The 2020 World Junior Championship has become somewhat of a coming-out party for Vancouver Canucks’ prospect Nils Hoglander. He started the tournament on the top line with Samuel Fagemo and David Gustafsson and has been an offensive threat since day one. It didn’t take long for him to dazzle the hockey world either. On a Swedish team chocked full of first-round picks, he has been a standout in more ways than one. Ladies and gentlemen welcome to The Hoglander Show.
Act One: The Lacrosse Goal aka the Hoglander
It may go down as one of the most spectacular goals you will ever see in the World Junior Championship. With Sweden trailing Finland 1-0 early in the game, Hoglander showed us his creativity by scoring an insane lacrosse goal from behind the net. It was something he had already done in the past, but it still was unexpected on a stage as big as the WJC.
There have been a plethora of NHL superstars that have made their way through this tournament and on to successful careers. But none of them have ever executed a goal like this. Not even Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin or Connor McDavid have done it, that’s how special this goal was.
Hoglander didn’t just score that goal and disappear, he was noticeable throughout the game adding five shots and an assist to go along with it. He also was named player of the game for Sweden to serve notice that he not only came to play, but he also came to dominate.
Act Two: The Setup to Fagemo
Hoglander didn’t just pack it in after the first game. He continued to get better and increase his stock in the hockey world during the next game against Switzerland. This time he showed off his playmaking and puck control skills by setting up Fagemo for one of his two goals in the game. After deking around one player and fighting off another, he made the perfect backhand pass to him in front of the net, and we all know what happened after that.
That wasn’t the only bit of razzle-dazzle he had in his bag of tricks in this game, he also made a creative play banking the puck to himself behind the net to create some room and set up a chance for defenceman Nils Lundkvist.
Hoglander was all over the ice making plays during that game, showing us why he was a highly-touted prospect coming out of the draft. Despite getting selected in the second round, he was actually projected by some outlets to go late in the first round. So his performance during this tournament shouldn’t be a total surprise.
Act Three: Hoglander’s Point Streak Continues vs Kazakhstan
In three games played so far in the WJC, Hoglander has six points. In each game he has played, he has come away with two points, one goal and one assist, nothing more, nothing less. He is currently tied for sixth in overall scoring with Matthew Verboon of Switzerland and continues to look dangerous every shift.
Hoglander has displayed an ability to score goals in different ways as well. His first goal was, of course, the lacrosse goal, the second was a deflection and the third was a quick wrist shot while skating at full speed. So basically he can score goals with his creativity, hand-eye coordination and shooting skills. That’s a great combination to have in the NHL when coming in on a goaltender or defenceman. If they don’t know what you’re going to do, you have a better chance at scoring or beating them one-on-one.
He has also developed some chemistry with fellow top prospect Fagemo. Of the five goals he has scored, Hoglander has been in on three of them. That bodes well for Sweden as the tournament gets closer to the dreaded medal rounds.
Their top line has been lights out so far in this year’s WJC with 14 points between them (8 goals, 6 assists). Of those points, 12 of them have come from the duo of Hoglander and Fagemo. Maybe general manager Jim Benning should get on the phone with the Los Angeles Kings and see about acquiring him?
Regardless, Hoglander’s point streak continues as Sweden enters the final leg of the preliminary round. If they hope to make it further, the top line has to continue to dominate. If it does, a gold medal may be in the cards for the slick Swede.
Act Four: Team Slovakia and the Playoffs
The final act in The Hoglander Show will be against Team Slovakia, at least when it comes to the preliminary round. The Slovaks have only one win so far to go along with their two losses. Their only victory came against Kazakhstan, and that’s not saying much as they have not won a game yet in the tournament. So I would expect the dynamic duo of Fagemo and Hoglander to dominate once again.
After that, Sweden enters the playoffs where they have struggled in the past. Hoglander has not been involved in any of the failures, so he will be looking to help break the disturbing trend of bowing out after the preliminary round. If he can continue his upward trend, or even just stay the course, his team will have a good chance of breaking the playoff curse.
Hoglander is making Canucks fans and the rest of the hockey world stand up and take notice. World Junior success doesn’t always mean NHL success, but that fact should not diminish what he has done for Sweden in this tournament. He has become a major part of the team, and an exciting player to keep an eye on as it progresses.
Related: Canucks’ 2019 Draft Class Update
Could he be the next Swedish sensation to grace the ice at Rogers Arena? We will just have to wait until The Hoglander Show makes its way over to the West Coast.