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Florida Panthers 2016 NHL Draft First Round Selection: Henrik Borgstrom

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With the 23rd overall pick in the NHL's latest Draft, the Cats surprise with selection of Finnish center

Laswordonsports.com

Okay, so who called that one? There was some thought from the NBC crew that the Florida Panthers might go off the board with the 23rd overall pick... and they did. This is not to say that Henrik Borgstrom is not a quality pick. This center from Finland is considered by some to be one of the THE hidden gems of the 2016 Entry Draft. "Hidden" may be the key word there, more on that in a moment. He did rise up the prospect rankings as the season progressed, and was buzz-worthy by earlier this week. He finished with a #9 ranking from Central Scouting for EU players, 79th by McKeens Hockey, 79th by Future Considerations, 35th by Bob McKenzie at TSN, and 137th by ISS Hockey. Here are the vital statistics:

Shoots: Left

Height: 6'3"

Weight: 176 lbs.

Born: Helsinki, Finland, August 6, 1997

Position: Center

CAREER STATISTICS RSS feed

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM +/- POST GP G A TP PIM +/-
2011-12 Jokerit U16 Jr. C SM-sarja Q 1 0 0 0 0 |
2012-13 Jokerit U16 Jr. C SM-sarja Q 9 1 7 8 0 |
Jokerit U16 Jr. C SM-sarja 32 20 21 41 16 | Playoffs 10 2 8 10 2
2013-14 HIFK U18 Jr. B SM-sarja 30 8 12 20 6 | Playoffs 5 1 0 1 0
HJK U18  Jr. B Mestis 1 0 0 0 0 |
Finland U17 (all) International-Jr 1 0 0 0 0 0 |
2014-15 HIFK U18 Jr. B SM-sarja 21 12 25 37 4 | Playoffs 12 7 8 15 2
2015-16 HIFK U20 Jr. A SM-liiga 40 29 26 55 20 23 | Playoffs 4 4 2 6 0 -3
Finland U19 (all) International-Jr 3 0 0 0 0 0 |
2016-17 Univ. of Denver NCAA

There is a bit of "Barkov" in Borgstrom, in that he has exciting, and often unanticipated playmaking ability. He has fantastic and well noted stick-handling skills and a quick release shot. He is big, but needs to add weight, and when he does, there may be a ton of potential. Hockey's Future evaluated him this way:

Borgstrom is a creative and skilled scorer with a variety of offensive tools. Another of the taller forwards to come out of Finland in recent years, he had a rather late growth spurt and does not yet have the strength and agility to take full advantage of that size. His defensive positional play and strength in one-on-one battles are areas that need addressing but should improve as he matures physically and gains experience at the college level.

Over his past two seasons, Borgstrom has scored 41 goals, and added 51 assists (92 points) over the course of 61 games. That suggests potent offense, although he has accomplished that in the HIFK junior leagues, to maintain his NCAA eligibility. He did not play in any international tournaments either. Thus, you will recall me mentioning the "hidden" aspects of this Finn. Corey Pronman said this about Henrik:

Florida selects Henrik Borgstrom. He's very talented forward with great hands and vision but needs work on his skating, second year eligible

He will play at University of Denver next season, which will give him time to develop and most importantly, build his body up. There is some thought that with additional muscle he will add speed and consistency (both of which he lacks right now). Craig Button wrote that this Finn has improved much from 2015, is smart, can put the biscuit in the basket, and "finds ways to contribute with his size and his skill."

Marco Bombino at Over the Boards added this:

He’s an entertaining player to watch because he can slow the game down and will make plays that no one could anticipate. Borgström can dangle with the puck even when there are two or three players around him. Has great hands and playmaking skills –  makes timid, heady passes in the final third. Also, he has a good wrist shot with a quick release. It’s difficult to defend against him because he can and will also shoot the puck. He’s a quick thinker and anticipates a lot of plays.

What is most apparent in most scouts' evaluations of Borgstrom is a level of uncertainty, combined with a certain amount of buzz. He was not selected, although eligible to be drafted in the 2015 draft. The biggest knock against him is that he lacks strength, which holds him back from his full potential. However, most prognosticators anticipate that the NCAA route will be a good one for him. Players get more time in the gym in the NCAA than in other leagues, and they are permitted to develop more slowly than at juniors. The Panthers have taken advantage of the NCAA route with many of their draft picks, so it is not surprising (when we consider that preference) that they went with Borgstrom. Florida can afford to be patient with this pick, and let him add strength and experience playing against young men.

University of Denver coach Jim Montgomery had this to say about his recruit: "Henrik is a highly-skilled center with great size." The Panthers' European scouting staff has routinely scouted Finnish prospects, and had success with the likes of Juho Lammikko, Aleksander Barkov, and former draft pick, and subsequent San Jose stand-out Jonas Donskoi. As if there was any question about that:

Most of the leg work w/ the Borgstrom pick was done by Finnish scout Jari Kekalainen, who was huge part of Barkov, Donskoi, Lammikko picks.

There seems little question that the scouts and the analytics folks they hired this offseason liked what they saw in Borgstrom. For the Panther fan, we can expect several years before we see this prospect start entering the conversation, but hopefully the muscle and size will allow Henrik to achieve the potential many see trapped behind his present lack of physicality.