I find draft criticism endlessly amusing. It has a lot in common with your parents berating you over the lack of grandchildren.
They’re not wrong to want futures. But if they’d just slow down, keep their heart rates down, show a little patience, and keep the judgments to a minimum, the conversation might benefit all involved.
This doesn’t make draft criticism invalid. We all like to look back at the players we could have had, knowing full well that sometimes “our guy” is not as good as “their guy”. And we hope that the powers that be don’t develop tunnel vision just because they know a guy who knows a guy who fathered a prospect in a tucked away town Pierre McGuire memorized from composition books arranged in a way that looks eerily similar to Kevin Spacey’s from Seven.
The 2014 draft didn’t look like Jim Nill’s best work at the time. He didn’t just try to draft defensemen. He tried to draft all of them. Who knows if a temporary detour would have allowed Dallas to pick up Viktor Arvidsson in the 4th round instead of Brett Pollock, Alexander Peters, or Miro Karjalainen. But alas, so far Dallas just has Julius Honka to show for it.
Not a bad prize, but is that it? It turns out, maybe not.
John Nyberg was plucked in the 6th round from Frolunda. Since then he’s quietly formed a reputation in the Swedish Hockey League on Frolunda’s blueline, even earning the title ‘assistant captain’.
His 7 goals, and 8 assists in 49 games put him 6th among the SHL’s leaders in goal scoring for defensemen. Here’s Sean with a brief report:
My Nyberg scouting report from back in January: pic.twitter.com/Lvhm2s2a1S— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) May 18, 2017
It seems like the common theme for late round picks turned team leaders is ‘commitment’. He turned his work regiment around, considered lazy by his coaches at one point, until suddenly getting critical minutes after taking a Christopher Nolan approach to training.
At 6’3 and over 200 pounds, Nyberg is a departure from Dallas’ typical puck movers. He is, however, not a departure in style.
Though it seems like a peripheral skill (or maybe we’re just so used to the lack of it in Dallas), the ability of a defenseman to put the puck on the actual net (as opposed to glass, boards, or a winnable SUV) is important to creating offense. The opposing team has no choice but to react and defend against the rebound. Here, Nyberg shines. He settles the puck down above, and quickly opts for the heavy shot to create a rebound for Frolunda.
However, he’s more dangerous in proximity with his shot.
He’s not exactly Tyler Seguin, but that’s a tough spot that Nyberg snipes at a challenging angle.
Nyberg doesn’t have elite wheels, but he keeps his legs moving in the offensive zone when trying to create opportunities, and doesn’t let himself get crowded.
Skills are obviously important, but opportunities come as much from physical attributes as they do mental ones.
Immediately following a line change, Nyberg finds the quiet ice, activating from the defensive zone to transition into a swift zone entry.
Nyberg has good offensive instincts, and aptitude, but he’s also pretty good in his own zone. Watching tape, I find that he’s actively enthused with physical play, often taking the body in open ice. His physicality isn’t specific; he’s not a big hitter like Stephen Johns, but he likes to get in opponent’s way when he can.
Nyberg still has a ways to go. He’s a calm player, and he doesn’t make many mistakes, but he can be a little reactionary in his own zone. He could stand to improve his gap control in situations where he prefers to take the body, and he could actually stand to gain from working more on what makes him good. That sounds weird, but even with his qualities, I get the impression (could be just me) that he plays a little reigned in, like he’s not acutely aware of his own strengths.
With the Traverse City tournament beginning today, Nyberg will have a chance to showcase what he can offer now, and in the near future. Don’t look now but if Dallas can ultimately end up with two defensemen in their top six from one draft, I’d call that a darn good draft, and well above the norm.