2019-20 Team: Luleå HF
Date of Birth: Oct. 7, 2001
Place of Birth: Luleå, Sweden
Ht: 6-foot-2 Wt: 174 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2020 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 6th (Among EU skaters)
- Bob McKenzie, TSN: 27th
- HockeyProspect.com: 10th
- ISS: 18th
- McKeen’s Hockey: 14th
- Future Considerations: 14th
- The Hockey Writers: 13th
You may have heard about the “big two” coming out of Sweden ahead of the 2020 NHL Draft, Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz. Well, it actually should be the big three. Noel Gunler is right there with his Swedish top prospects and deserves to be in that conversation.
So why hasn’t Gunler been in that category so far? Well, there have been some questions about his consistency, his effort, and his defensive game. While consistency is an issue for many prospects at this stage, the effort and defensive struggles have been largely blown out of proportion. Those struggles have popped up, but for the most part, Gunler plays as if he’s going to score every shift. He has a nose for the net and he’s not afraid to get physical on his way there.
Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide
Defensively, he’s capable of stealing the puck and skating the other way before the opposing team even knows what hit them. It’s not always the case though, as he needs to tighten up in his own end, not give opponents the inside edge, and make sure he continues to battle for the puck. There have also been some cases where he has stiffened up in his play when the game is on the line, which isn’t ideal in an NHL player.
Adding to the questions around Gunler are concerns about his attitude. While it largely remains speculation at this point, it seems to be a big reason why Gunler hasn’t been named to the Swedish national team in 2019-20 and especially for the World Juniors. A tournament where looking back, they definitely could have used him.
His skating has also been questioned, and while he isn’t the best skater in the draft by any means, it’s nothing to be too concerned about. He’s a bit choppy at times but he makes it work, finding speed and can have bursts of explosiveness. It’s nothing to worry about and it’s another aspect of his game that has been blown out of proportion. He’ll continue to improve here.
Enough with the negative, let’s look at the positive. What sets him apart is his offensive ability. He has the skill to make room for himself in the toughest of situations and he then can whip out his incredible shot. If he ends up going in the top-10, it will largely be due to this shot, which might just be the best in the draft (or one of them at least). His wrist shot is deadly and a number of goaltenders in the SHL could confirm that.
His hockey IQ s right there with his shot. He reads the ice so well, knowing where everyone is going to be on top of where they currently are. While he’s known to rack up the goals, don’t be surprised to see highlight reel, behind-the-back passes often from him. His offensive arsenal is full, whether that’s in the form of a shot or a pass.
His biggest aspect to work on is consistency. When he’s on, I think he’s a sure-fire, top-10 draft pick. But there are times when he’s coasting and not battling as hard as he could be, where I wouldn’t be surprised to see him slide past the first round. NHL teams will need to take the good with the bad in Gunler, and if they can pull the good out of him and light a fire under him, they’ll end up with one of the biggest offensively dynamic players in this draft.
Other THW Draft Profiles:
Noel Gunler – NHL Draft Projection
Gunler is going to be an interesting name to watch on draft day. He’s ranked all over the first round, from in the top 10 to the 20s for TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Craig Button. While there have been some concerns about Gunler’s attitude and effort, these seem to be blown out of proportion. Still, it may impact his draft spot. Just look at 2019’s Arthur Kaliyev, who some ranked in the top 10 but fell to the second round. I believe that Gunler should be a top-15 pick in this draft, but don’t be surprised to see him fall into the 20s. As far as I’m concerned, anything past 15 is a steal.
“Gunler is one of the more polarizing players in the 2020 draft. Many believe his play is too inconsistent and that he can fade in and out of games. Team Sweden has shown a reluctance to use him in favour of safer, lower risk players, too. But I love his skill for a 6-foot-2 winger and I think it’s evident on a more consistent shift-to-shift basis than he gets credit for. He’s not a perimeter player, and consistently shows he’s willing to drive into traffic. That’s true off the rush and it’s true inside the offensive zone. And then there’s his shot, which is already NHL level.” – Scott Wheeler, The Athletic (From: ” Wheeler: Midseason ranking for the 2020 NHL Draft’s top 62 prospects” – The Athletic – Feb 19, 2020).
“Gunler’s biggest strengths are related to his ability to score goals. He has an elite release, an excellent ability to shoot the puck in different ways, and high-end scoring instincts. He’s also a great playmaker who can regularly create scoring chances for his linemates. At times, he’s too passive on the ice which could make it seem like he’s lazy or disinterested. But at other times, his play without the puck has looked much better. Once he starts to find more consistency in that area, he will earn more trust from his coaches and that will allow his offensive abilities to shine even brighter. Gunler has top-line upside.” – Jokke Nevalainen, DobberProspects
“Gunler is a strong north-south skater with deceptive lateral quickness. He owns a wide stride which can seem choppy at times, but he still is a threat in open ice, not only for his above-average straight-line speed but also for his ability to keep defenders puzzled by looking off while alternating speeds and feigning indecision. The truth is that Gunler is one of the more calculated forwards in his age group when it comes to getting the puck into the zone cleanly, and even at the adult level, opponents seem to have a legitimate fear of playing him too close upon entry. These developments can yield undesirable results for the other team, especially the goalie, who then has to worry about Gunler blistering a nasty wrister from as far out as the top of the circle. Concerns about his footwork or quickness seem to be overstated — when he’s engaged and locked in, Gunler can outpace quick forecheckers by a good stride or two.” – Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst
- Offensive Versatility
- Hockey IQ
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Defensive Game
Gunler could be one of the best offensive players from this draft one day. His ability to read the defence and react accordingly is extremely impressive and his shot is already NHL level. Granted, there are questions about him, but from what I’ve seen the effort has been there more than it hasn’t. Defensively, I’ve seen some great plays in his own end, leading me to believe that concerns about this have been blown out of proportion. Looking at what others have said about him, they’ve seen this too. I have no question that he has NHL top-line upside.
Risk – 4/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 8.5/10, Defence – 6/10
In 2018-19, Gunler led the J20 SuperElit (North) in both goals (19) and points (34). This section would be more full if the Swedish Ice Hockey Association named Gunler to more international teams, as he seems to have been snubbed from dressing with Team Sweden as of late. He’s played for the U16, U17, and U18 teams in the past, but nothing in 2019-20.
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Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.