Nils Hoglander is getting justifiable hype for the Vancouver Canucks. The 40th-overall pick is shifty and elusive with the puck, while also playing an in-your-face game without the puck.
Hoglander was especially fun to watch at development camp, though it certainly helped that he was the highest draft pick on the camp roster: Vasili Podkolzin had to return to Russia before camp started, Olli Juolevi and Jett Woo skated separately from the main group as they recover from surgery, and Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Kole Lind weren’t required to come.
One of Hoglander’s most common companions at camp was an invitee. Adrian Elefalk was the only other player from Sweden participating in on-ice sessions at camp, and Hoglander showed at the draft that he’s still a little uncomfortable with his English. That’s completely understandable — my Swedish is non-existent — but it likely meant he was most comfortable around Elefalk.
Elefalk himself impressed at development camp with his smooth skating and quick hands; could there be something more to the young Swede that could make him a legitimate prospect?
Besides being an intriguing prospect on his own merits, Elefalk has another connection that likely played a role in him getting an invite to camp: his father was the long-time agent for the Sedins.
The Sedins were represented by Creative Artists Agency, specifically J.P. Barry and Claes Elefalk. Elefalk was their Sweden-based representative. The two also represent Loui Eriksson, along with a host of other NHL players. Also Jonathan Dahlen, but let’s move right along.
Claes Elefalk is Sweden’s most well-known hockey agent, so Adrian has had some advantages coming up in hockey, though he’s had disadvantages as well. He’s faced accusations that he’s only gotten opportunities because of his father and not because of his own ability.
That changed this past season, when Elefalk came seemingly out of nowhere to thrive in the Under-20 SuperElit league in Sweden. He scored 15 goals and 26 points in 31 games — perhaps not mind-blowing production, but solid enough to get called up to the SHL for 13 games.
Elefalk wasn’t exactly trusted with a regular shift in the SHL — he really only played in 7 games and had very little ice time — but when he got opportunities, he produced. He played over 10 minutes in just two games and had three points in those two games.
Elefalk caught everyone by surprise this past season. He wasn’t on anyone’s radar in his initial draft year in 2016-17, playing primarily in lower junior leagues. In his Draft+1 year, he played in the NAHL in the US, in hopes of catching the eye of college scouts and playing in the NCAA, but he managed just 5 points in 31 games in a season plagued with injuries and a lack of trust from his coaches.
To go from those underwhelming seasons to suddenly playing in the SHL at 19 is a pretty big leap forward. Now he’s signed with Västerviks IK of the Allsvenskan, the second-tier Swedish league, where he could play a larger role. VIK promoted to the Allsvenskan just a couple years ago and lack top-end talent, so Elefalk could find himself playing big minutes.
VIK’s sports director, Emil Georgsson, described Elefalk as a “late bloomer” with all-around ability, whose best asset is his shot. That echoes Elefalk’s description of himself.
“I see myself as a physical power forward with a good shot,” said Elefalk and he thinks he has the right style and ability to thrive in North America.
Of course, it’s tough for a 5’11” winger to play a power forward game at the NHL level, but he has a solid frame, strong skating, and good puck control, which will take him a long way.
Perhaps he gets his skating and puck control from his grandmother, who was a bandy legend in her day. Bandy is played on much larger ice surfaces with a ball and flat-bladed sticks, so players do a lot more skating and need quick hands to keep the ball under control. Elefalk played bandy in addition to hockey when he was younger.
Late-blooming hockey players are always intriguing, as there’s a chance to find a prospect that everyone else missed. If Elefalk thrives in the Allsvenskan next season and attracts NHL interest, he’s unlikely to forget which team gave him his first taste of an NHL training camp.