The New Jersey Devils went back to Europe on the second day of the NHL Draft yet again. All of their picks so far have come from Finland (Salminen, Vilén) or the Czech Republic (Málek). Now, they can claim Sweden. The Devils selected right-handed defenseman Viktor Hurtig of Västerås IK’s under-20 team.
According to his Elite Prospects profile, the first thing you will probably notice is his size. He is big. Huge, even. Large, if you will. Hurtig is listed at 6’6” and 190 pounds. The second thing you will probably notice is that he is an overage draft pick; he turned 19 back on April 28. This is the sixth round of the NHL Draft so an overage pick is hardly out of the ordinary. The third thing you will likely notice is that he was busy last season. Hurtig came up through Avesta BK before moving on to Västerås IK with their U-18 team in 2018-19. Since then, he’s been a part of the Västerås set up. Last season, he played 11 games with the U-20 team; four games with the first team in the HockeyAllsvenskan, which is Sweden’s second best league; and got a loan for seven games with Surahammars IF of HockeyEttan. All that and he was transferred to the Växjö Lakers and will play for their team next season. Per EP, it is a junior contract so he could be available to move over sooner rather than later.
What does Hurtig do? Well, his EP profile actually has this blurb from the Elite Prospects 2021 NHL Draft Guide:
Hurtig can pass through the forecheck, shield the puck, activate, and beat opponents one-on-one with some clever manoeuvres when the game slows down a bit. He can problem-solve the forecheck with shoulder checks, pass preparation (fakes), and sees multiple layers.
At the minimum, there is this. It is not a whole lot. Which is what you would expect for an overage defenseman that was only ranked by FC Hockey (at 221st) and Central Scouting Services (51st among European Skaters). There was no guarantee he would be picked at all. He played a total of 22 games. While he was productive at the U-20 level with five goals and eight points, it was not as if he played anywhere that garnered a lot of attention. And in 2019-20, he was kept in the U18 league with just eleven games in the U20 league, so it is not as if a lot of scouts had the chance to see him and could make an assertion based on the last full season of hockey he could have played.
There is also this reaction to the pick by Steve Kournianos. It is not much but it is something.
164. Devils take hulking overage RHD Victor Hurtig (6'6). Was a No. 1 through and through and excellent on the power play. Good skater for his size and can beat back pressure with his wheels but also poised and delays to let checkers fly by. Loves to shoot.— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) July 24, 2021
OK, this is somewhat encouraging. At best, he could be a jewel in the rough. At worst, well, it is a sixth round pick.
If you thought Jakub Malek was a shot in the dark - and I do - then this is a shot deeper in the dark. He is large, he will get a chance to play in a new organization, and given his contract status, he could be AHL-eligible sooner rather than later. Given how the Devils’ scouts have unearthed some fine picks late in drafts from Sweden and Finland in recent years, I can understand some confidence in the Devils that this is a good pick. But a lot of this is still “To Be Determined” in my view. I wish I had more a definitive handle or feeling about the player picked. For the sixth round in a draft year that required limited viewing of prospects for all teams involved, it is what it is. If I find anything else, then I will try to add it here later. I would not hold my breath, though.
I welcome Viktor Hurtig to the Devils organization. I wish him the best as he joins a new team with the Växjö Lakers for 2021-22.
Now that you know what I think about the player, I want to know what you think of the selection. What do you like about Viktor Hurtig? Do you know something about him that has not been mentioned here? What do you expect, if anything, from Hurtig going forward? Please leave your thoughts about the player in the comments and please also vote in the poll as part of community reaction I will put together tomorrow. Thank you for reading.
The Devils drafted Viktor Hurtig at 164th Overall. What do you think of the pick?
This poll is closed
I love it!
I like the pick.
I don’t know / I’m in the middle.
I don’t like the pick.
I hate it!