NHL Draft 2013: Meet Robert Hagg, the Flyers' second-round pick

Bruce Bennett

Let's meet the other key defenseman from the Flyers' 2013 draft, a young Swede named Robert Hagg.

On Monday, we pulled together a series of opinions and scouting reports on the Flyers' first-round draft pick, Samuel Morin. Today, let's do the same with their second-round pick, Swedish defenseman Robert Hagg. Pretty similar stuff.

Hagg, who turned 18 in February, checks in at 6'2" and 203 pounds (I've seen some slight disagreement on that weight number, but that's the one I've seen the most). In J20 Superelit, Sweden's top junior league, he put up 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 28 games in 2012-13, which was good for sixth overall in scoring among the league's defensemen and second in points per game. According to Hockey's Future, he was named the league's top defenseman for the season.

He then moved up to a limited role with the team's SHL club, averaging 7:46 of ice time per game while putting up only one point in 27 games. He'll get a more significant look on-ice for the SHL squad next year.

Bob McKenzie of TSN -- the most accurate draft prognosticator out there, and one who apparently had his best year ever in predicting players' draft slots -- placed him at No. 27 overall in his rankings. TSN's Craig Button had him at 48, with the following report:

Robert is a player who shows at times all of the attributes of top defencemen. Has very good skating ability with quickness, agility and power and he's able to use it to his advantage. Good puck play and has a good shot. Good awareness and is a player who can play in all areas of the game. Is capable of being dominant at times and as he develops his game, could find himself in a top pairing and playing in multiple important situations during the game.

At Hockey Prospectus, Corey Pronman put him all the way up at No. 21 on his big board, with these notes:

Hagg is a really gifted defenseman who progressed as the season went on, going from the junior league to playing in the SEL although his performance was up and down throughout the campaign. Hagg has a real easiness to his game. He is a high-end skater, possessing an effortless stride and quick acceleration. He appears to glide when he is on the ice, with a high amount of offensive ability. He makes quality rushes, and he displays great puck movement in every zone. He is not a flashy puck handler, but he has good subtle hands, with the ability to make open ice maneuvers. He has a big shot from the point, and several NHL sources indicate that he frequently relies on that asset. Scouts are divided on Hagg's defensive play. One thinks it is his best asset, while another calls him a very well-rounded player, and yet others say his defense needs work. From my assessment, I do not think he is an exceptional defensive player. He is quality in his own end, but he does make the odd bad decision here and there. Still, there is a lot to like about Hagg. He has a great hockey brain, mobility, and solid physicality.

Here's International Scouting Services' preview of him. Their comparable was John Carlson, which is nice if also a bit optimistic:

The stereotypical big and mobile Swedish defender of this draft, Hagg is already very good but still shows a lot of need for technical development. This is something that works more in his favor than against him, but he does fall under the category of a project pick. He can be a very explosive skater, he is poised and confident around the puck and loves to rush up ice with it. He moves the puck effectively and can be very dangerous from the point with his shot. Hagg continues to develop well but will require 3-4 more years of technical development before a true read on just how good he can be will be clear.

From Hockey's Future:

Hagg is generally sound in most aspects of the game, but doesn't yet seem to have any dominant traits nor has been able to be consistent in his effort. He keeps things simple, but can sometimes miss assignments in his own zone and won't be found making breathtaking rushes with the puck on too many occasions. Hagg can play the point on the PP, but doesn't stick out as an offensive dynamo or as a dangler of sorts. Sound first breakout pass. Has a bit of a choppy stride moving forward. Knees are usually bent while his shoulders are parallel to the ice and his back is extremely straight, all combining to give him a stiff appearance. A more quiet type who played at the U18, U20 and for MoDo of the SEL this past season. Has a great frame, is not shy of the rough stuff, and looks like he can be molded into a punishing defender, if a team is so inclined. Doesn't back down from challenges and carries himself as if he's unimpressed with the opposition.

And Elite Prospects:

A very all-round two-way defenseman. Hägg is capable of playing a pure defensive role, logging big minutes on the penalty kill, as well as contributing offensively and being valuable in power play situations. Furthermore, Hägg has good size and strength, very good vision, a heavy release and is also a mobile defenseman. Some consistency issues, although Hägg usually makes smarter plays while playing in the big league, rather than in the juniors. Lots of potential.

Copper and Blue's comparables of him were pretty interesting. When you look at the group of players with similar scoring profiles at J20, you see a bunch of flameouts, a few current prospects ... and then Erik Karlsson:

It's a pretty interesting list because of how varied the draft position is for these players. Two of the oldest players didn't get drafted at all, but three (four if we end up including Hagg) were drafted in the first round. The results are pretty consistently ugly with one gargantuan exception. The only player on this list with more than ten career NHL games is Erik Karlsson... who won the Norris Trophy. For some of these players, there's still time to develop into NHL players (Adam Almqvist, for example, had a fine AHL season with Grand Rapids), but for many others, there probably isn't.

For a player with this statistical profile, I'd want to see a strong scouting consensus of quality to have confidence in his ability to become an NHL player. In Hagg's case, that consensus isn't there, and I expect that if I profile enough players before the draft, Hagg will fall out of the top thirty entirely on my list.

(Hagg ended up dropping to No. 30 on Reynolds' final list, thanks in no small part to his inconsistency as well as, like Reynolds says, the fact that analysts and scouts were fairly split on him.)

From Defending Big D's Euro prospect previews:

Hagg is your typical smooth skating, cerebral, two way defenseman. He has an excellent shot and skating to match. He has all the tools to be a very good defenseman, there are questions over whether mental lapses suggest he doesn't have the attitude to reach that ceiling. He'll go late in the first round but could be an excellent pick, if not a risky one.

And Jackets Cannon's profile of him:

He combines decent size with great skating ability, and he can get moving on a breakout quickly. He's solid with the puck, though he doesn't wow you with his abilities; he's not a liability at all, either. He has a good shot, but there are some questions and disagreements about his overall defensive ability. The overall consensus would be that he has the potential to be a solid all-around defenseman.

Lastly, here's his highlight video from the U20 Championships last winter:

So here's what people seem to agree on:

  • He skates very well
  • He has a very good shot.
  • He's at least somewhat capable on both sides of the ice.
  • He's farther along offensively than he is defensively, and is pretty good offensively.
  • He has consistency issues. (Hagg himself even said this in his interview on Sunday.)

And what people don't seem to agree on:

  • How talented he is defensively/in his own end of the ice.
  • His adeptness offensively -- i.e. his capability/willingness to lead a rush up-ice.
  • How good he is with the puck on his stick.

Like with Morin, all reports are he'll need some additional time away from the NHL to develop his game. But he's another one where you can see that he's got fixable flaws and that there is a lot of potential upside. How he looks next year in the SHL will be huge.

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