His first goal of the night boomed off his stick like a cannon blast. His second ripped through traffic like a laser.
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) November 27, 2016
In a 10-minute span against Wisconsin on November 26, 19-year-old Henrik Borgstrom flexed the offensive skill that made him a priority for the Florida Panthers at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The hands, the creativity, the hockey I.Q. — the tools needed to be a threat at the professional level were already evident. All he needed to do was beef up his 6-foot-3, 183-pound frame and acclimate to the North American game.
Odds are, they didn’t expect him to be this comfortable this soon.
Recently named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s (NCHC) Rookie of the Week after notching five points in two games, Borgstrom has made a habit of scoring in bunches. The Finnish pivot is already a regular in head coach Jim Montgomery’s squad, dressing for each of Denver’s 14 games thus far.
“A lot of great European players have attended DU and done amazing things there,” Borgstrom said on April 21, “so hopefully I can add to that tradition.”
If he keeps up the pace, he’ll carve a legacy of his own.
Save for a handful, most freshman aren’t expected to contribute like Borgstrom has.
The NCHC’s Rookie of the Month for October has taken the transition from the Finnish junior leagues to the NCAA ranks in stride, and his electric skillset has already translated into elite offensive output.
As of December 2, the native of Helsinki, Finland, leads the Pioneers in scoring (16 points), the only skater on the roster producing over a point per game. Bringing a well-rounded presence to the top-six, he also paces his team in goals scored (8) and shots on goal (54), placing second in assists (8).
He’s also worked to address his weaknesses — knocked during the draft process for below-average skating and defensive positioning, Borgstrom also owns the highest plus-minus rating on the club (+8), bringing effort in all three zones.
— Shannon Valerio (@svictoria29) December 1, 2016
That dominance hasn’t been limited to the confines of the Magness Arena.
Borgstrom ranks fifth among all NCHC skaters in scoring, and is the only freshman to crack the top five. Furthermore, his 16 points are good for 25th in the nation and fifth among all freshmen.
He’s caught fire as of late. All of his points have come in an 11-game span, registering two multi-goal and five multi-point outings.
And with mitts like these, it isn’t unreasonable to think his hot streak will continue.
Drafted in same spot as current Panthers defenseman Michael Matheson, Borgstrom’s had a meteoric rise.
Passed over during the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, he surged to the top of Central Scouting’s rankings, and was ranked ninth among European skaters in 2016.
Described by Litter Box Cats’ JC Smith as having “a bit of Barkov in (him),” the centerman’s greatest asset is his “unanticipated” playmaking ability. He’s projected by Hockey’s Future to develop into a top-six scoring forward, and early indicators point towards that becoming reality.
There’s no reason for it not to.
— Cats On The Prowl (@Cats0ntheprowl) October 30, 2016
Despite the questions about his skating and lanky frame, Borgstrom’s exceeded expectations. As he builds strength, both of those issues should get fixed, making him a tough presence for opposing defenses on the forecheck. And while his faceoff numbers are respectable — he’s second on his team with 74 faceoffs won and ranks second in faceoff percentage (47.7 percent) among skaters with at least 100 faceoff attempts — any added muscle would likely benefit him at the dot as well.
Henrik Borgstrom has already made a name for himself in the North American hockey community.
What’s scary is that he’s just scratched the surface of his potential.
A rower-turned-writer at the University of Florida and an incoming MA in Journalism student at DePaul University, I have: Worked as a staff writer for the Independent Florida Alligator; covered the Florida Panthers for The Hockey Writers; reported on international tournaments for Hooked On Hockey Magazine; and functioned as an entertainment correspondent with the Gainesville Sun. If you’re interested, you can also follow me on Twitter @ajlb95.