist’s growth potential, he would have been selected earlier in the opening round. So, the Rangers’ European scouting department and front office deserve high marks for their confidence to select Lundkvist, and for their keen assessment of his ability and potential.

Perhaps, some teams were concerned about his size, as he’s 5-foot-11 and a shade over 170 pounds – but anyone who has studied Lundkvist knows of his superb ability to skate the puck away from danger, and he competes hard when he’s not possessing the puck. Defensemen who thrive in the modern NHL are often quick on their skates, move the puck with aplomb, and play with a high IQ. He fits that prototype.

Though he’s not going to come over to the NHL immediately, it’s clear that Lundkvist possesses the attributes needed to make a successful transition once he’s ready. He’s continued to build and refine his game every step of the way, from Sweden’s under-20 junior league to his current contributions for Lulea. His performance during the 2020 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships – eight points in seven games – was a sign of his ability to dominate in a best-on-best tournament of his age group.

At some point, Lundkvist will be called up to the Rangers, and he’ll be prepared to make good on the belief that he will become a mainstay on the right side of defense.

Follow Sean Hartnett on Twitter: @HartnettHockey

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