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NHL Draft 2020, taking a closer look at: Zion Nybeck

The Swedish winger had a great U20 season, and played a handful of games in the SHL.

Stanley Cup of Chowder

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Hendrix Lapierre, Lukas Reichel, Sam Colangelo, Jacob Perreault, Justin Barron, Jeremie Poirier, Anton Lundell, John-Jason Peterka, Dylan Holloway, Ozzy Wiesblatt, Ridly Greig

After three straight North American skaters, today we venture back to Europe to take a look at a prospect I was once very high on:

That wasn’t all too long ago, though I will say that I’m higher on other players more so than Nybeck at the moment. I think this is mainly due to other prospects impressing me more, rather than Nybeck failing to live up to expectations. As I mentioned at the top of the article, Nybeck had a killer junior season in Sweden, and did well enough to earn himself time in the SHL, Sweden’s top senior league. However, that success didn’t quite translate to the SHL unfortunately.

Nybeck has a very impressive toolkit, and it’s clear watching him play that he is every bit as gifted as the players above him in the most popular draft boards. However, in the traditional mould of thinking, scouts have knocked him for his small stature (5’8”, 176 lbs) due to the absence of top end speed in his game. He also isn’t the best defensively, but when you watch his play in the offensive zone, it’s clear to see a path to greatness for him. It’s safe to say he splits opinion.

Let’s dive in:

What do the stats say?

Zion Nybeck split his time between three levels across Swedish hockey in 2019-20, all for HV71. At the U18 level (he is a May 2002 birthday so this was his age 17 season). in just four games he compiled 10 points. He then played the majority of his time at the U20 level, playing 42 games and scoring 66 points (27 goals). Lastly, in the SHL, he played 15 games and scored just one point, which was a goal.

Nybeck also featured for Sweden at the Hlinka-Gretzky cup, and had a pretty good tournament, scoring four points in five games as an alternate captain for his country.

For a player who so easily dominated in juniors, you would think that this would translate better for Nybeck in the SHL. However, it should be known that the SHL is a better league than the DEL and Liiga of Finland, so it would be harder for Nybeck. However, regardless, just a single point in 15 games is quite a poor showing, and it certainly didn’t help his draft stock.

The Eye Test

The first thing you notice about Nybeck are his dangles. He is easily up there in that regard with the top 10-15 picks in the draft in terms of his ability to turn defenders inside out. His hands are so quick and he’s able to very quickly read what defenders are doing, allowing him to make them look foolish. He is very good at going “inside-out” on defensemen skating backwards, and his unpredictability makes him very difficult to contain when he gets going.

Nybeck can create off of the perimeter since he sees the ice very well, however, I would say he is more of a goalscorer. He doesn’t have an “A” grade shot, but he shoots well enough from below the circles to score often. Again, his puck skills and stickhandling allow him to work past defenders to get to the areas of the ice where he can be dangerous with his shot, so you aren’t looking at a pure sniper here. However, regardless, he is lethal offensively.

Nybeck’s skating is also a plus for his game, though he isn’t a burner by any definition. He has a good stride and can get going with relative speed up through the neutral zone, but he isn’t going to set any records in how quick he gets there. This doesn’t mean he’s a clunky skater, however. He is fairly elusive, and that combined with his hands and dangles leads to his very high grading offensively. However, because he is such a small player, many are left disappointed by his average speed.

Nybeck has also been knocked for his play style. He tries his best to be defensively responsible, but that isn’t his game and he doesn’t use his physicality on the ice near at all. This is more what worries me about Nybeck. I don’t need him to be a physical forward, but I worry he could get hurt at the NHL level quite often unless he adds something to his game to bulk him up, improve his speed, or add a hidden element to his game that we haven’t seen before.

To reiterate my point from the opening, I don’t actively dislike Zion Nybeck. However, other prospects have improved more than he has, and have jumped out at me more. If the Flyers don’t move from their 25th spot in the first round, I wouldn’t want them to take Nybeck with that pick anymore. However, in the second round, I would be more than happy with the selection. As Charlie said in the tweet I responded to, the Flyers scout very heavily in Sweden and like to draft from the country, so I’m all but certain they’ve had more than a cursory glance at Nybeck. If they do take him, clearly they see something, and with the way recent picks such as Joel Farabee and Morgan Frost have looked, I don’t doubt the Flyers with their drafting.