We continue today our profiles of potential Hurricanes draft selections for the 2019 NHL Draft. If you missed our earlier profiles, they’re linked here: Samuel Poulin (our Mock Draft selection), John Beecher and Nick Robertson.
- DOB: 12/20/2000
- Team: Rögle (SHL)
- LW | Shoots: L | 5’9”, 175 pounds
- 2018-19 Stats: 50 GP - 7G, 7A, 14 points, 22 PIM
- DOB: 1/11/2001
- Team: Tappara (Liiga)
- LW | Shoots: L | 6’0”, 175 pounds
- 2018-19 Stats: 22 GP - 15G, 11A, 26 points, 10 PIM (On loan in Mestis)
Two left-sided wingers that could be available when the Hurricanes select at the end of the first round (or, potentially, picks 36 and 37 of the second round) hail from countries that have been good to the organization in the past. Both are smaller, talented forwards who will threaten as both scorers and playmakers at the next level – although that may be some time down the road in terms of development. The consensus on both players in terms of draft projection is anywhere from 20-40, a range where the Hurricanes sit (for now) with three picks.
With a game tailor-made for the modern NHL, Höglander’s offensive game is built around two key areas of the ice. First, the young forward is an absolute menace on the rush. He constantly pushes the pace, no matter if he is entering the zone on an odd-man advantage or trying to gain possession on his own.
Second, his ability to possess the puck along the half wall and below the circles not only makes him a threat to score, but opens up pockets of space for his linemates for high-danger chances. When Höglander does free himself for shooting opportunities, they are typically below the circles, where his quick release can fool goaltenders. As he continues to gain strength, his shot, which is deadly from in close, should progress to where he can be a danger to score farther from the net.
His zone entries are clean, and he has improved in terms of reading and reacting to the pacing of the play to know if he needs to push towards the net, or circle and wait for his teammates. Because of his ability to get to top end speed quickly, Höglander is a tough cover in one-on-one situations, especially when you add his ability to stickhandle in small spaces. His tenacious work ethic is often put to work in both puck retrieval and puck possession, where the winger plays bigger than his size would typically dictate.
Puistola has some similarities, as his game is also on display in open ice and below the circles. He’s not as fast as Höglander, but the hands are certainly among the best in the draft and he possesses a high-level shot which is dangerous from multiple areas of the offensive zone. He drives play on the rush, making life difficult on defenders because of his stickhandling ability, net drive and playmaking creativity.
Once in the zone, Puistola can be found net front or in the circles, where he can score in a myriad of ways. His hands allow him to open up shooting space in tight areas, as well as convert on deflections, and his quick release from the circles make him an option on cross-ice passes and back door plays both at even strength and with the man advantage. He’s going to be a power-play weapon for whatever team drafts him down the road.
From time to time, Puistola will fly the zone, looking to create an offensive opportunity on the rush from a long breakout pass – a luxury which will likely not be open to him as he continues to increase his level of competition. His skating can at times be a bit choppy, and will need to improve in terms of consistency as he develops.
Höglander is one of my personal favorites in this draft due to the type of game he plays. He can beat you in many ways, and his combination of skill and motor make for a truly difficult combination to play against. Next season should be a breakout campaign for the Rogle forward, and he should feature on Sweden’s World Junior team come January.
Puistola had among the best seasons for a player of his age in the Finnish second division, and should gain more traction with Tappara in Liiga this coming season. The offensive skills are certainly evident and project to that of top six winger at his ceiling with a near certainty as a power-play contributor.