December 19, 2020

Deep Dive: A look into Simon Edvinsson’s game

For a while now, I have thought about writing an article on the Swedish blueliner Simon Edvinsson. But this was something that stayed as just a thought, until now.

When I received the opportunity to write the second FCHockey Deep Dive of the season, there were no doubts about which player it would be about.

Simon Edvinsson: An introduction

Born on February 5, 2003, in Onsala, Sweden, Edvinsson is currently listed as six-foot-four and 186 pounds. He is a player who has made a big impact ever since he entered the Swedish junior leagues. In Sweden, we have a big, classic TV-broadcasted U16 tournament where all the best players from each of the Swedish provinces play each other. It is called TV-Pucken and is the first big stage for the players in our country. At this tournament, Edvinsson began to get attention nationwide. He won a gold medal with Gothenburg, and he also won the “Lill-Strimmas Award” as the best defenseman of the tournament. Later that season, Edvinsson scored more points than any other defender in the playoffs when he won the U16 gold medal with Frölunda. Ever since, Edvinsson has been a key player at the junior level, both with Frölunda and the Swedish national teams.

Edvinsson has been a big part of the Frölunda U20 team so far this season. At the time of writing, the Swedish junior leagues have been paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic but there are hopes that the season will start up again on January 1. The d-man has played 14 games in the J20 Nationell, the highest U20 league in Sweden, and sits at one goal, five assists and six points. During the pause, Frölunda has decided not no loan him to a club in the Swedish second-tier league, HockeyAllsvenskan, or the third-tier league, Division 1. Instead, he was called up by Frölunda and made his SHL debut on November 19 against IK Oskarshamn.

Some may argue that Edvinsson should have been given the chance to debut earlier given how well he has played in J20 this year. At the same time, one of Frölunda’s strengths (and maybe weakness) is that there is a greater plan and patience around a player and their individual development. But at the same time, it can quickly go the other way if they don’t give a player a chance to play. Fabian Lysell is an example of this. But regardless of level, Edvinsson has quickly adapted and dared to play his own game. What really stands out with Edvinsson is his big frame and what he can do with it. Yet even with this frame, he moves like a smaller forward and has such great vision and passing abilities. It is easy to be impressed by his perception of the game and dominant presence.

Simon Edvinsson: The toolbox

My colleague Justin Froese previously wrote a fantastic Deep Dive article on Dylan Guenther. In that post, he gave a good explanation about a player’s tools and toolbox. If you are reading this article but have not read Justin’s, I highly recommend reading it first. This article will have a similar look where I start by going through Edvinsson’s toolbox. In other words, his mental game such as vision, awareness, and positioning.

One of Edvinsson’s finest qualities is his offensive awareness. He reads the game very well and is good at finding openings. The defender can move the puck up the ice and start attacks on his own initiative. He knows where he should be to create opportunities and is not afraid to move deeper down to the circles in the offensive zone. From there, he can either take a shot or set up his teammates with a pass.

The clip above shows his great awareness as he instantly takes in information about the play. Edvinsson is noticing that the puck is heading towards the corner. He immediately rushes to the puck and beats two Södertälje players, moving around a third one. Here it is very common to see a player making a rash decision and a (usually failed) shot attempt. Edvinsson knows that a shot attempt here is a low scoring chance. Instead, he moves away from the net and finds his teammate on the blue line who is in a better position.

When you watch Edvinsson play, you so often see how he is always scanning the ice and taking in information. In the clip above, watch his head. He shoulder-checks before he reaches the puck and takes control of it. He is using his edges and mobility as he changes direction, the whole time he’s scanning the ice and then sees his teammate moving toward the center of the ice. Then, he opens up his hips to put himself in a position to make a really crisp pass.

Sometimes Edvinsson tries too hard to make a play. It is almost like he’s trying to make a highlight-reel play. You can see an example of this in the clip above. He tries to dangle an Örebro player and immediately two other opposing players step in, close him off, and the puck is lost. All this for no good reason. He could instead have made a simple drop-pass to his teammate who enters the zone behind him and continued to drive towards the net. This isn’t a major problem. But he could definitely work on his decision-making in the offensive zone.

Edvinsson uses his gap control to close space for opponents. He often shows great urgency when he stays with his check. His aggressiveness often leads the opponent to dump in the puck which breaks up the attack. In this, the puck can easily be picked up by Edvinsson or a teammate. Edvinsson also does excellent work using his long stick as he closes the gap to knock the puck from an opponent player. You can often see how Edvinsson maintains an aggressive gap control, how he is able to close the gap, and poke the puck free of an opponent player, both in his own zone as well in the neutral zone. In the clip below, you can see how Edvinsson cancels the Czech player #23’s attempt to enter the zone.

Edvinsson is smooth on his skates, staying in a good position relative to the opposition. When he identifies that the Czech player is attempting a controlled entry, he steps up and pokes the puck away. This leads to him taking control of the puck and giving his team the opportunity to move up the ice.

