While the expectation was that Trevor Timmins was going to announce a selection at pick 50, which the Canadiens received in a trade that sent captain Max Pacioretty to Vegas, they ended up moving down and snagged a Swedish defenseman from MODO Hockey Junior club. Mattias Norlinder was somewhat of an unknown among the general fanbase when he was selected with the 64th pick in the 2019 NHL entry draft. Though the choice seems to be one the team is really excited about and the fans are looking forward to seeing him as well.
The Canadiens put an emphasis on drafting mobile players and Norlinder is definitely one of them. His mobility is his most prevalent attribute and he makes it look effortless as if he’s gliding all over the ice. He not only skates well but moves the puck efficiently and has above average vision in transitioning from defense to offense. A new-age defender who plays his position by maintaining the puck as far away from his zone as possible and by maintaining puck possession. He also likes to play a north-south game which means he goes towards opposing defenders to makes plays and often gets past defenders. He possesses great offensive and defensive awareness.
His game is very proactive and tends to initiate plays to get his team moving forward. He will not overpower oncoming forwards but maintains an active stick and uses his body well to position himself to cut lanes or pressure players with the puck. It seems his aggressive nature is what allows his team to counterattack quickly and catch teams off guard. These types of defenders are hot commodities with the ever-changing landscape of the NHL over the next number of years.
Norlinder, 19, was a second year draft eligible that displayed maturity throughout the season which attributed to his graduation to the senior club. He split the 2018-19 season between the junior and senior team of MODO which has developed talents like Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, and Victor Hedman. While playing for the organization he produced at a respectable rate, scoring 21 points in 30 games for the junior squad adding 6 points in 5 playoff games. He recorded 6 points in 14 games when he got promoted to the men’s team adding 3 points in 5 qualification games. The decision to choose Norlinder may turn out to be a good gamble in a few years.
His current contract status has him overseas for at least one more year. He could very well make the jump to North America at the 2020 training camp and add some youth to the pro organization whether in Laval or Montreal. He’s got excellent tools and was ranked among many scouting firms in the 2nd to 3rd round area. The Canadiens added both value and skill to their left side and seem to have made a good selection here. His skill set is exactly what the left side of the team’s defense is lacking and with the way the team is trending, it seems like the next few training camps may be the most competitive since Marc Bergevin took over back in 2012-2013.
Competition breeds success and I’d say success is just around the corner.