Nils Höglander is ridiculous.
The Vancouver Canucks prospect can do some incredible things on the ice, such as his penchant for scoring lacrosse-style Zorromål goals from behind the net. He's equally talented off the ice: like his future teammate, Elias Pettersson, Höglander can juggle while riding a unicycle.
His latest goal in the Swedish Hockey League shows that he's not just a one-trick pony: he's a multi-trick horse.
Höglander scored the goal against Skellefteå on Thursday, part of a two-point game for the Canucks prospect winger. A mere description of the goal won't cut it: you have to see it to believe it.
Spectacular goal from Nils Hoglander. Love how he stole the puck back in the o-zone, then cut through slot around everyone before pulling off the move. 👏 #Canucks pic.twitter.com/l5HTpKPf22— Grady Sas (@GradySas) December 10, 2020
That's an absolutely absurd finish, going back between the legs while cutting through the slot and roofing the puck over the hapless goaltender, Arvid Söderblom. Is it evocative of another fantastic between-the-legs goal by a Swedish Canuck? Perhaps.
It's not just the finish that makes this exciting for Canucks fans, however, it's all the work Höglander does to create the chance in the first place. As a 5'9" winger, he'll need every aspect of his game — the skating, vision, anticipation, and hard work — to excel in the NHL.
Höglander starts the play by gaining the offensive zone with speed through the neutral zone. As soon as the pressure comes from the Skellefteå defenceman, Höglander moves the puck, putting it in behind the defence where only his linemate, Erik Andersson, could possibly get his stick on the puck for a scoring chance. When that chance is stopped, Höglander keeps after the puck, stripping it from veteran centre Jonathan Johnson.
As soon as he gets the puck, Höglander makes a beeline for the most dangerous area on the ice, with Andersson setting a screen to give him space to maneuver. And then comes the spectacular finish.
When asked in the intermission what was going through his mind when scoring the goal, Höglander could only say, "Nothing much, I go by instinct, I guess."
When asked who even thinks to try a move like that, he just said, "Me."
It's a complete effort for Höglander on the play: the zone entry, the shot assist, the forecheck, the net drive, and the finish. That combination is worth getting excited about for Canucks fans.
His assist showcased his defensive instincts, as he perfectly read a pass to the point and cut it off, allowing him to explode up the right wing for a scoring chance, creating a rebound for Andersson to finish.
Great steal on the boards in his defensive zone by Nils Höglander he then flew down the wing to get a shot on net and his teammate follows it up and buries it.— 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 Faber 🤙🔥🎙 (@ChrisFaber39) December 10, 2020
A nice 🍎Primary Assist🍎 for Hog, he's heating up....👀 pic.twitter.com/ApLAttON2y
Höglander is playing in the SHL for Rögle BK on loan from the Canucks while waiting for the AHL and NHL seasons to start. His two-point night — his second in his last two games — gives him 14 points in 20 games, solid production for a player averaging just 13:48 per game in ice time.
That's similar production in the SHL to players like Calle Järnkrok, Patric Hörnqvist, Artturi Lehkonen, and Lars Eller at the same age, so there are good NHL comparables to how he's performing. Höglander will turn 20 before the Canucks training camp begins, making him just barely ineligible to play in the World Junior Championship this year.
Of course, he might not have been available for the World Juniors anyway: with the way he's performing in the SHL, he has an outside shot of making the Canucks' roster to start the season.