Edvinsson is only 17 years old and has already played a couple of games at the highest level in Sweden. What allows him to play against stronger and more experienced opponents is how he uses his eyes, but also the speed at which he can take in information as the play evolves. In the linked article, Jack Han talks about how the frequency and quality of shoulder-checks allows a defenseman like Edvinsson to make the right decisions ahead of time. In the clip below you will see an example of this.

An HV71 player dumps the puck down behind the goal line and Edvinsson knows that the HV71 player (F1) is coming in with speed. When Edvinsson skates towards the puck, he prepares himself as he first takes a look towards the forechecking F1 to see how much time he has. After that, he looks behind him to see where his teammate is located. This allows him to know what his options are before he reaches the puck. With F1 forechecking, Edvinsson takes the puck and sees F2 approaching.

He decides not to take it behind the net. Instead, he used his frame to protect the puck and turn away from F1. He finds a teammate with a backhand pass and Frölunda can later make a controlled exit. As the clip above demonstrated, Edvinsson has excellent instincts and once he uses them, he is incredibly good at creating situations or turnovers. There is a calmness in his game, both with and without the puck. Edvinsson’s ability to read the game, predict what will happen and finding space will give him big advantages at all levels.

I’ve talked about Edvinsson and his aggressiveness. It can definitely be a strength, but in some situations, he tends to puck watch and gets a bit too aggressive in his puck pursuit. This makes him move too hard on the opposing player and get out of position, leaving ice exposed. His skating skills are good enough to recover most of the time in the J20 Nationell, but not always.

In the clip above, you can see him being too aggressive when trying to pinch the F1 who is carrying the puck. This results in him leaving his mark, F2, all alone. This shows some lack in his surveying when he gets too caught up looking at the puck and the puck carrier. This is an area he needs to improve, otherwise, he will struggle at the men’s level where the game has a higher pace of play.

In the following clip, we will see that Edvinsson is a very capable transitional defenseman. We will talk more about his skating later but in the clip below, Edvinsson showing great acceleration with linear crossovers and a powerful stride while in transition. He uses the speed to push back the opposing D1, makes a quick stop, and glides in towards the slot. He tries to find his teammate who is driving towards the net, but the puck deflects off the D1 before being blocked by the goaltender.

Edvinsson uses his smooth skating to move the puck from his own zone to the offensive zone. He uses his frame to control the puck, but he is also strong on his feet and well balanced which makes it hard to knock him off the puck. The clip below is another example of this.

Edvinsson is defending, staying with the attacker, and then pinching. He manages to take the puck away from the defender using his long reach, and then starts the turnover. The defender exits the defensive zone with control and protects the puck very well from the checking opponent. He drops the puck to his teammate but quickly gets it back. Edvinsson drives towards the center lane with the puck and finishing it off with a shot on net.

To summarize, Edvinsson has some work to do on his game off the puck as he tends to puck watch too much and get drawn out of position. But overall, he has a calmness to his game, not only when he has the puck but also off the puck. It is strongly linked to his awareness and ability to read the game and predict what will happen. These mental abilities will make him a potential top pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.

Simon Edvinsson: The tools

With the toolbox done, we can now shift our focus towards Edvinsson’s tools. In other words, the skills he possesses such as skating, passing, shooting, puck protection, etc.

Since the 2019-20 season, Edvinsson has developed his skating technique. It’s not perfect but for a player of his size, it is really good. He is a very smooth skater with long strides. He plays a mobile game and can even get up to high top-speed if he gets enough ice to accelerate on. As seen in one of the clips earlier, Edvinsson has the ability to gather the puck and instantly move up the ice.

Edvinsson makes a quick shoulder-check before gathering the puck behind the net. He sees F1 coming towards him and simply shift weight and side-steps the forechecker before using linear crossovers to accelerate. He then makes a controlled entry in the offensive zone and can set up a play. With linear crossovers, Edvinsson is crossing his feet to accelerate. By doing this, he can increase speed, change attack angles, and create separation, which makes him a bigger threat for the opponent. If Edvinsson had taken more forward strides than crossovers, he would be easier to defend against, which could result in him losing the puck in a vulnerable position. The clip below is another example of him using these crossovers.

Edvinsson takes a look up the ice, uses backwards skating before making a pivot and rounding the net. Here you can see how quickly he can gather speed with his powerful strides once he gets the space. He creates separation from F1 and dekes the oncoming F2 before side-stepping F3. But the opponent gets his stick on the puck, making Edvinsson drop it for a second and lose some speed. He makes a controlled entry, shows some quick hands, and tries to find a teammate with a backhand pass. This clip is a great example of his smooth skating and how hard he is to stop when he reaches his top speed.

