Nils Lundkvist is off to a great start
Last Thursday was the official start to the hockey season here in Europe, with the first games in the Champions Hockey League. The continental competition which was founded in 2013 by the IIHF and had its inaugural season in 2014-15, gives teams from all over Europe the chance to compete with the best each country has to offer (The KHL opted out of the competition).
Sweden has dominated the competition in its first 5 seasons, with 4 of the 5 finals being won by Swedish teams. Nils Lundkvist’s team Luleå won the Cup in the inaugural season and missed out on participation only once. With a 2nd place finish in the regular season, they qualified for this year’s edition.
Thursday was the first game of the new season and Luleå played the German side Augsburger Panthers at home. In a game that the Swedish team lost in a shootout, Lundkvist was 2nd on his team in TOI with 22:08, being paired with Erik Gustavsson. Lundkvist looks a lot stronger this season and is oozing confidence when he carries the puck out of his own zone. With 3 shots on goal he was a dangerous threat on the powerplay, but he unfortunately did not register any points.
After 2 days of rest, Lundkvist and Luleå were ready to take on a tougher opponent. Czech giants Bílí Tygři Liberec, who finished 2nd in the regular season, were the next opponent. Lundkvist registered a primary assist on the goal by Carolina Hurricanes prospect Jesper Sellgren. Off the face off, Lundkvist was the first one to the loose puck and he quickly passed it over to his teammate for the 2-0 in the 2nd period. He turned over the puck early in the game that led to a breakaway but was quick enough to get back in time and prevent a goal against.
In the 5 games Luleå has played so far, Lundkvist has registered a goal and 2 assists for 3 points, which is tied for the highest among defenseman on the team.
Earlier this summer, I reported that the coaching staff plans to use him on the top pair with Erik Gustavsson. The first 2 games of the season seem to point in that direction. If the 19-year old Lundkvist can keep this up, he will finally get the attention he deserves as he is our best defensive prospect in my opinion. Lundkvist is now playing in his 2nd full season in the SHL (3rd total season) and is only 19. Playing against these type of teams at that age is really impressive and it cannot be understated how dominant he is in these games. The 2nd game this week against the Czechs showed that Lundkvist has the tools to be a great player and while every Rangers fan is excited about K’Andre Miller, I am more interested in the development of this kid.