Photo Credit: Frölunda HC
Scouting Report written by Alex Appleyard
Players develop at different rates. The mature 18 year old who goes 1st round, then never develops more? The undersized late birthday who is undrafted, and five years down the line is an NHL All-Star? Two sides of the same coin. Development is never linear. It is tied intrinsically to physical growth. But a draft is, by nature, a snapshot in time. If that snapshot had been two years ago Liam Dower Nilsson would be in contention with Fabian Lysell to be the first Swede off the board.
At 16 years old Dower Nilsson and Fabian Lysell had been virtually attached at the hip on the Frölunda junior teams, as well as the junior national team. Lysell? The electric winger with speed to burn. Dower Nilsson? The heady pivot who controlled play. And many considered that Dower-Nilsson was “the straw that stirred the drink”.
D.O.B – April 14, 2003
Nationality – Sweden
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Height – 6’0
Weight –176 lbs
Position – Center/Right Wing
Handedness – Left
Dower Nilsson’s Style Of Play
Make no mistake, the Göteborg native won’t be taken in the top 32 this draft. He probably won’t go inside the second round. But despite that he is still a player who runs play, even while on a line with Lysell and Robertsson, both of whom will go top 20 in this draft.
Dower Nilsson is a player who wins with what is between his ears. He is not the biggest. Not the fastest. He is not the most skilled. But he dictates play when on ice. He is a fantastic facilitator for more talented line-mates. A player who makes line-mates better… even if they are better than him.
His hockey IQ is evident in all three zones. It is the mortar that his game is built around. He is a player who, as a result, is virtually never out of position. The kind of player who seems to appear from no-where to intercept a pass for a trailer, the kind of player who finds himself alone on the edge of the crease. This, combined with the intensity he plays with, mean that despite not being the best skater he often appears ahead of the play.
Speaking of intensity, with Dower Nilsson this can sometimes boil over into ill-discipline. It can be surprising for a player who is so smart with his decisions, he will make zero mistakes all game and then take a bad penalty when there was no need to engage. This will need to improve as he gets to a higher level, or he will fall foul of his coaches.
That being said, he has a motor that never stops, and helps him be a disruptive forechecker as well as a more than capable back-checker. His stick-work especially can cause trouble for opponents, and he often forces defensemen to circle back behind their net or peel off on a neutral zone rush.
On the cycle his movement is impressive. He often sets up picks for team-mates in advance, and rarely stops moving when off the puck, drifting into the slot or crease before rotating to the half-boards to run play again. But it might be in the neutral zone with the puck on his stick where he excels most. Despite not being the best skater he can eviscerate even a neutral zone trap with regularity. If a player even slightly over-commits, he passes and draws a man. If a player sits off, he finds the point he is on his heels and finds a gap with his feet or his passing.
You will have noticed that, so far, this report has talked about how he plays and thinks the game, but not about his specific technical skills. And that is the reason why Dower Nilsson won’t be a high pick.
He is not bereft of technical talent. His passing can be a thing of beauty both fore-hand and back-hand, and he is capable of picking out a line-mate through traffic, and seeing passes that no-one else sees, sometimes without seemingly looking. Dower Nilsson also has a solid shot that can beat goalies clean. However, both these attributes are forged more with his mind than his hands. On the power-play he is a great quarter-back, who is also not scared of getting in closer from his right half-board position and cleaning up in the slot and around the net.
When it comes to the down-sides of his game? Well… for an 18 year old there are not too many. His skating needs to improve, that is for sure. It is not that he is a bad skater, but just gets a bit knock-kneed at times and will never burn past opponents. But apart from that? He needs to be more disciplined? He only loses battles when he is physically outmatched. And that? That’s about it.
The young pivot has also played wing at times, mainly on the right, but when at wing he has never looked the same player. His lack of technical and physical gifts are exposed more when he is not the one dictating and dissecting play. He prefers to act than react, and the nature of the position seems to leave him frustrated and isolated.
It is unlikely that the man from the coast of the Kattegat will ever be a top six NHL forward. However, his mind is at that kind of level, and with simply growth and maturation Dower Nilsson could turn into a third liner that every NHL team would want in their line-up. Once the third round rolls round? He could be good value.
Calle Järnkrok, C/RW, Seattle Kraken
Both Swedes stand-out ability is their high IQ. Järnkrok might be more physically gifted, but neither have the best hands or great skating. Their passing is crisp, and both share an intense brand of hockey, despite not being overly physical or the biggest players. They also score in a similar way, getting near the net, finding gaps in coverage, as opposed to firing wristers from 20ft. Like Järnkrok, Dower Nilsson is strong defensively, and can also contribute on a power-play.
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Alexander Appleyard. If you would like to follow Alex on Twitter, his handle is @alexappleyard.
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