In the offensive end, you will rarely see Edvinsson “walk the blue line” with the puck. Instead, he more often uses his great first touch to find a teammate with a pass. But he is very active on his skates off the puck and often uses his edges to move around smoothly. Edvinsson usually prefers to move and make himself available, which makes him very hard to defend. In the clip below, Edvinsson is playing against Brynäs in the SHL. He is in constant movement and shows mobility, offensive skating technique, and awareness, even though he never received the puck.

It is not very common to see a player who is six-foot-four with such beautiful hands as Edvinsson. He uses his crossovers, top speed, and vision to his advantage to take on and deke his opponents (and you quickly see shades of fellow Swedish defenders like Philip Broberg or Rasmus Dahlin).

Something you may have noticed in some of the clips above is his passing skill. He has the skill to pull off most of the difficult passes as well. You will rarely see him make a real saucer pass, though. Instead, he is more of a smart and effective passer who opens up passing lanes with his skating abilities.

Edvinsson walks down from the point, drawing the Örebro player (F1) out of position, then making a weight shift to side-step towards the center making D1 let go of his mark. He then finds his teammate open with a backhand pass. This kind of play, where Edvinsson first challenges and draws an opponent out of position, then finds a teammate with a pass is something you’ll see him try a lot.

He is also an effective breakout passer in the transition play. Edvinsson collects a loose puck and protects it from F1. He sees F2 coming towards him, does a quick weight shift and side-steps away from the forechecking opponent before sending a pass to his teammate.

Edvinsson is undeniably a very exciting player, but one of the question marks regarding him is his physical game. Despite his big frame, he is not very physical. Edvinsson is a very competent defender in situations where he doesn’t need to use his strength. He tends to stay away from many defensive situations where he needs to use his physique. His strength is not necessarily a major problem, but it is clear that Edvinsson needs to gain some before playing regularly against men. This lack of strength makes him still quite unpolished in his defensive game. Many prospects with larger frames who have grown a lot since hitting puberty tend to have issues with their coordination. Therefore, it can take a few years before a player like Edvinsson figures it all out and becomes more comfortable in his own body. Instead of playing a physical game, Edvinsson is able to use his size quite effectively when battling for the puck along the boards and closing off the opponent.

This clip is from an SHL pre-season game against HV71. Edvinsson is showing urgency when HV71 has a 2-on-1. Edvinsson stays with the puck carrying F1 who finds his teammate with a pass. F2 misses the shot and the puck ends up in the corner. Edvinsson steps in, using his size to close off F1 and protect the puck. He then remains balanced and finds a teammate with a backhand pass.

Protecting the puck is one of the most important skills a defender needs to master. If Edvinsson can position his body between the puck and the forward, it will make it difficult for the attacking forward to make a play. Edvinsson has such a large frame that he mostly uses the size of his body when protecting the puck at the junior level. Even if he needs to improve his strength, he still has an advantage against players in the J20 Nationell. But when he’s playing pro against men, he will need to use his strength more, which underlines the importance of him getting stronger.

One of the more obvious improvement areas for Edvinsson is his shot. He is not a shooter, and he has an average of 2.9 shots per game. But Edvinsson could really improve his shot strength and his accuracy as well.

Simon Edvisson NHL Draft
Simon Edvinsson shot chart (InStat)

In the shot chart above you can see his shot accuracy this current season. The percentage is representing the number of shots that hit the target – the net. He has one goal and he scored that in front of the net after he deked the goaltender. Edvinsson does create great opportunities for himself to take a wrist shot, but too many times the shots are too easy for the goaltender. Although he does still have a tricky wrist shot when there is traffic in front of the net and he has the skill to get the shot through traffic from the blue line. He will never own a canon of a shot but still could improve his accuracy and timing instead to compensate for it. The clip below shows a goal he scored against Finland last season. After receiving the puck, Edvinsson makes a weight change and moves around F1. He then takes a quick look, releases a wrister, and scores.


Edvinsson: The next great Swedish defenseman?

Size, IQ, skating, and passing abilities. Edvinsson has everything an NHL team wants when they are scouting for future defensemen. Sweden has produced world-class defenders for many years now, so it can be quite tempting to compare him with a player such as Dahlin, who also have made it through Frölunda’s academy system. But that can be a bit misleading. Edvinsson is a great talent and a great player, but he is not as complete as Dahlin was at 17. I think it would do him great if he had a year or two in the SHL. But with the way he can adapt, and how fast he adapts, I wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves for North America earlier. Time will tell if he will become the next great Swedish defenseman, but he definitely has the potential.

I believe that he could develop amazingly well with some work on his strength, decision-making, shooting, and play off the puck. When we summarize the 2021 NHL Draft class in a couple of years, he could very well be the top defenseman from the group. It’s a fact that Edvinsson, with his mental game, skating, and skills with the puck, combined with his frame, has the potential to be a reliable top-pairing, two-way blueliner. He may not be the best player in the draft as of right now or the player who has the most impressive stats when this season is over. But due to the potential he has, it is not unlikely that he could be one of the top-five players selected in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Maybe even the first-overall pick.

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