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Noel Gunler: 2020 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Swedish Winger with a Sweet Release

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Noel Gunler is the 3rd of 3 SHL wingers projected to go in the first round. The highlight of his game is a strong and versatile shot, but that’s not all he has going for him.

Lausanne HC v Lulea HF - Champions Hockey League Photo by RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images

Who is Noel Gunler?

Noel Gunler is a 6’2’’ 174lb winger playing for Luleå HF of the SHL — Sweden’s top professional league. An early October birthday, he is one of the older prospects for his draft year, but that makes it no less impressive that tore up the SuperElit as a 17-year-old or that he’s contributed 13 points in 48 games with grown men, and the best hockey players in Sweden, as an 18-year-old.

via Elite Prospects

It’s rare for teenagers to be good enough to He’s one of only 3 draft-year prospects to play 25+ games in the SHL this season, with the other two being Alexander Holtz who we profiled here, and Lucas Raymond who we profiled here. They both outrank Gunler as prospects — Raymond is in the 10-20 ranges whereas Holtz and Raymond are both top 10.

Since they all play in the same league, showing their respective performances side-by-side is likely the simlpest way to orient his SHL numbers. The below model was created by Byron Bader of Hockey Prospecting.

via Hockey Prospecting

Holtz appears a notch above the competition here, but Raymond and Gunler have taken comparable analytical trajectories. And while the other two have scored at a higher rate this season, Gunler’s impact has actually been more impressive — he’s had a higher GF% and GF%Rel than either of the other two Swedish wingers according to Pick224.

Where is Noel Gunler Ranked?

#10 - Hockey Prospect (January)

#14 - Future Considerations (March)

#18 - ISS Hockey (March)

#14 - McKeen’s Hockey (Midseason)

#15 - Elite Prospects (February)

#11 - The Athletic (Wheeler) (February)

After shredding the SuperElit and garnering a promotion to the SHL last season, Gunler was slated to be a top-10 (or at least bordeline) prospect. But this past season, he put up fewer points per game in the SHL than he did as a 17-year-old. Some scouts have called his consistency and all-around game into question which has forced him down the mid-season rankings to his current perch.

What Others Have Said About Noel Gunler

To elaborate on that consistency concern, here is what Scott Wheeler’s ranking post had to say about Gunler’s game:

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 favor of safer, lower risk players, too. But I love his skill f0r 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.

But the feature of his game you’ll see talked about the most is his shot, exemplified nowhere more than this blurb from Chrostoffer Hedlund of EP Rinkside:

We can start by looking at one of his most apparent stand out skills – his shot. In short it is easy to describe it as powerful and extremely precise, with a quick and deceptive release. It all comes down to how well Gunler handles different kind of shooting techniques, he can shoot the puck in many different ways and no matter how he does it, it will result in a high-quality shot. Gunler’s snapshot is incredibly hard to read for the goaltender and he has such a quick motion when he shoots that even goaltenders that are prepared for the shot won’t be able to react, which at times make it look very easy when he scores with his snapshot. Gunler’s wrist shot isn’t as deceptive as the snap shot but it is instead highly accurate and extremely powerful and if he is given the slightest bit of time around the opposing net, he will find an opening to put the puck into the net. His wrist shot is so good that even when goaltenders know that it is coming, and there’s no screen in front of them, there’s nothing they can do to stop it.

His shot is not his only skill, though. A couple scouts point out that his shot distracts from his underrated playmaking ability. I’ll highlight this in the video in a second, but Kourianos gives a good summary here:

Gunler is an excellent passer for a winger with a reputation as a goal scorer. He can go from receipt to delivery in one motion, even with his back to the play in the neutral zone. Gunler’s forehand-backhand mechanics are advanced and borderline on being elite among his top peers. One aspect rarely talked about is his breakout positioning — Gunler seems to get the gist of set breakout plays such as the “up” that allows him to receive the puck in stride in the middle of the ice. He isn’t as reliable in the wheel or rim set plays, but most of those are neutralized anyway by your standard quick-thinking Swedish checker in a clogged neutral zone.

A significant improvement in Gunler’s game has been his consistency with forechecking and routes to the puck; making proper reads in the neutral zone, and busting it on the back check. He is far from a stopper on defense and will let opponents facing the goal gain inside positioning, but he stays within harassing distance and will cover the low slot if it’s vacated.

A Little Video

First, let’s just see a quick clip of some to feature his shot. This is a gif of a hat trick with 3 pretty impressive shots.

And here’s a more thorough highlight reel.

His shot is obvious so I’ll point out some of the skills Kourianos mentioned instead. About 12 seconds in you’ll see him on an aggressive forecheck — a skill he’d do well to hone given how lethal his shot is in transition. At 2:49 you’ll see him do something similar again, but this time it preserves on OZ possession rather than capitalize on a forecheck. And about 35 seconds in you’ll see a good example of his vision too — he gets the puck in a good spot to shoot, but dishes it cross-crease for the perfect shot on that play.

My Take

I think his ranking is exactly correct. He seems like a very good prospect for a winger, but he has the strereotypical flaws winger prospect has — he doesn’t have game-breaking talent as a playmaker, and his 200-ft game isn’t particularly noteworthy. He’s got one of the best shots in this draft, and it’d be too harsh to say he’s one-dimensional because he does have other tricks in the toolbox, but the quantity and quality of those other tools is not requisite with that of a top-10 prospect.

Because of the stoppage, it’s a bit complicated to figure out what might happen to the Devils other two potential first rounders (Vancouver and Arizona), but if we get one or both of them, then I’d be okay using that pick on Gunler. I don’t expect that he would be the best player available at whatever our 1st selection ended up being.

Your Take

Now that you have read up on him, what do you think about Noel Gunler?Where would you take him? Is he the top-10 talent he looked like last year? Or is he the back-end 1st rounder he played like this season? What pick would you take him at?