The date of this year’s NHL Draft is still in flux thanks to the state of the world still being uncertain, but it is going to happen eventually this year. That means our New Jersey Devils should still be preparing their list of players that they believe would be a good fit for the team. Offensive talent is still a need for this team, and that’s why Swedish winger Zion Nybeck could be a fit for the Devils...if not for one issue that we’ll discuss in the opinion section.
Who is Zion Nybeck?
Nybeck was born on May 12, 2002 in Alvesta, Sweden; this municipality would also be the place where Zion would get his start in hockey, as he played for Alvesta’s youth and junior squads growing up. He would go on to join HV-71 of the SHL at the end of 2017-18 for a few games before moving on to their system permanently to start 2018-19.
Nybeck is a prospect who is a bit on the smaller side currently, standing at 5’8” but weighing a respectable 176 lbs.; for his frame size, that’s not bad at all. An additional positive to highlight is that he can play either wing according to Elite Prospects, and while he is a left handed shot, the Devils could use talented wing prospects in their system.
Statstically speaking, Nybeck’s numbers have come as part of HV-71’s J20 team. Last season he went 17-26-43 in 35 games before bursting out and having an even better campaign in 2019-20, where he contributed 27-39-66 in 42 games. He also was brought in for 15 games with HV-71’s main squad this season, but only managed one goal in those contests; more on that later though. His full stats can be found here on his Elite Prospects profile.
Where is Zion Nybeck Ranked?
Nybeck’s draft positioning is a bit scattered based on the few available projections of where teams might select him. Two of the rankings have him viewed as an early-mid second round choice, while his NHL Central Scouting position sees him more likely to be selected in round three, possibly even four:
EliteProspects - #43 (February)
Future Considerations - #37 (March)
I think the more worrisome statistic from these rankings is the dive Nybeck took in the NHL CS rankings; his midterm grade saw him 13 spots higher, and a number of other prospects passed him for the final rankings. While these projections certainly aren’t everything, it’s a bit concerning that he fell so much.
What Others Say About Zion Nybeck
Today’s player reports begin with a swath of information fromJokke Nevalainen of Dobber Prospects, who has this to say:
“Nybeck has had an incredible season in J20 SuperElit where his 50 points in 34 games leads the league. His points-per-game average puts him sixth in the league and first among under-18 players, and his 17 goals puts him third among under-18 players and 11th league-wide...On top of that, he has also gotten a few SHL games under his belt but his average ice time in those games is below two minutes, so he’s mostly just sitting on the bench there.”
“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.”
Lot of positives to Nybeck’s game here; he is an all situations player for HV-71’s J20 squad, and his scoring has ranked him very highly among rookies in the league. Size seems to be the negative here, but I wonder if there’s more to it; I don’t believe lack of size is enough of a drawback to see a prospect fall thirteen spots.
Next we have some information from Steve Kournianos over at The Draft Analyst, where he has written a full profile of all aspects of Nybeck’s game. It’s a bit of a longer read, so I’ve taken just a few different blurbs that give a good idea of the type of player Zion is:
“His fine work against his peers was rewarded with a 15-game promotion to the parent club, where he produced only one goal in 15 games with an average ice time of 4:41 per contest.”
I’d really like to know which it is for his ice time: two minutes or just under five. Either way, that’s not a whole lot of time/shifts to make anything happen, which explains the low point output.
“Nybeck is a quick skater with a short stride and outstanding agility. He is as slippery as they come and he uses his lateral quickness and strong edges to change direction or react to pressure that blocks his original axis of advance. Nybeck has the speed and elusiveness to gain large swaths of ice regardless of the type of defense thrown before him.”
“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).”
“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.”
“Nybeck’s energy and quick feet come in handy on the penalty kill and forecheck, and he is more than willing to deliver hits as hard as he can.”
Okay, I know I have a lot thrown in here, but I think these sections really highlight the type of player that whoever drafts Nybeck will be getting. Smaller players in the NHL need to know how to use their speed effectively, and Zion seems to already have a good handle on that, despite celebrating his 18th birthday a mere two days ago. He also is classed as a playmaker, but is also described as not being afraid to shoot the puck, and his goal totals reflect that as well.
His defensive effort is also a strength, as HV-71’s J20 team would use him on the penalty kill in addition to his Top 6 scoring role. Some information published about him notes that he can be pushed off of the puck due to his size, but his effort helps to mitigate that disadvantage, at least somewhat.
The critique on him (aside from his size) appears to be that he attempts to do too much sometimes without having a Plan B so to speak. That can be troublesome, particularly at the NHL level, as too many turnovers leads to play going the other way, which of course if happening repeatedly will lead to goals against. Nybeck’s projected draft position indicates that he is not a prospect that will be NHL ready for 2020-21, so that is a facet of his game that he could work on next season. Additionally, this concern coupled with his size could be why his stock fell for the NHL’s final rankings.
A Little Video
Today’s video features Nybeck’s highlights from last year’s U18 World Championship. I think this video, while roughly a year old now, still does a good job highlighting the positives of his game that were mentioned by the pair of writers above.
An Opinion of Sorts
Reading up on Nybeck has me feeling like he could be a good prospect to select with a mid-round choice. The reports on him seem to show that the knocks on him are his small stature and that he will at times try to be too fancy and turn the puck over. He has a wealth of offensive talent, his effort is not of question, plus he has the awareness to be effective in all three zones. He may try to do too much sometimes, but as long as he has support on the ice (something he’ll have to learn) then that should be less and less of a problem the further he develops in his career.
Now for that little issue that I spoke about at the start. While he’s talented, Nybeck is definitely not an NHL ready prospect; he’s not even viewed as a first round selection. As we’ve written about in previous weeks, and at the time of this writing still, the Devils do not have a draft selection in rounds two or three this season. Now that could change on draft day if the team were to trade down, or swing a player deal where a pick was attached to balance the value, but if that’s not the case I don’t think the Devils will be choosing Zion.
I do, however, think he could be a good fit despite his size, as right wing is still a weak spot for the Devils and with Nybeck’s versatility to play both sides, it would allow more flexibility with line combinations. If the Devils manage to obtain a pick in the second round (or even early third if Nybeck falls in the draft) this is another player that could be a solid choice outside of round one.
Now I’d like to hear your thoughts on Nybeck as a prospect; is he someone you were following prior to this writing? What about his style of play do you like/dislike? Would you want to see the Devils acquire a second/third round pick and select him with it? Anything else that you’ve heard that did not get mentioned here? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!