By Jared Brown (@JaredBrownn97)
Scouting Focus – Why Liam Ohgren Should Be Considered As A First Rounder
Liam Ohgren came bursting out of the gates at the Hlinka Gretzky tournament held in the Czech Republic in early August. On route to a bronze medal, Ohgren finished tied for second amongst Swedish forwards in points with seven points in five games. His hot start to his draft season has carried over into his league play in Sweden in the J20 Nationell league playing for the Djurgardens IF J20 team. At the time of writing this he’s currently up with the big club, Djurgardens IF in the SHL, due to his stellar play on the J20 team. An impressive six goals in seven games, and twelve points, equalling up to 1.71 points per game.
So, what makes Ohgren so good? And why should we consider him as a potential first round candidate in the 2022 NHL draft? Well, let us dive deeper into Ohgren’s game and review his strengths to figure out why.
Ohgren’s skating is easily one of his best attributes. How he utilizes his skating impacts his game with and without the puck. The mechanics in his stride shows little to worry about, and can only get stronger as he continues to physically mature. He has a deep, long, powerful linear stride, and has developed a low to the ice posture. Strong front knee drive, gripping the ice with his inside edges to make a powerful initial push off. He explodes through the sheer power in his lower body. He is also strong on his edges. Doesn’t have quick foot speed and his hunched over stance hurts him with quick directional changes. That being said, his ability to play a fast north-south game makes up for it.
Watch how Ohgren (#15 in blue) accelerates through his linear strides to close the gap on Frolunda’s defender. While Ohgren isn’t able to full catch him, he forces the defender to make a quick play and not allow him to have any time and space when retrieving the puck.
That is just an example of how strong his stride mechanics are. In this next clip he uses his acceleration to burst into the neutral zone and give his linemate an option in the middle in the transition. I’m sure he would’ve wanted that shot back as the attempt wasn’t threatening.
He uses his acceleration and speed to play with pace and is partly a reason I believe for his promotion to the SHL. He can skate with the big boys and his pace of play is not an issue. Off the puck he attacks and pressures quickly to disrupt his opposition and create turnovers.
Offensive Zone Play/Puck Movement
Ohgren is incredibly adept at never having his back to the puck and is constantly open and ready whenever the puck hits his stick. He can drift into open ice in the attacking zone all while having his body opened and in a strong position once the puck lands on his stick. An aspect of his game that is wildly strong is his ability to string together passes in an offensive sequence. Out on the perimeter, Ohgren protects the puck smoothly and is capable at playing the cycle. He’s solid in this regard for multiple reasons. One, his edgework and ability to spin off pressure while controlling the puck with poise. Two, his heads-up awareness and knowing where his teammates are. And three, his rangy puck control.
In this clip, Ohgren (#20 in yellow) takes the puck from the corner into the middle high-slot area before sliding a pass under a stick to his defenseman pinching down from the point.
Watch how his spin off here isn’t lightning quick but stays balanced through the turn. He has already spotted a teammate skating into an open pocket on the weak side to set up a scoring chance. I included what he does after because this is an area I’ve noticed can be Ohgren’s kryptonite at times. Attempting risky passes in bad position. A blind pass here where he never looked over to his right to ensure the passing lane was a safe one.
Nine out of ten times Ohgren will shoulder check or pre-scan before dishing the puck off, but he’s had passes that proceed to a transition the other way or a scoring chance. Something he’ll just need to clean up as those kinds of passes will lower your ice time at the NHL level.
Ohgren has top notch vision and if you’re a goal scorer, you want someone like Ohgren playing on your line. A specially alert puck facilitator. While some players have high-end puck skills to dangle and maneuver the puck around to generate offense, Ohgren uses his awareness and intelligence as a skill to execute on quick passing plays where the puck can be on and off his stick in a hurry. Saying that, he isn’t flashy one-on-one in terms of skill, but in distributing the puck he showcases his skill in feathering off soft passes under or over sticks, and the use of saucer passes on both his forehand and backhand. He’s very unselfish and is effective at utilizing all four of his teammates on the ice in all three zones. He can portray deceptive body language which can open up a passing lane or fool the defender and goalie.
In this clip, watch how Ohgren’s head, shoulders, and feet are all facing forward when he pulls the puck into his hip pocket. He knows his teammate Ostlund has a bit of space right in the slot and slightly sells the shot by bringing the puck into his hip pocket. This makes the defender in white move his stick away from the passing lane to be ready to deflect the shot. Ohgren slides a soft lateral pass and Ostlund does the rest for a beautiful finish.
And here, Ohgren makes a quick move along the boards to shake off one defender and sucks in another before making a quick backhand pass to his teammate wide open inside the faceoff circle.
