Photo Credit: Otto Marand / Djurgården
Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler
Noah Östlund is a 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who plays in the Djurgården system. He grew up slightly west of Stockholm, but still in Stockholm County. The municipality that he grew up in is Nykvarn and is quite close to Södertälje. Östlund played youth hockey for Södertälje SK before making his Djurgården debut in 2019-2020. Since joining Djurgården, he has suited up for the club at the U16, J18, J20 and the SHL levels.
This past season, Östlund played for Djurgården at the J18, J20 and the SHL levels. He also suited up for Sweden at the Hlinka Gretzky and at the U18s in Germany.
Djurgården had a rough season and one in which they lost their spot in the SHL. Even though Djurgården was relegated to the Allsvenskan from the SHL, but they did manage to retain Östlund, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Liam Öhgren, Calle Odelius and Wiktor Nilsson. Per the Djurgården site, they all signed two year contracts. Östlund will more than likely spend a decent amount of time in the Allsvenskan next season.
D.O.B – March 11, 2004
Nationality – Sweden
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –163 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Left
Östlund’s Style Of Play
When facing tight pressure in the offensive zone, that is when Östlund truly shows what he can bring to the table. Östlund can be very relentless with his pursuit to find tight passing lanes to exploit when he is facing tough vest to vest pressure. While he can be relentless with his pursuit, he doesn’t get frustrated and give up when he can’t find a lane. He doesn’t fire a shot when running out of options unless he absolutely has to. But, when he does find lanes he takes advantage of them right away. Östlund has managed to complete quick tight seam passes to his regular linemates, Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Liam Öhgren. Not only does he complete seam passes through tight quarters, but has also shown that he can wire accurate trajectory / route passes when he runs out of space along the half-wall and identifies a teammate skating hard to the slot. There is also quite a bit of William Eklund in Östlund, especially with how he handles pressure with deception. If he is facing traffic while running the cycle and looks to skate behind the net to shake off the pressure, he skates right next to the net behind the red line and can shift the puck from backhand to forehand and pass the puck to the doorstep. By skating behind the net, he is hoping that the attacker splits away from him and skates closer to net front. That allows Östlund to find just the amount of separation that he needs to wire the pass to the doorstep. In addition, like Eklund, Östlund is very good at identifying the best moment in which he can deliver the perfect drop pass when facing intimidating pressure. He will notice the exact moment in which his teammate comes into range and he will place down the puck to try get some separation for the teammate coming behind him who isn’t facing much pressure himself.
Östlund has excellent stick-handling and possesses outstanding reach given his frame. When scouting, you don’t often notice 5’11” / ~165 lbs skaters who have the ability to extend the puck out as far out as Östlund does very often. His reach allows him to take up more space and that can be very beneficial when trying to get separation in situations where he is facing tight defensive pressure. Östlund has shown that he can utilize quick and soft windmill stick-handling to get by defenders, get to net-front and score top shelf backhand goals. The Djurgården prospect can also be very creative when looking to approach the net. In the clip below from the U18 World Championship game against Team USA, you can watch Östlund flip the puck above the two attackers, push past them and then bat the puck in for a goal.
When Östlund doesn’t have possession of the puck, he stays on his toes and follows his teammate to give his teammate a quality passing lane should his teammate run into a pressure filled situation. Östlund tracks his teammates quite well and maintains similar speed to ensure that he stays well-aligned to his teammates. He does a great job of going to net-front to offer a backdoor passing lane off the rush and when his teammates are cycling the puck. Östlund desire for open ice at net-front has paid off quite well this season for Djurgården at the J20 level. He managed to score multiple backdoor goals after hunting for open high danger passing lanes for his teammates to utilize.
