2019-20 Team: HV71 J20 (SuperElit)
Date of Birth: May 12, 2002
Place of Birth: Alvesta, Sweden
Ht: 5-foot-8 Wt: 176 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2020 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 29th (Among EU Skaters)
- Future Considerations: 37th
- Josh Bell’s Top-124 Rankings: 24th (February)
- Andrew Forbes’ Top-217 Rankings: 30th (March)
- Larry Fisher’s Top-400 Rankings: 32nd (May)
Every draft has a Zion Nybeck — a skilled forward with relentless speed and dazzling offensive ability whose only drawback seems to be his size. But even at 5-foot-8, the Swedish winger weighs in at 176 pounds — pretty good for an undersized 18-year-old kid in his draft year.
Related: THW’s 2020 Draft Guide
Nybeck dominated the J20 SuperElit league last season, finishing first in scoring with 27 goals and 39 assists for 66 points in just 42 games. His strong play earned himself a call-up to the SHL, where he scored one goal in 15 games, averaging just 4:41 ice time per game.
A left-handed shooter, Nybeck can play either wing. His biggest strength comes from his lower body, as his speed can burn defensemen with ease while on the attack. On the forecheck, he is a wrecking ball. Using his quick feet and tenacious play style, he’s able to compete against the boards, an area most smaller players struggle in. He’s also able to funnel that energy into backchecking, where his toolkit helps him to be a responsible defender.
When Nybeck has the puck, his shiftiness opens up lanes of ice to connect passes, execute give-and-gos, or simply stick-handle into shooting areas. He operates with brilliant creativity and isn’t afraid to attempt new and risky plays — most of which work more often than not. He shines particularly off the rush, where his high tempo helps him dictate the play.
He’s an excellent passer and shooter who can play virtually any power play position. He’s dangerous to leave alone, as he can fire one-timers off in the blink of an eye. He’s also dangerous with the puck, which makes him a looming threat every time he’s on the ice.
It’s hard to say what caused Nybeck’s stock to plummet from 16th in the NHL Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings to 29th in its final rankings for European skaters. Unlike most young players entering their draft year, Nybeck is remarkably well-rounded — there are very few drawbacks to his game.
Occasionally, he will hang on to the puck for a second too long, or lose it trying to stick handle too much. There are also times where he’ll be overly eager to exit the zone and join a rush, or aggressively hound the puck in the defensive zone, causing him to lose position. But he also enforces plenty of turnovers with those same moves.
Some attribute his low rank to his size, or perhaps his lack of effectiveness in the SHL caused the nose dive. But with such little ice time to work with, his call-up should be viewed only as a positive. He may have spent a lot of time glued to the bench, but it was an opportunity to gain experience and further his development.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Zion Nybeck – NHL Draft Projection
Considering his skills and talents, but also his dip in NHL Central Scouting’s rankings, Nybeck could go anywhere from pick 20 to 40. However, with so many smaller, skilled forwards advancing to the NHL recently, there may be considerable interest in his services. I predict he’ll be drafted late in the first round, in the 24-to-27 range.
“Nybeck is an outstanding playmaker. He creates high-end setups on his own but also knows where to position himself to maximize the effectiveness of his linemates and creative defensemen. Nybeck is involved in a lot of give-and-go’s and set plays off faceoffs, and he is far from bashful when given the chance to wire a dart at the net (he averaged 4.2 shots a game during Top-10 play). His shot-release combination is both effective for the accuracy of his attempts and the way it catches opponents off guard. Nybeck also has a hard backhander and will slap bouncing pucks on net in one motion during board battles. On the power play, Nybeck is one of several elite playmakers HV71 can ice on their top unit and he is a dual threat who can either step into a one-timer from the circle or thread the needle towards the back door; he also plays the point if necessary. If there’s an opening, he’ll find it. If an opening isn’t available, he’ll create one himself. There are times when Nybeck tries to be too fancy and will attempt high-risk plays high near the line with no safety coverage available.” – Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst
“Nybeck is a great skater who has a deadly combination of speed and quickness. He is always on the move and giving great effort which makes it look like he’s everywhere. He is a very effective forechecker and backchecker. He is a very smart and creative offensive player who can execute difficult plays because of his excellent hands. On top of that, he also has a very good wrist shot. The only knock against Nybeck seems to be his size. At 5-foot-8, he always has to prove himself over and over again. But he is not afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice, and he can throw a good hit when it’s needed. Nybeck has all the talents of a top 20 pick but may end up sliding all the way to the second round because of his size.” – Jokke Nevalainen, Dobber Prospects
- Speed & agility
- Work ethic & energy
- Offensive creativity
Under Construction – Improvements to Make
- Size and strength
- Overzealous stick handling
The path has been paved for smaller forwards to work their way into the NHL, and Nybeck already has many of the tools needed to follow in those footsteps. With such limited ice time in the SHL, it’s hard to say how effective his play style truly is against men, but as he continues his development, his skill set should safely make him a future second-line winger in the NHL. With the right linemates, his element of speed and forechecking could even potentially complement a No. 1 line in the NHL.
Risk – 3.5/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 8/10, Defense – 4/10
Nybeck led all players in the J20 SuperElit last season with 66 points in 42 games. He was an alternate captain for Sweden at the 2019 U-18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he scored four points in five games en route to a bronze medal. Nybeck won a slew of awards in 2018-19, including Best U-18 Forward for J18 Elit, a bronze medal at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge, and a gold medal at the IIHF U-18 World Championship.
Matt Cosman is a Sheridan College print journalism graduate from Oakville, Ontario. I’ve been with THW since 2019 covering the Carolina Hurricanes, one of my favorite childhood teams. When I’m not in my hockey bubble you can probably catch me jamming out on the piano or losing money at the poker tables.