The Panthers went with offense and skill, as expected, during the 1st round of the 2016 NHL Draft on Friday night when they selected Finnish center Henrik Borgström with the 23rd pick.
Although the selection of Borgström appeared to be slightly off the board at first glance, he has a ton of offensive upside. The Panthers are really high on him and put their faith in Finnish scout Jari Kekalainen who also played a major role in drafting Aleksander Barkov in 2013, Joonas Donskoi in 2011, and Juho Lammikko in 2014. They also feel that Borgström is one the most skilled players in the draft and could be better than many of the top picks down the road, so they really didn’t hesitate to call his name with the 23rd pick.
Because Borgström has been playing for HIFK’s U20 team – which is second to the professional team in the Finnish Elite League (the country’s top men’s league) – footage and scouting reports are hard to come by for the 18-year old center. Those who have seen him play have labeled him as “a hidden gem” and a smart player who’s able to slow the game down when the puck is on his stick. On the flip side of the coin, scouts are somewhat worried about his effort without the puck, although they do believe it’s something that can be worked on with time.
Borgström was eligible for the 2015 Draft but was passed over completely, mostly as a result of major back pain he experienced as a result of growing 9 inches during the year. He was also playing for U18 team and had almost no experience against older and tougher competition despite the skill being there. With the U20 team this year, Borgström tallied 29 goals and 26 assists in 40 games in addition to 4 goals and 2 assists in 4 games during the playoffs. He opted not to play for the men’s pro HIFK team as a way of keeping his NCAA eligibility open, although he likely would’ve had he not made that decision.
When it comes to when he’ll be ready for the NHL, it probably won’t be for at least a couple more years. He’ll be attending the University of Denver this year where he’ll play for the Pioneers alongside fellow Panthers prospect Evan Cowley. While he has the height at 6’3″, he still needs to grow into his frame as he currently weighs in at about 176 pounds; some reports have him as potentially being a number 2 scoring center in the NHL. Having said that, the NCAA route should prove to be a very good decision as it will allow Borgström to adjust to the North America style of play while getting bigger and stronger in the gym.
For more in-depth analysis of him, check out this write-up by the Finnish Junior Hockey Report.