One of the more intriguing prospects in Calgary’s pipeline is 24-year-old Johannes Kinnvall. A bit of a late bloomer, the offensively gifted defender was scooped up by Brad Treliving just after the NHL season pause in 2020.
Kinnvall’s emergence overseas has earned him standing as one of the more exciting and dynamic blue-liners in the Flames’ pipeline. He will, at last, make his way to North America this year and many are hopeful his strong offensive results can translate to the NHL.
Let’s check in with the Gävle native as our 17th-ranked prospect.
July 28, 1997 (age 24) in Gävle, SWE
6’00”, 185 pounds
Undrafted, signed Apr. 29, 2020 by CGY
The undrafted Kinnvall has spent the entirety of his hockey career in Sweden. He played the 2016-17 season with Brynas in the SHL where he struggled to acclimate, running pointless through 18 games.
Following a season with Timra in HockeyAllsvenskan, a league below the SHL, he returned to Sweden’s top league where his game started to progress. His strong performance in 2018-19, where he and fellow Flames’ signee C.J. Lerby were the only two skaters under 22 to crack the top 20 in scoring amongst defencemen, earned him an invitation to the Flames 2019 development camp. Kinnvall made an impression as a noticeable skater amongst invitees.
The subsequent season Kinnvall really started to turn heads with a breakout campaign. Skating with a new team, HV71, his production doubled as he finished second among SHL defenders in scoring. He posted 11 goals and 40 points in 51 games and rightfully earned a reputation as a power-play wizard. This spurred on the Flames to sign the Gävle native to an entry-level contract in April of 2020.
He spent the first year of his deal on loan with HV71. While his offensive dominance was on display early in the season, where he amassed 14 points in his first 11 games, the concurrence of playing for a struggling HV71 club and nagging foot injury hindered Kinnvall’s season. Despite some setbacks, he still managed to produce encouraging offensive numbers with 22 points in 32 games played.
Now 24, Kinnvall’s unconventional path will see him venture to North America. He has certainly excited Flames’ fans with his expeditious offensive development over the last two seasons in Sweden.
He is a dynamic and exciting blue-liner with heaps of offensive talent and commanding ability to quarterback a power play. In 2019-20 he led SHL defenceman in power play goals with eight and ranked second in primary power play points per game. Despite missing games to injury, he produced at the fourth-highest rate in terms of primary power play points per game amongst his defensive peers.
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Alexa Potack of Dobber Prospects spoke to Kinnvall’s play as a bright spot for his club this season:
Kinnvall’s offensive talent was a light in the dark for HV71 last season. He was the second-highest scoring defenseman for the club despite missing 20 games due to injury. A mainstay on the HV71 power play, three of Kinnvall’s seven goals came on the man advantage.
Potack elaborates noting that Kinnvall’s puck-moving capability is strong but his defensive game necessitates development:
He has a strong passing ability that he utilizes to create breakouts. His success in the SHL, especially on the team that was eventually relegated, should put him in consideration for making the NHL roster this season. Kinnvall’s biggest strength is his offence and he needs to improve his defensive pace and positioning. His participation in the offensive zone can sometimes set him back against opposing rushes. This is a must-fix if Kinnvall wants to prove himself as ready to face and defend NHL talent.
While play behind his own blue line is something he will be looking to improve the context of last season should not be ignored. As established, HV71 was very poor last year and was ultimately relegated. While Kinnvall’s even-strength goal share was below 50 percent Pick 224’s data shows that HV71 was outscored 62 to 26 when Kinnvall was off the ice at even strength while only outscored 21 to 16 when Kinnvall was on the ice at even strength.
There are certainly defensive inefficiencies in his game but his on ice results with a poor team highlight that he is, at least, taking steps to become a competent defensive player.
Expectations for 2021-22
Kinnvall’s first season in North America is highly anticipated. While a full time spot Flames seems unlikely, the fact he is 24 years old and has spent plenty of time playing against the professional competition in Sweden bodes well for his ability to play at the AHL or NHL level. Given the organizational lack of right-hand shots on the back-end, there may be an opportunity for Kinnvall as he is one of only five right-shooting defenders. There is a glaring need on the third pair for a right shot and a shortage of offence from the back-end.
It is probable he will need a year of refinement as he adjusts to the North American ice and style of play. He’ll likely see top-four billing on the Stockton blue line and be heavily utilized on the power play. If he were to sneak into the Flames lineup the cost would be $925,000 against the salary cap. He has a single year remaining on his entry-level contract.
If he can solidify his play away from the puck, Kinnvall has the tools and experience to make some noise. His dynamic skill and proven offensive ability earn him a spot in the top 20.