Photo Credit: Frölunda HC
Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler
Hugo Gabrielsson is a 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who plays in the Frölunda organization.
In his youth hockey days, Gabrielsson played for Hovås HC. Hovås is the same organization that Detroit Red Wings prospect Elmer Söderblom and his brother Arvid Söderblom played for. Once the 2016-2017 season concluded, Gabrielsson, who had been playing U16, J18 and J20 hockey for Hovås, had transferred to Frölunda.
While he has yet to suit up for Frölunda at the SHL level, he has played at the U16, J18 and J20 levels for the club. Next season, he is set to play for Västerviks IK of the HockeyAllsvenskan. Gabrielsson will likely need at least one season in HockeyAllsvenskan before making the jump to the SHL level.
This past season, Gabrielsson split his time between Frölunda HC J20 and the Halmstad Hammers HC (HockeyEttan). Once the J20 Nationell season was cancelled due to COVID-19, Gabrielsson was then loaned out to Halmstad. Prior to the loan, he had recorded four goals and nine assists in 17 games for Frölunda HC J20. Gabrielsson had stronger production in J20 Nationell play, but still managed to record seven points in 24 games for Halmstad.
While he wasn’t able to play a full season for Frölunda this past season, he did play alongside a talented group of prospects including Theodor Niederbach (Detroit Red Wings), Daniel Torgersson (Winnipeg Jets), Liam Dower Nilsson (2021 eligible), Philip Granath (2021 eligible), Fabian Lysell (2021 eligible), Simon Edvinsson (2021 eligible) and Ludwig Persson (2022 eligible).
Gabrielsson is represented by the Swedish hockey agency, Playmaker Agency. The agency has four agents who played professional hockey in Michael Rosell, Antero Niittymäki, Calle Johansson and Michael Nylander.
The agency represents quite a bit of Swedish talent including William Nylander (Toronto Maple Leafs), Alexander Nylander (Chicago Blackhawks), Zion Nybeck (Carolina Hurricanes prospect), Jonathan Berggren (Detroit Red Wings prospect), Emil Andrae (Philadelphia Flyers prospect), Hugo Alnefelt (Tampa Bay Lightning prospect), Linus Sandin (Philadelphia Flyers prospect) and Rasmus Sandin (Toronto Maple Leafs).
D.O.B – October 24, 2002
Nationality – Sweden
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –172 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Left
Gabrielsson’s Style Of Play
Gabrielsson is a versatile defender. When he was playing with Frölunda HC J20 in the beginning of the season, prior to the J20 Nationell shutdown, head coach of the J20 team, Tobias Johansson was shifting Gabrielsson on a regular basis from left defense to right defense. When he played alongside Simon Edvinsson, they’d change positioning on a shift-to-shift basis. Same situation when he was paired with Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Eric Hjorth.
When Gabrielsson joined Halmstad, he was shifting from left to right as well.
With his flexibility to play on both sides and his offensive driven playing style, he will give you Jake Gardiner vibes when you watch him closely.
Gabrielsson loves to get involved in the slot, the corners and down low in the offensive zone. He will pinch up with the puck, if he brings the defender with him and can’t get an open lane to the slot, he will pass back to the point since he’ll likely have a man a bit more open. In addition, he will pinch up to retrieve loose pucks in the corner. When pinching up to claim possession of a loose puck in the slot, you can expect Gabrielsson to quickly try a snap shot immediately after grabbing a hold of the puck. He uses excellent weight transfer and leans forward to gather the necessary momentum for his shot attempt.
Occasionally, you will see Gabrielsson look to capture loose pucks in the corners. But, he will get beat as there are moments where his skating acceleration and explosiveness are a tad inconsistent. In those situations, in which Gabrielsson is late to the puck, he’s now out of position as the attackers have grabbed the puck and now are looking to rush up the ice. That leaves his defensive partner in a vulnerable spot.
Similar to his affinity for jumping in the slot to grab loose pucks, he will also jump in the slot and identify open ice for his teammates to pass to. His aggressiveness to find open ice has led to plenty of one-timer scoring chances. That doesn’t just mean that looks for open ice solely in the offensive zone. He will also look for open ice throughout the zone and score one-timers from the perimeter.
From a positioning perspective, Gabrielsson for the most part is quite sound. If his defensive partner pinches in and no one drops back to cover for his defensive partner, Gabrielsson will shift over to a more centered spot along the blue line. Gabrielsson has proven that he will react quickly in those encounters especially when there are loose pucks on their way to the blue line. He will continue to cover his defensive partner, shift over and pass the puck along the boards to keep the puck in the offensive zone.
Sometimes, his stick-handling can be a tad off in the offensive zone. When he looks to extend the puck a bit further out and drive to the net, he will bobble pucks at times. Gabrielsson needs to garner the necessary upper-body strength to garner the necessary reach.
His passing can be a tad inconsistent in the offensive zone. But, most of the inconsistency has to do with looking to keep the puck in the offensive zone when the puck drifts to the point. If he’s looking to keep the puck in the offensive zone, sometimes Gabrielsson will act kind of rash and pass the puck without identifying the best teammate to pass towards. That has led to turnovers in possession.
While he can be slightly inconsistent when passing, he’s also shown that he can be quite dominant as well. He will deliver crisp one-touch cross ice passes on the power play. In situations, where he has lured the attack towards him, he’ll show off his athleticism and deception by completing a 180 degree turn to throw the attack off and grab open ice for himself before completing a pass to a winger in medium or high danger.
