A Deep Look at Henrik Borgström

Florida reached at 23rd overall for center (Kurt!) Henrik Borgström. Borgström was slated to go mid rounds, as the second year draft eligible grew nine (9!?!) inches in his first draft season. Coupled with the pain associated with such a growth spurt, its no wonder Borgström had zero interviews at the combine last year and failed to get selected. Still adjusting to a completely new frame, Borgström was able to break out this year and find a commitment to University of Denver for next season. Securing a better command of his body and a development path forward, Borgström quickly ratcheted up the charts. But seriously, pay no mind to Borgström passing through the draft once. He is only a month and 11 days older than Auston Matthews and no one was worried about selecting an ‘older’ player at #1.

This was the pick Florida needed to make. The high octane creativity is there, as is the overall tools and frame. Plus, centers are vital; Tallon’s blueprint confirmed as much. By the time ultra-raw Borgström is ready for the big time, there is no guarantee the Panthers would be able to keep all three of their top flight centers. It’s best to plan ahead, allowing one of their departures to be filled by a younger, cheaper prospect poised to step up.

But just what kind of player did the Panthers select? To answer that, Whyhockey scoured the internet trying to find more footage but junior games in Finland are hard to come by. However, we were able to find a game film from TPS’s junior club when they matched up against Borgström’s IFK. We watched and broke down some of Borgström’s shifts to illustrate some strengths and weaknesses. Remember, this is only one game from a prospect who is just starting to figure it all out–so sample size, yadda yadda.

Borgström’s slips into soft ice after a OZ face-off loss and is able to make a quick pass out front. Pass was a bit errant but the creativity there is good.

A confident zone entry from Borgström after a quick lateral move on a defender. Loses the puck at the end but made good play to go East-West and create time/space.

Carries the puck out of the zone, able to open up his hips and hands to make the smart pass for zone entry. Little too excited as he can’t hold the line. Borgström was quick to recognize coverage, distribute the puck and continue to skate through middle to get it back.

Borgström finds a soft spot on the regroup underneath his teammate and is able to corral a pass and attempts to leave it for the crisscrossing teammate. Tail end of the clip shows where skating can improve. His crossovers are a bit shallow and he will learn to use his frame to reach for more ice as he steps over, elongating his stride and increasing his grip.

Borgström shows good straight line speed beating a defender on the dump-in and establishing possession behind the goal line before finding a teammate. The ‘snap’ in his passes is missing but should come with added strength.

Borgström looks comfortable covering for his defenseman in a regroup and shows good agility to get on his edges and change direction through quick pivots and opening his hips. Makes a risky (but the good kind) break out pass while drifting backwards.

Borgström supports the puck on the wall well, patiently waiting to pounce on a loose puck. Here, he’s able to support up the wall and start a regroup that leads to an OZ faceoff just in time to change. What I liked here best is Borgström has the space to turn up ice and get going but delegates the work to the open D-man, so he can get a line change at the right time.

Once again, Borgström glides underneath the puck making an easy passing angle for his D and it allows him to pick up the puck in stride. The result is a burst of speed in open ice that backs off the D and allows him to almost pull off a end-to-end rush goal. Shot is a little soft at the end but that’s fixable.

Borgström is patient and waits for play to develop while he drifts to open ice, which leads to a scoring chance. He gets the loose puck, side steps two defenders and works to create another opening. The pass is risky, towards his own net, but is a play that should have been executed by the defender.

Borgström makes a nice poke check, though he does swing off his mark and bend back around the net instead of stopping and staying on him. However, this ends up being an acceptable switch in the D zone as he comes back to the net front and his teammate takes the puck carrier.

Borgström loses his check in the NZ and his check ends up scoring at the end of the first period to tie the game. Borgström isn’t a close back checker and prefers to stay within reach of his check. In this league, it probably works out most of the time but not here.

Good low center swing to start the breakout. The best centers know to stay in line to get flat pucks and Borgström is consistent about it. It leads to an end-to-end rush that creates a shot attempt.

Borgström keeps the puck in and uses his lateral agility to sidestep (get used to that, he does it every shift) and get into open ice. Maybe tries one too many moves but Borgström is reluctant to loose possession by chipping it around boards. As his strength improves and he learns to use his body better he won’t have to rely on moves every time and can instead shield the puck instead of making that one last move.

Borgström in open ice clearly intimidates TPS as they continually backed off him all night. He goes for the highlight move, putting the puck between the defenders triangle and hoping to come out the other side. But he doesn’t give up when his moves don’t work and this time that stick-to-it attitude results in a shot and a OZ face-off.

Supporting the puck up the wall on the OZ cycle, bides time for an open late and makes a good pass under pressure.

Borgström covers for the D on the regroup, and goes D-to-D and creates space for his defenders by running some legal interference on the forechecker.

Just after, he keeps his feet moving and swings to other end of the ice (again, underneath the puck) and enters the zone. Couldn’t pull of the nice little move but with a little more size he should be able to withstand that push and power through.

Borgström has the ability to swing to his forehand or backhand on the breakout and regroup and has similar range of mobility and soft hands to corral passes regardless of forehand or backhand. Here he makes a little bit of a risky play but doesn’t back off the hit and the risk was mitigated as it occurred lower in the zone.

Borgström is able to tip a broken neutral zone play into the offensive zone, corral the puck, do a nice little Gretzky curl and find his D for a cross ice one timer. Again the pass rolls a bit and more wrist/forearm strength will flatten it.

Borgström is unpredictable and makes his decisions fast which gives him a high tempo of play. You can see this above as he weaves in and out and makes a pass against the grain.

Borgström tries to do a little too much on the breakout,stick handling and skating himself into trouble. However, he recovers well despite the failed clear.

Based on scouting reports and the one game of footage we were able to find, it seems Florida made a smart reach at 23rd. The current roster depth and prospect pool allows the Cats to take a longer trajectory, higher ceiling player. Borgström definitely fits that mold, as evidenced above. His personality matches his playing style, and the ease at which he moves is pretty damn impressive considering the growth spurt in 2014-2015 season. His strength and positioning is really what needs the most work, and he’ll get that at a top D1 NCAA program like Denver. The hope is that it doesn’t stifle the overall creativity and potential high-octane offense he can bring as a center. And when I say center, I mean it. Ignore the glides and drifts, it’ll fool you. Borgström is usually around where he should be especially covering for his defenders and swinging on the breakout or regroup. His tools make him much more valuable down low in the NZ or DZ in the transition game than stuck on the wing. Plus once he adds that bit of width he should be able to better control the center of the ice, which not many players have the capability of doing.

Credit to Florida Panthers’ scouting team both old and new for this pick. It shouldn’t be overlooked that former director of scouting Scott Luce hired Jari Kekalainen, who undoubtedly fought hard for Borgström to be selected. Luce and Dale Tallon also directed the scouts for this season and last, and got the views in to feel confident on the pick.

He may take four or five years, and he may get tagged by some as a drifter but, boy, does he have the skills. His overall ability and impact isn’t far off from Mikko Rantanen or Jesse Puljujarvi, two play making wings from Finland (who both could probably play center). The real key is development and patience as this pick could really turn into something, like Matheson.