The first round of the 2021 NHL Draft will take place on July 23. Following the results of the draft lottery, the Flames hold the 12th overall selection and will have a chance to add a high-end prospect to their organization.
The latest prospect we’ll dive deep on sounds like a very Flamesy potential pick: talented right shot Swedish winger Fabian Lysell from Lulea HF of the Swedish Hockey League.
A product of Goteborg, Sweden, Lysell is listed as 5’10” and 175 pounds and is a right shot winger. He’s primarily played in Frolunda’s system as he’s moved up in the hockey world, but he was moved to Lulea HF at mid-season after (a) the Swedish junior circuit (J20 Nationell) was shuttered due to COVID concerns and (b) Lysell looked at Frolunda’s pro depth and decided he’d get a better chance to play with another club.
Alexander Appleyard at Smaht Scouting discussed why scouts are so excited about Lysell’s potential:
Dynamic is an understatement when it comes to Lysell. His combination of hands and speed are breath-taking. It is rare for even an experienced, skilled, NHL player to have the puck control, poise and confidence to make the moves Lysell does with ease in full-stride. Puck-on-a-string comes to mind. His feel make it seems like he was born with a stick in his hands, or simply that it is an extension of his body itself. Even good defensemen at the u-18 international level get a deer-in-headlights look when Lysell picks their side of ice to attack. For good reason. He often makes them look like pee-wee players as they end up a foot-note in an ever expanding highlight reel.
Here’s some visuals to showcase just how great Lysell can be when he uses his offensive tools.
Fabian Lysell. That’s the tweet.
Sweden leads 2-0 pic.twitter.com/4VtON1Az2f
— Alexa Potack (@alexa_potack) April 26, 2021
— Josh Bell (@JoshuaBell31) May 4, 2021
Simply put, Lysell is the type of hockey player that can get fans, scouts and hockey people in general out of their seats with his dangles, passes and dipsy-doodles. The kid is magic with the puck and when he decides to do cool hockey things, he can be nigh-unstoppable.
Appleyard mentioned a few minor quibbles he had with Lysell’s game, though:
The area he does need to improve in though is, well, to play a more mature game at times. It might simply be that at the u-18, and even u-20, level the level of competition is simply too easy for him, but he can over-do things in terms of trying one move too many and play going the other way when there were better options. At times it appears as though he has to have seen a good passing opportunity, or a high percentage cycle play, but simply decides to take on three or four players anyway. Puck-management being more consistent is a must.
Over at FC Hockey, our pal Derek Neumeier provided a strong summary of Lysell’s overall package:
Fabian Lysell is the type of player that is alone worth the price of admission. He is a truly electric talent, using his fantastic speed, hands and hockey sense to blaze around the ice and make dramatic things happen. He is a machine when it comes to zone exits and entries, taking no time at all to hit his excellent top gear while also having the hands and the crossovers to smoothly dart around or through traffic. Not only can he play fast, he also knows where to go and where his teammates are headed. Even more impressive, he’s not just blindly trying to go fast all the time, as he picks the right situations to stop, curl and set things up for his team in the offensive zone. He’s equally as dangerous in the cycle as on the rush, as he can circle the zone and play keep-away with the puck until he finds an opening. His passes are crisp and accurate, and he can make backhands, saucers and backhand sauces all look easy. He makes the job of opposing defenders extra difficult thanks to a great motor and a competitive focus, allowing him to go for a second end-to-end rush in a single shift if the first one doesn’t pan out. He also routinely applies his motor and work ethic on the backcheck. He lacks size and strength, but his elite awareness and slipperiness should mitigate that problem even after he moves to smaller ice. There is, however, one major knock on Lysell, and that’s his shot. None of his wrist shot, slapper or one-timer have the power or quickness coming off of his stick to be dangerous, and it’s hard to see that changing long-term. Any goals he scores will primarily have to come from carving or sneaking his way to the home plate. Lysell is easily one of the most purely skilled forwards in this draft, and will be selected accordingly.
Lysell’s not huge, but the kid follows in a long tradition of smart, skilled Swedes that can play high-end hockey.
Lysell played in three levels of competition in the 2020-21 season. When you factor in his age and compare him to his peer group, he stacks up really nicely.
- J20 Nationell: Lysell had 13 points in 11 games, putting him fifth in the league among U18 players in points-per-game. Ahead of him were 2022 prospect Noah Ostlund and 2021 prospects Simon Robertsson, Marcus Almquist and William Stromgren.
- SHL: Lysell had three points in 26 games. He was third in points among U18 players and tied for first in goals. He was one of just five U18 players to play in more than 20 games this season.
- U18 Worlds: Lysell had nine points in seven games. He was tied for Sweden’s team lead and tied for 11th in the entire tournament in points. He helped Sweden capture a bronze medal.
Another exciting thing about Lysell? He’s constantly playing well above his age group, and he’s constantly improving his year-over-year offensive performances as he does so.
|2017-18 (14)||2.077 (Div1)||2.095 (Elit)
|2018-19 (15)||1.222 (Elit)
|2019-20 (16)||0.545||2.429 (Elit)
He’s constantly one of the younger and smaller players in every league he’s playing in, and yet he somehow finds ways to move the needle offensively.
Availability and fit
The Flames have a long, long tradition of drafting and recruiting Swedish hockey players. Who can forget classic Flames from Sweden like Kent Nilsson, Hakan Loob and Mikael Backlund? More recently, the Flames have gone Swedish with OHL import Rasmus Andersson and domestic player Oliver Kylington, both of which played NHL games. (They’ve also drafted some Swedes in the mid-to-late rounds under Brad Treliving in Adam Ollas Mattsson, Linus Lindstrom and Filip Sveningsson, none of which were signed to entry level deals.)
But if you’re wondering who’s going to score goals for the Flames long-term if any of the rumoured core players get moved elsewhere, Lysell fits a lot of the Flames’ fundamental needs. He’s highly skilled. The criticisms of his game seem to be “Man, he doesn’t seem challenged at lower levels and does too much crazy stuff!” But reviews of his time in the SHL were largely positive and spoke to his ability to adapt his game and be a useful player in all situations. That bodes well for his future as he transitions to North America in a few seasons.
Here’s a snapshot of where the major draft evaluators have Lysell relative to the rest of the 2021 class:
McKeen’s Hockey — 10th
Future Considerations — 10th
Sportsnet (Sam Cosentino) — 11th
The Athletic (Corey Pronman) — 22nd
Dobber Prospects — 3rd
TSN (Bob McKenzie) — 12th
Draft Prospects Hockey — 8th
NHL Central Scouting (European Skaters) — 9th
Recruit Scouting — 8th
EliteProspects.com — 7th
Smaht Scouting — 11th
If Lysell falls to 12th overall, the Flames would be wise to take him. Based on the scouting consensus, it wouldn’t be a reach at all.