At the beginning of the year in November, when he was at the SHL level, he was still trying to get adjusted to the changes in speed, so he was often slow to loose pucks. But, it just seemed like Östlund was still getting used to the speed of the SHL and thus truly needed the additional time at the J20 level (which he was given). At the J20 level, Östlund’s forechecking was significantly stronger. While he isn’t the most aggressive forechecker, he is usually paired with Liam Öhgren and Öhgren is far stronger at using his body to shut down oppositional puck movement. But, that doesn’t mean that Östlund can’t be impactful on the forecheck. He does a good job of trapping of attacker, lowering his body and extends his stick out to take away space for the attacker to use. That has led to Öhgren and Östlund trapping attackers in the corner as Öhgren will be well-aligned with him but just on the other side of the attacker. Östlund can be quite strong with his stick when hunting and engaging on puck battles. He can be highly disruptive when stick lifting to knock the attacker off the puck when Östlund is slightly behind the attacker. He also shown that he can be an effective poke checker, use his reach and steal possession of pucks when putting pressure attackers along the boards. Östlund’s active stick and poke checking ability has led to situations like the one below in which he stole possession, completed a drop pass to Adam Björklund when the two of them were close in proximity, Östlund skates away to grab an open passing lane and then scores a snap shot when Björklund completes the give and go.
Östlund is not the goal scorer that Lekkerimäki is, but he can get a lot of power on his shot. When he lower his body and utilizes quality weight transfer by pushing his upper body towards his knee, he can get the power he needs to get pucks past goaltenders. Östlund does a good job of skating into pucks and firing medium danger shots for goals. For instance, he netted a goal against Rögle J20 in the semifinals, in which he he skated into the pass, lowered his body to gain maximum power and went top shelf.
While he does have a solid shot and has produced quality goals at the J20 level with his shot, he does need to cautious about having his skates too wide apart when trying shots from range. In those situations, he loses his mobility and plays the puck further out from his body. By positioning the puck further out from his body, that hurts his accuracy and power. It allows the goaltender to make an easy stop.
Östlund is defensively responsible and that is evident on almost every single shift. He does a good job of dropping back and defending the slot when the slot is open and he sees his defender marking up. When his defenders get involved in puck battles along the half-wall or in the corner, he drops back for them incase they lose control of the puck and can’t react to oppositional puck movement in time. But, regardless of his defensemen and where they are in the zone, he generally drops back to the slot and looks for open attackers to backcheck against. He will also to drop down the corners if the attack has possession of the puck in the corners and no one exerting much pressure on them. When he gets neck and neck with the attacker, he will look to complete a shoulder check and knock them off of the puck.
Even when Östlund loses out on an initial loose puck battle, he is still hungry for possession of the puck. He will look to leverage his upper body strength to push past the attacker to capture the puck. Once he gets control of the puck, he has shown to be very effective from a transitional perspective and usually can complete a quality stretch pass to a teammate in the neutral zone like the one in the clip below.
In the offensive section, I talked about how Östlund can rely on stick lifting if he is slightly behind the puck carrying attacker and it also pays off in the defensive zone. For instance, if a puck carrying attacker is skating away from the corner and going towards the blue line and Östlund is skating behind him, he will extend his stick out towards the attacker’s stick blade to try to shake him off the puck. As long as Östlund is in close proximity to the attacker, he can leverage his stick lifting to truly cause puck disruption.
Earlier in the defensive section, I talked about how Östlund will be present in the corners when he looks to pressure on puck carrying attackers who are looking to cycle in the corners, but he will also skate to the corner if he sees his teammates dealing with pressure and they need an outlet lane for a pass. He does an excellent job of always following the puck and Östlund is always an ear shot away to provide a passing option.
