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Nils Hoglander’s final SHL shift before NHL training camp nets him 25 minutes in penalty time

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Is he the next Nazzy, Burrows or god forbid Marchand?

2020 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship, bronze medal match: Sweden vs Finland
#21 Nils Hoglander in action for Sweden at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Ice Hockey Championship bronze medal match against Finland on January 5th, 2020 in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images

The Vancouver Canucks’ loan of prized forward prospect Nils Hoglander to the Rogle club of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) expired on December 12th, 2020. Instead of scoring an expected swan-song lacrosse-style goal in his final game in Scandinavia, the flashy Swede instead decided to exit in a flash of fury. This was his last shift before his much anticipated boarding of a plane to fly to Canada to quarantine prior to the expected opening of Vancouver’s NHL training camp. January 3rd, 2021 for 2020 bubble teams like the Canucks is the current target date for day one of camp.

Hoglander received 5 minutes for fighting, a 10 minute misconduct plus a 10 minute game misconduct as also did his much larger and heavier opponent.

Because he is on the smaller side you might expect the diminutive Tre Kronor product to play like a milquetoast. However, that is not the player he is. He is at his best when he plays with an edge on the edge although sometimes it can get him in trouble.

He was ejected from this game for an errant elbow and given a five game suspension by the SHL head of discipline.

He was tossed from a key international World Juniors’ game for this Gordie Howe preemptive special.

But it is this sort of unpredictable physical aspect to his game that gives him both the elbow-room and confidence to take something like his perfected behind the net lacrosse-style goal to the next level by expanding it to a full in motion charge to the net version.

You can bet on him trying it again before too long and next time successfully bending the mesh...maybe in an NHL game.

He certainly has given every indication during his final SHL games this season that he has his eye on the prize that is the right wing top six forward vacancy abandoned by Tyler Toffoli on the Vancouver depth chart. Most have gifted the available spot to the slow-loading Shotgun Jake Virtanen and he will likely get first crack at it, unless someone like Mike Hoffman is still on Jim Benning’s Christmas shopping list.

But if Gentleman Jim is done shopping and Virtanen arrives in camp in less than perfect game shape, do not count out the highly skilled Swede from elbowing his way into the opportunity.

Check out this recent sequence exhibited by him of a perfect one bounce lob pass, followed by an impressive steal in broad daylight and capped by a through the legs lamp lighter. Petey meet Hogz. Do you approve of him on your right flank?

Now you and I as simple fans were just wowed by that last highlight goal sequence. His SHL coach Cam Abbott though, who is a Canadian by birth, takes a Travis Green type view of things and points out that there is a defensive side to the game as well and that Hoglander still needs more work on that aspect of his game. Before Green ever writes his name onto his top six forward line-up card, Hoglander will need to show him that he is defensively responsible and learns quickly from and does not repeat his defensive mistakes. Will Hoglander turn out to be more like Petey or more like Goldy at the end of the day?

There is no doubt though that Green will quickly be impressed by Hoglander’s never ending motor and his fully invested battles for possession of the puck.

Many people envision Hoglander as an Alex Burrows type of player. If he ends up like Burr in the Canucks’ Ring-of-Honour some day that would be quite a nice career.

Others see him as...ew...Brad Marchand-like, but much better looking.

About a dozen games ago, Nils Hoglander was playing well but was mired in a pointless streak. The coach switched him from left wing to right wing and he pretty much caught on fire offensively right after the switch and the coach kept him on the right side from there on in. He finished his SHL season with five goals and five assists for ten points in his final twelve games for Rogle.

He has reminded me since his move to his off wing of franchise icon Markus Naslund. He was best known for his deadly and accurate wrist shot. But he would also fly down the ice and send strategic backhanders off of goalies to create rebounds for Todd Bertuzzi to pounce on and bury into the net.

Naslund would also cut to the middle of the ice often to get a better look at the net for his shot.

Nazzy was also very skilled at deflecting the puck by the goalkeeper into the net.

Naslund also rarely missed a chance to bury a rebound himself.

At the end of the day, Nils Hoglander, seems poised to make an impact in the NHL. If he is able to combine some of the best attributes of jersey-retired Captain Naslund, the beloved Burrows and the much despised Marchand into his pro game and does it sooner than later, then Canucks’ fans might be looking at their franchise’s fourth straight Calder Trophy finalist at the end of the game shortened 2020/21 NHL season.