Photo Credit: HV71
Scouting Report written by Alex Appleyard
Under-sized Scandinavian wingers ending up as draft or free-agent steels is nothing new. Mats Zuccarello, Gustav Nyquist, Viktor Arvidsson, Victor Olofsson, Jesper Bratt, Andreas Johnsson and Nils Höglander all fit that bill. Last year the prime contender to continue that tradition was HV71’s Zion Nybeck, a 2nd round talent who fell to the 4th. This year? Look no further than one of Nybeck’s team-mates, Marcus Almquist.
The Copenhagen native has been wowing people with his skills since he was 14 playing at under 18 level across the Øresund bridge in Sweden. At 15 he was point-per-game playing against men in the Danish second tier, despite looking like he should still have been in elementary school. And this season? Almquist was second in the J20 amongst draft eligible scorers, behind Oskar Olausson, his team-mate and a prospect pegged to go top 15 in the draft.
But Almquist will not be going in the first round, likely not the second round either, and probably not in the top 100. However, if a team is looking for a steal? Despite his diminutive build Almquist has the upside that very few players available after pick #60 will have.
D.O.B – September 13, 2003
Nationality – Denmark
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Height – 5’7
Weight –168 lbs
Position – Right Wing/Center
Handedness – Right
Almquist’s Style Of Play
The Danish winger is electric. Though maybe not in the stereotypical sense that those words bring to mind. If you are small in the modern NHL being a plus skater is essential in order to stick in the league. Almquist fits that bill, though it would be a stretch to say that his skating is “elite” as some of the other under-sized NHL wingers who have preceded him have been. Yes, he is fast. At the junior level he is often the fastest skater on ice. However, against men he cannot always burn people at will once in stride. Despite that he is hard to catch in transition. Much of this is due to great edge-work and a sixth sense for how neutral zone coverage works. At times his skating reminds me of someone like Claude Giroux, who once in stride with the puck on his stick is hard to stop, and who is very elusive in the corners, despite not maybe having the top speed of others on ice. He is one of those players who looks faster with the puck on his stick.
He compliments his skating with great hands that he has confidence in. After he has affected yet another zone entry or neutral zone rush he has no qualms trying to make a highlight reel play and sucker a defenseman into making it an odd-man situation in his favour. His ability to reposition the puck on his stick, get it out of his feet, and around opposition can seem like a magic trick at times.
This fantastic “feel” for the puck also helps when it comes to shooting. Almquist has a great shot, albeit not in the “traditional” sense. He will never beat a goalie with pure power, and no-one is worried about blocking a shot from the diminutive Dane. However, he can pick a corner through traffic, understands where goalies are most vulnerable, and has a wickedly quick release that he can get off from anywhere. This, allied with his nose for the net, fast hands and ability to lift a puck at will mean he has been a prolific goal-scorer at every level he has played at.
His transition work and ability to cycle the puck in the offensive zone allow him to get the puck on his stick and keep it. From here he can also use good vision and soft hands to thread some great passes to line-mates. He can also control the pace of play in the offensive zone with the puck on his stick. However, while he can find amazing passes he also turns the puck over slightly too much in these situations when better options are available.
The young Dane is tenacious for his size. He does not give up on plays, especially on the fore-check, and harasses defensemen with his active stick-work. Almquist is not scared of going to the boards for a battle either, though it must be said that he loses the majority of those battles due to a lack of size and strength. As an extension of this it is no surprise that Almquist is happy to go to the net-front as well, where he can be surprisingly effective. While he might lose if engaged in a physical battle, his great edge-work, elusiveness and ability to get his stick on the ice at the right moment can send defensemen into fits around the blue-paint. On the cycle it is surprising at times how effective he can be, he gets low, uses his lower body strength alongside his skating, and can protect a puck with aplomb against men who look twice his size.
Almquist is always looking to get on his horse and get the puck going the other way. This means that he plays with an intensity, where something always might happen if a puck gets to him, as in his mind he is seemingly always thinking about beating the opposition goalie. There is a downside to this however, as he can flee the zone early and put his team a man down with no-one to pick up trailers. He also puts himself in off-side positions too regularly, which must be frustrating for his team-mates and his coach.
Despite his intensity and willingness to engage physically, these attributes do not translate into his defensive zone work. This seems to be due to a combination of a few things. Firstly, he is physically overmatched. Secondly, his mindset is offense, and as a result can get out of position. Thirdly, he mis-reads plays even when in a good position. There are some positives to his defensive zone play though, as his intensity does mean he can force turnovers, and with his skill and skating his zone exit work is a joy to behold.
If Almquist can clean up some of the finer points of his play, as well as simply get bigger and stronger, he has the skill and attitude to make himself an NHL career as a middle six winger. He has more “raw” talent than many of the players who will go in the first round of this draft, and as such he could be a boom or bust pick. If a team wants to swing for the fences in the middle round then Almquist has to be on their radar.
Jesper Bratt, LW, New Jersey Devils
The two undersized Scandinavians share many traits. Both are great skaters, albeit skaters who excel move in the way of agility rather than pure speed. They also both have good shots, though Bratt does have a heavier shot than Almquist. Their silky mitts combined with their elusiveness mean they are both marvelous transition players across all three lines. Additionally, they share a level of tenacity and willingness to get to the danger areas despite their size. Bratt is, however, a more instinctive player in the defensive zone.
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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