While his offense is his calling card, his defensive game is still under development and needs continued refinement. Gap control is an issue for Gabrielsson. He doesn’t assert much man-to-man pressure. He doesn’t get in the face of the attacker when they are rushing up the boards. In general, he prefers to let his forward group handle the first encounter and he will take over down low in the corners. The earliest that he starts to assert pressure is in medium danger on the rush. But, when he is alone in the defensive zone as his defensive partner pinched up and is late to defend the rush, he will shift over to the other side to try to combat the rush along the boards.
If his defensive partner is covering the rush along the boards, you can expect Gabrielsson to defend the slot and look to take away passing lanes.
When he goes in for the back check, he’s usually slightly late and his attacker has already moved the puck out. Gabrielsson will struggle with consistent acceleration and that allows the attacker to avoid pressure and move the puck with ease. In addition, when Gabrielsson drops to his knees, he usually will drop to his knees a bit further out from the shooter. That allows the shooter to identify the best shooting lane and avoid a shot block.
When looking to complete a breakout pass, his classic move is a lateral pass to his defensive partner just outside of the defensive blue-line. But, when he’s facing pressure from an attacker and his back is turned to the attacker, he will look to complete a behind the back and through the legs breakout pass. If he’s dealing with an aggressive forecheck, he will pivot out and fire a lateral pass or look to complete a deceptive drop pass to his defensive partner. The only time that he struggles with breakout passes is when he looks to complete a pass along the boards.
If an opponent tries to catch Gabrielsson off-guard and attempts to go past the red line to grab possession of a loose puck when they are both in front of the net, Gabrielsson will try to play tight man-to-man defense. Although, sometimes when doing so, he looses control over his skate extension length and since he has a bit of a knocked knee, he will struggle to stay on his toes and assert pressure.
Generally, Gabrielsson prefers to sit at net-front. When there are puck battles on the other side of the ice along the boards, Gabrielsson will shift over next to the net in an insurance capacity. Sometimes, when at net-front, he will struggle with his peripheral vision and reaction timing. There are situations where Gabrielsson is covering one attacker at net-front and there is another with the puck looking to wrap around the net. Instead of identifying the puck carrying attacker and looking to put pressure on him, he will concentrate on the other attacker and that will lead to vulnerable situations for his goaltender.
His skating can be a tad inconsistent, especially with his edge work. You will notice instances in which he will try to complete a hockey stop to dump the puck into the offensive zone as the defender was approaching him in the neutral zone, but he will struggle with his inside edge balance and fall over. It’s not just when deploying hockey stops. There are moments where Gabrielsson looks to be more mobile and deploy inside edges in transition. But, you see him struggle to keep balance.
While his inside edges need further development, he seems to be stronger with his outside edges. When switching from backwards skating to skating forwards, he will rely on his outside edges to follow through on the turn.
When you look at Gabrielsson’s crossovers, you will notice that he will deploy lengthy crossovers before he uses skate extensions to garner necessary speed to chase loose pucks. Yet, sometimes, his crossovers aren’t lengthy enough, so he struggles to get the necessary push to drive acceleration.
If he’s looking to complete power skate extensions, there are moments where his knocked knee impacts his acceleration and he looses balance. With a knocked knee coming into play, it doesn’t just impact acceleration, but it also means that Gabrielsson will face mobility challenges as well. In addition, when I watch Gabrielsson pivot out, he seems to utilize a lot of lower body strength to facilitate the pivot and I would like him to pivot out a bit smoother to avoid potentially knee issues over the long haul.
While he does have a bit of a knocked knee, he does have quality ankle flexion and that does benefit him from a speed perspective when in full stride.
When defending the rush, Gabrielsson isn’t the strongest defender. He doesn’t bend his knees and lower his body to take up space along the blue line. I’d like to see Gabrielsson work on taking up open ice and be stronger at blue line. If he can do so, he will be able to cut down on rush attempts and force dump-ins.
In the neutral zone, he doesn’t have strongest active stick. He will extend his stick out, but instead of the stick-blade aligning to the puck, Gabrielsson will often extend his stick out towards the opponent’s pants. Even though he has challenges with his active stick, he does stay well aligned to puck carrier.
If his defensive partner pinches up and the puck vacates the offensive zone, Gabrielsson will shift back at centered ice until his defensive partner drops back. This allows Gabrielsson to work the middle and have eyes on the entire neutral zone.
When in possession of the puck and looking to create zone entries, he tends to prefer to find an open teammate versus carrying the puck in himself. If he identifies a winger on the other side at the offensive blue-line, he will fire a diagonal cross-ice pass to key up a zone entry. Additionally, similar to his passing style in the defensive zone, he will look to complete lateral passes to his defensive partner like the one below.
In those situations in which he faces pressure and in possession of the puck, he will dump the puck into the offensive zone. If the pressure is quite tight, you can expect him to utilize the boards to complete the dump-in.
On occasion, you will see Gabrielsson look to carry the puck in himself into the offensive zone. He will find gaps to exploit and drive the puck into the zone.
Second Pairing Defender (NHL).
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
Looking for other scouting reports? Check out the Prospects tab for our other scouting reports.
Need a scouting report on a particular prospect, contact us today!