Welcome to Last Word on Hockey’s 2021 NHL Draft Class introductions. The 2020 Draft class was a blast, and the 2021 NHL draft should be too. Alexis Lafreniere was the first overall pick for the New York Rangers in ‘20, but who will it be in ‘21? How about we here at Last Word introduce one name to pay attention to this season: Fabian Lysell.
2021 NHL Draft Class Introductions: Who To Watch This Season
Sweden is taking over the hockey world. On my personal board, I have seven Swedish hockey players in my first round. At the top of that list? Fabian Lysell. Arguably the best skater in the class, Lysell is ranked first on my board, with Tony Ferrari of Dobber Prospects giving him that same praise. To summarize, it’s a big year for Swedish hockey.
2021 Draft Class Introductions: Fabian Lysell
Lysell, born January 19th, 2003, from Goteborg, Sweden, is an 18-year-old forward for Lulea HF of the SHL. He stands at 5’10” and 168 pounds. Playing on the right-wing, Lysell has potted two goals and added one assist for three points in 24 SHL contests. Playing for Frolunda earlier in the year, and staying in the J20 Nationelle, Lysell scored three goals and 10 assists for 13 points in 11 games. Last season, again playing for Frolunda’s J20 team, Lysell recorded one goal and five assists for six points in 11 games. As stated earlier, I have him ranked first in the 2021 NHL draft class.
2021 Draft Class: Fabian Lysell’s Overall Game
Lysell is arguably the best skater in the class. He pairs that skating ability with his ability to stickhandle effectively, embarrassing his opponents. However, he doesn’t just stickhandle to look good. He times his dekes based on his opponent’s movements. His awareness is next level, drawing defenders in and then making a move to leave them in the dust. Now, there are times where he tries a little too much and puts himself in tough areas, making his offensive style a little harder to project. However, if he reigns in on his skills and puts it all together, he has elite upside. Finally, despite not getting a lot of credit, Lysell is exceptional in the defensive zone. He’s positionally sound and situationally aware, using his stick effectively to make plays.
Perhaps where Lysell stands out the brightest for me is in his transitional game. It’s no secret that being a good transitional player will pay off in spades in today’s game, as a player’s ability to move the puck from defence to offence quickly and efficiently is of the utmost importance. In the two games I have tracked thus far, Lysell ranks first among the top-five Swedish forwards in the class with controlled exit percentage (ContrEx%). That stat is the total number of controlled exits divided by the total number of zone exit attempts. He ranks first with an 83.33 ContrEx%. He also ranks first in controlled exits per game played among those same Swedes, with 2.5 controlled exits per game.
When it comes to zone entries, Lysell sort of falls short. He ranks tied for last in controlled zone entry percentage (ContrEn%) with a 33.33% clip. He also is tied for last in controlled zone entries per game, sitting at 1 controlled entry per game. What this stat doesn’t show is that half of his entry attempts that weren’t controlled, they were dump-ins. That said, he isn’t as bad at entering the offensive zone as it seems, just more conservative. His speed and stickhandling are a massive advantage for him, and he uses them as effectively as he can in the neutral zone.
Lysell is definitely a pass-first player, there’s no questioning that. His playmaking abilities, paired with his skating, give him the ability to be a lethal playmaker, at any level. His production does not reflect that, however. That’s due to a lack of ice time, as per Pick224, Lysell is averaging just under eight minutes per contest. It’s also due in part to some consistency issues at the SHL level. His lack of size compared to his opposition, in most cases, along with his playing style, makes it difficult to find success consistently.
He has confidence in his stickhandling and wants to utilize it. However, with no prior SHL experience, along with his small frame, and the fact that he stickhandles himself into difficult spots at times, he has struggled. With experience, ice time, and added confidence, his game could be dangerous. His skating cannot be understated, as he already has an elite skating ability. Lysell’s offensive skill set, even though it hasn’t been great against men, possesses so much potential that, paired with his skating, he could be an absolute force. His pace is what separates him from William Eklund for Tony Ferrari, and his transitional game is undeniably high-end.
Lysell hasn’t found much success, as stated earlier, in the SHL. That struggle shows up in the stats I gathered. He is tied at 24th among 26 forwards tracked with at least four offensive zone passing attempts, as he has completed 50% of his pass attempts. To put that in perspective, Eklund has completed 87.5% of his pass attempts in the offensive zone, while attempting more passes than Lysell.
Meanwhile, of those 26 tracked forwards, Lysell is one of four without a shot attempt in games tracked. He’s also one of six players without a shot on goal. Those stats aren’t great until it’s revealed that all four players without a shot attempt also play limited minutes in the SHL. Eklund is the only Swedish forward tracked with a shot attempt, as he has four shot attempts, with all four being on net.
Lysell is one of the best Swedish forwards when it comes to defensive zone play. Isak Rosen is arguably the best of the bunch, and certainly ahead of Lysell. However, Lysell is sound positionally and has only been improving recently, since joining Lulea. Using his stick well, he’s able to plug up passing lanes. He engages himself and plays aggressively on the puck when it is on his side of the ice. That point is proven in the fact that he has a high volume of zone exit attempts, considering his age and the league he plays in.
While he knows where to be, and can read the play very well, he isn’t a game-changing presence. Lysell is a winger, so his responsibilities in the defensive zone are limited. He is also an offensive-minded forward, so he does like trying to get up ice when his team gains possession. That said, he likely will never become a defensive stalwart. His offensive instincts are a part of him and his style, and he’s been playing his whole life this way, so it won’t change much, if at all. But his defensive game is strong, and with experience, it could be enough to warrant important defensive shifts.
2021 Draft Class: Lysell’s Upside
Lysell’s skating, stickhandling, high IQ, and transitional abilities are a phenomenal foundation from which a team can build on. Those traits alone give him the ability to become an elite NHL player if developed well. Add to that his strong, but raw, playmaking instincts, and you have a player who can produce around 40 to 50 assists a season. His shot isn’t bad by any means either, he just doesn’t use it as much as he should.
He has a lightning-quick release and strong accuracy. As is the case with many prospects, his shot lacks the necessary power to work with consistency against the NHL’s top goalies. That’s not to say he couldn’t score, because he definitely has a good shot. However, he does his best work in high-danger areas, and with his size and inconsistency, he needs to work on it more. It’ll benefit in the long run for both him and the team that takes him. But he will always be a playmaker first. That being said, if all goes well, Lysell could be an elite winger. He could potentially play both power play and penalty kill minutes. His floor is low, but his ceiling is sky-high.
2021 Draft Class: Lysell’s NHL Comparison
Before the comparison is made, remember that this comparison is strictly stylistic. Not what you should expect Lysell to become. That being said, Lysell reminds me of Travis Konecny of the Philadelphia Flyers quite a bit. Both players are excellent skaters possessing excellent stickhandling abilities. The biggest difference between the two is Konecny is a goal-scorer, while Lysell is a playmaker.
Using data by Corey Sznajder, and pieced together in a visual by CJ Turtoro, Konecny is one of the better transitional players in the national hockey league. Lysell very well could end up better than Konecny in this area. But it shows that they are both exceptional in the transition. If Lysell can develop into the elite playmaker that he very well could become, he could be one of the best transitional players in the league.