Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2019 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at Swedish forward Karl Henriksson.
As the NHL evolves and becomes a game that is based on speed and skill, we are seeing that smaller players are able to succeed in the league. Where undersized players were overlooked in previous NHL drafts, we saw a large number taken early in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Swedish centre Karl Henriksson is hoping that the trend will continue this year. He showed off his high-level skill in leading the Swedish team to a gold medal at the IIHF Under-18 World Championships with three goals and nine points in seven games. He also won silver at last summer’s Hlinka-Gretzky Cup with two goals in five games at the tournament.
Henriksson also had a big season domestically. He played for Frolunda’s J20 team. Henriksson scored 13 goals and 49 points in 45 games and added nine points in six playoff games. He led the lead in plus/minus and in assists. He was also the best U18 player in the league in points. Henriksson joined the J18 team after the J20 team was eliminated. He scored seven points in seven games in helping them to win the league.
Karl Henriksson Scouting Report
Centre — shoots Left
Born February 5th, 2001 — Malmo, Sweden
Height 5’9.25″ — Weight 176 lbs [176 cm/79 kg]
Henriksson is a decent skater but needs to improve this aspect of his game to truly take the next step given his lack of size. His top-end speed is average. He is able to keep up with the play and does not look out of place, but he lacks the extra gear to get past defenders and leave them in his wake. His first few steps are good but his acceleration beyond that is just average. Henriksson has very good agility and edgework though. This helps him to be slippery in the offensive zone and to get around defensive players. He also has a low centre of gravity. He is strong on the puck and tough to knock off stride. Henriksson is surprisingly effective in battling along the boards and in front of the net.
Henriksson is a very smart player. He sees the ice extremely well and anticipates the movements of both teammates and opponents. He has the ability to slow down the play or to speed it up to create openings. Henriksson moves the puck with smart passes and finds an open teammate. Without the puck, he is able to find open ice and looks to get a pass back from a teammate. While he is not the flashiest stick handler and is not going to beat his man with his dangles, he is effective at protecting the puck and extending plays down low. This gives his teammates the time to get open and when they do, he gets them the puck to create a scoring chance. Henriksson uses his agility to quickly change his positioning and open up the passing lanes.
Henriksson is much more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. His wrist shot lacks power, which limits his ability to score from beyond the faceoff dots. However, he has good accuracy and his release is quick. He also has the quick hands to one-time a pass on the net, or to bury a rebound. This makes him dangerous inside the face-off dots. He also has a good backhand. He is not afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice in order to create offence, whether that means getting to the front of the net or fighting for pucks along the boards.
Henriksson works hard in all three zones. He backchecks effectively, taking away the opponents time and space and helping his team down low. While his size can create some limitations in containing bigger forwards, he is not afraid to get involved physically. He reads the play well, cutting down passing lanes and creating turnovers. When he gets the puck, he is able to transition it up the ice quickly and create offence. Henriksson is also effective in the faceoff circle.
Projection and Comparison
Henriksson’s size and lack of explosive skating will always be seen as limiting factors. However, they are not fatal flaws in 2019, as they have been in previous years. He is a smart player and a hard worker. As such he could develop into an effective NHL player, capable of centring a second or third line in the right situation. He is likely a couple of years away as he continues to work on his game. In terms of comparison, Henriksson’s game is reminiscent of Kevin Labanc, but this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill or ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Karl Henriksson that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Main Photo via:
— 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup (@HlinkaMemorial) August 6, 2018