When in control of the puck and facing heavy congestion, he can be extremely deceptive. If he is trapped before the defensive zone blue line as he intends to skate into the neutral zone, he will deceptively execute a drop pass for his defenseman. Östlund has also shown the he can uses his pivots well at open ice if he sees that attackers are taking away passing lanes and he wants to look elsewhere in the zone. By pivoting he can either generate enough separation to net a passing lane or he can get enough space to complete a controlled zone exit. It ultimately depends on the speed of the attacker and how much space he can net by pivoting. If the attacker stays on him, but a small gap opens up, Östlund will exploit it. But, he doesn’t just pivot out to get space, he will also double back if he is facing too much pressure, button hook and then identify a new lane to utilize when trying to net a zone exit. Ultimately, Östlund is very smart with the puck on his stick and won’t force puck movement if he simply doesn’t have the space.
Even when he does he open skating lanes in front of him, he will still analyze all of the options that he has at his disposal for moving the puck up the ice. When he gets to the blue line, if he can spot a teammate who is open and further up the ice, he will look to complete a pass to that teammate to try to get the puck up the ice at a faster rate.
In the neutral zone, Östlund is always thinking on his feet and analyzing pressure. If he sees that he is drawing multiple attacker, he will leverage his mobility, shiftiness and pivoting to pivot out on a dime to open up space for himself to complete a pass. Given his deceptive style, he can constantly use these maneuvers to throw off attackers and get enough space to key up passing lanes to get the puck into the offensive zone safely.
Östlund does a good job of looking for open ice in the neutral zone near the offensive zone blue line to create stretch pass lanes for his defensemen to utilize. That has paved the way for quite a few breakaway opportunities and two-on-one opportunities. Östlund will communicate with his defensemen to let them know that he has an open passing lane for them to exploit by banging his stick blade on the ice.
When you look at his defensive play, but at the SHL level, I did notice that Östlund struggled a bit with speed in the neutral zone when defending and couldn’t always close the gap to prevent the rush from moving forward. Since he couldn’t completely close the gap, attackers could force their way past Östlund with ease. In addition, he didn’t have the upper body strength to cut off attackers in the neutral zone and that isn’t too surprising given the competition level in the SHL. Over time, he will gain the upper body strength to compete with more physically intimidating opponents.
In J20 play, his defensive measures in the neutral zone were far more effective and he was able to maintain good alignment with the rush. Even in situations where he was slightly behind the rush, he would stick lift and use the same strategies that he has adopted in the offensive and defensive zone to force puck disruption.
Östlund has quite a bit of speed and lot of that can be credited to his crossover usage. When he blends his crossovers and stride extensions, he can garner the necessary acceleration to chase through the neutral zone, catch up to an attacker in the slot and play man on man. His speed when going north – south makes him a handful because it can be a challenge to get enough separation away from Östlund when the attacker. But, his speed doesn’t just help him defensively. He will also leverage crossovers and stride extensions to keep himself aligned with his puck carrying teammates when they are skating up the ice.
He has good posture and keeps himself lowered with his knees bent. Östlund has quality ankle flexion and his knees align with the toe of his skate. With his quality ankle flexion and lowered posture, it allows him to generate maximum speed on his crossovers and stride extensions.
Aside from his crossover and stride extensions, he leans on his edges to maintain the speed that the had before the turn and generally retains his speed well. But, what I really like about Östlund is his ability to activate additional speed quickly immediately after he completes the turn. Immediately, you will see him leverage his crossovers right after the turn to acquire additional acceleration before he goes into full stride. The amount of speed that the can gain off of those crossovers can make him lethal, especially when you think about how deceptive Östlund is. The fact that he can on a dime, complete a turn, retain speed and add to his speed makes him very dangerous in situations where he is down low in tight and navigating around intense congestion.
There is a lot to like about Östlund. His speed, playmaking and mobility makes him dangerous. Even when he doesn’t have the speed to get around attackers when defending, he has still found ways to cause plenty of disruption and kill rush attempts. But, the one area that I love is how deceptive he can be with his playmaking ability and his ability to make use of extremely tight passing lanes. He has a hunger for the puck and knows that he needs to get the puck to high danger areas to win. I’m confident that he will be a top six forward at the NHL level and the path to get there isn’t a very long one for Östlund given his skill-set.
May 2, 2022
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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