Now that we know he’s an effective playmaker and puck distributor, let’s not count out his shot and ability to snipe it from the slot and beat goalies from mid-range. Ohgren has a lethal wrist shot and a sneaky curl-and-drag shot. His shot blends precision and power beautifully. The application of downforce that he produces through his shot is what makes it so powerful. That and using his bottom hand to flex and torque the stick. Has scored multiple goals this year by baiting a defender to bite and then toe drag easily around them before letting that lethal shot go. You’ll see a couple examples below.
Below you’ll see him catch the puck while letting it sit far back in his hip pocket and keeping his blade down to generate significant downforce into his shot. In one quick motion he releases his knee as well as very slightly moved the puck inwards to his body before his release point and then destroys the goalies water bottle.
Again, in this clip Ohgren purposefully catches the pass back in his stance in order to drag around his opposition and is applying strong downforce into his stick to produce a shot that beats the Russian netminder with sheer power.
And here is the other curl-and-drag goal. Notice how both goals are scored low blocker. Ohgren doesn’t need to go upstairs and roof the biscuit to beat goalies.
Ohgren is an incredibly smooth puck handler. His puck control and puck protection should be regarded as high-end. He keeps his bottom hand high up on his shaft to maximize the range in which he can handle the puck at. Efficiently keeping the puck out of reach and using it to his advantage to skate and play with the puck in open ice. Controlling the puck through stick checks is not an issue for Ohgren, as you can see above in the third clip.
Below you’ll see how he maximizes his range and is able to protect the puck from the tightly gapped defender. The high up bottom hand placement also allows Ohgren to make that little swing lateral pass to his teammate at the faceoff dot. You’re going to see his hockey sense and shot work in unison as he maneuvers to the faceoff dot, getting open in a high danger area, and then his powerful release beats the goalie low blocker.
Defensive Zone Play/Positioning
The values in his defensive game are his high level of work ethic to attack the point and his mature game inside his own zone. His poised puck movement and puck distributing ability is just as strong in the defensive end. His passing under pressure is solid. Smart bump passes back to his defense to avoid turnovers on the wall. Uses his strong first few strides to close his gaps and applies heavy pressure on the oppositions defense. In the next two clips you will see Ohgren quickly pounce to the point and poke at the puck to give himself two breakaways. One in which you’ll see a nice fivehole finish.
The aggression in which he charges at the point forced the defenders to panic with the puck and both were unable to make a clean play with the puck.
Displays smart hockey sense when receiving the puck on his side along the boards. Watch how he (#28 in blue) pre-scans before grabbing the puck. A couple of shoulder checks and he notices where the pressure is coming in from and notices how he doesn’t have a teammate stretching up ice. The smart tactic here is a quick reset to his defenseman and that’s exactly what Ohgren does here. By doing this, Djurgarden can cleanly break the puck out of their zone and it turns into a chance off the rush for Ohgren at the end of this play.
I would’ve liked to see him read the play a little quicker and dart into that open ice, that way he could’ve produced a more threatening scoring chance.
Ohgren displays excellent positioning being in close support on his wing along the boards when his defense have the puck below the goal line and are kickstarting the breakout. Ohgren does well to quickly pivot and open up to his teammates, making their job much easier as they can deliver a pass to Ohgren with confidence as he’s facing the incoming pass. He does this efficiently in all three zones so that he can always put himself in a strong puck receptive position.
Areas of Improvement
As I’ve alluded to earlier in the article, he has that low to the ice-skating style, but I don’t see him having a low center of gravity. Look at how Sidney Crosby shields and protects the puck on the outside. It’s an extreme comparison yes, but Crosby doesn’t have to get super low to the ice to maintain his balance and as we know it is near impossible to knock off the puck. Where in Ohgren’s case, he is relying on his edges, agility, and range to protect the puck on the outside. Not being so hunched over can increase the speed in his turns and directional changes as well as help him to avoid being pushed over easily. I also think he could benefit from playing more east-west hockey and I would like to see him attack the middle ice a bit more often and individually drive the offence.
To sum up, if you want a fast, straight-line skater that plays with pace and tempo and can be equally dangerous as a shooter or playmaker, Ohgren is your guy. He may not possess the offensive talent that we see in other top forward prospects in the 2022 draft, but Ohgren has a variety of tools in his toolbox to make him an effective three zone player and make an impact offensively. Hockey IQ, playmaking ability, lethal shot from range, and strong work ethic off the puck. He checks off a lot of boxes you want in top six NHL winger. I believe his game/style has zero red flags and at worst he pans out to be a bottom six winger that provides pace and offense to your bottom two lines. I believe Ohgren’s hockey intelligence is one of the main factors that could help him transition into the NHL level.
Cover Photo Credit: Josefin Andersson
Video Credit: InStat