Is Lukas Elvenes the Golden Knights’ first draft steal?
Lukas Elvenes could quite possibly be one of the best steals of the 2017 draft. Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of Elvenes; he’s a Swedish forward taken in the fifth round of the 2017 entry draft by George McPhee and the Vegas Golden Knights. While Nick Suzuki and Cody Glass are each fighting for the scoring lead in the OHL and WHL respectively, Elvenes has quietly put up 21 points in 22 games for IK Oskarshamn of the Allsvenskan (the second tier Men’s league in Sweden). At just 18, he is tied for the third-most points in the league, and the top-scorer for players under 24.
Now, while this is Elvenes’ draft+1 year, he also has an extremely late birthday. In order to be eligible for the 2017 draft, a player had to be born no later than September 15, 1999. Elvenes’ was born just 27 days earlier. As one of the youngest players taken in the 2017 draft, he was nearly a full year younger than the Swedes he was competing with. For the sake of comparison, let’s examine Elias Pettersson, the Canucks’ fifth overall pick from the 2017 draft, who is nine months (that’s a full pregnancy) older than Elvenes and played in the Allsvenskan last year.
At the age of 18, Pettersson scored 41 points in the 43 games, averaging .953 points per game.
At Roughly the same age, Elvenes is averaging .954 points per game.
For context, Petterson is now leading the SHL in scoring as a 19 year old and is on track to exceed the scoring pace of every great Swedish player in the history of the game, including Markus Naslund, Peter Forsberg, the Sedin twins, William Nylander, and Nicklas Backstrom.
While much more goes into a player evaluation than total points generated, this raw data suggests that Vegas may have acquired a first-round level talent in the fifth round. If Elvenes can keep up with Elias Pettersson’s progression, Elvenes could prove to be a cornerstone of the Knights offense for years to come. Elvenes’ statistical similarities and similar playstyle to other great swedes indicate that he has the potential to be a truly elite player in the NHL. If he can improve his skating and speed, he has the potential to be a Top-6 playmaker for the Golden Knights.
Scouts and analysts have had excellent things to say about Elvenes’ game.
The Nation Network ranked Elvenes as the 56th best player in the 2017 draft, and based on his stats, projected that he has a 36.8% chance of playing more than 100 game in the NHL, and that if he is successful, would project to score 60.8 points per season. His closest NHL comparables were Henrik Sedin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Franz Nielsen. That is some pretty impressive company.
Popular NHL draft website FutureConsiderations.ca described Elvenes as “A skilled winger with solid vision and playmaking ability…an agile skater with solid edgework…keeps his feet going and manages to reach top speed in a hurry with short, quick strides…uses his separation gear to blow past defenders or his soft hands to deke through them…creative with his puck handling and passing ability…has a quick release on his shot…battles hard for pucks…type of player who’s eyes light up when he sees a loose puck…explosive once the rubber touches his blade, turning up-ice quickly on transition”
TheHockeyWriters.com was also extremely complimentary:
“Elvenes is an offensively gifted winger, with exciting playmaking and dangling skills. When he gets the puck, he will not lose it until he decides to set his teammates up for scoring chances. That’s arguably his greatest strength. In addition to that, he is a solid skater, a player that can be very entertaining to watch, with a great sense of creativity to his game…Elvenes can be an effective weapon on the power play, where he likes to find his spot in and around the right circle in the offensive zone. It’s not particularly far-fetched to draw similarities to a certain Nicklas Backstrom in that regard.”
In many ways, its amazing that Elevenes fell as far as he did on draft day. Most projections had him being picked in the second or third round:
Ranked #67 by Hockeyprospect.com
Ranked #49 by ISS Hockey
Ranked #63 by Future Considerations
Ranked #88 by McKeen’s Hockey
Ranked #18 by NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters)
Ranked #58 by TSN/McKenzie
Perhaps Elvenes’ lack of physical maturity scared some clubs away. He is not a short player (6’1”), but he will need to add muscle to his 174 pound frame before he is ready to make the jump to the NHL. Keep checking back to this page for a kickstarter campaign to get him some protein shakes.
We’ll have a much better picture of Elvenes’ progression in a few months, as he has been promoted to Rogle BK of SHL as of today. At the pace he is producing, watch for Elvenes to earn himself a spot on Sweden’s World Junior Championship roster starting the day after Christmas where he will likely play with Petterson, projected 2018 first overall pick, Rasmus Dahlin, and Vegas’ 2017 first round pick, Erik Brannstom. If Elvenes can keep up with those top-end prospects, we should all hope McPhee acquires as many 2018 draft picks as he can find.