How Simon Holmström Navigated an Injury-Riddled Season to Remain One of the Draft’s Most Interesting Prospects
HV71 winger Simon Holmström entered this season as one of Sweden’s most highly-touted prospects for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. It’s easy to see why that’s the case. Holmström dominated the SuperElit J20 during the 2017-18 season and with 23 points (eight goals and 15 assists) was able to win the SuperElit’s Top 10 series scoring title together with Skelleftia AIK winger and Detroit Red Wings second-round pick Jonatan Berggren.
If that wasn’t enough, Holmström was one of HV71’s most notable players in the JSM Playoffs, when the team won their first gold since the 2013-14 season.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) September 27, 2017
Then came the off-season for Holmström, during which he went under the knife for hip surgery to address a lingering injury. His recovery kept him sidelined for more than four months, during which time Holmström missed all of the pre-season and much of the initial part of the 2018-19 season before a return in October. That return was shortlived, though, as Holmström’s bad injury luck struck again. He suffered a thumb injury which kept him out of play until January. In the short time Holmström played before Christmas, he played for HV71 in the SHL and managed to score six points (four goals and two assists) in seven games in the SuperElit.
Holmström returned to play just in time for J20 SuperElit Top 10, the highest tier of junior hockey in Sweden. Despite playing well, Holmström didn’t get the start he had looked for on the score sheet, with zero points as HV71 lost three of the first four games of the Top 10-series. Holmström was still selected to the Swedish roster for the 5-Nations tournament held in Russia — a tournament Holmström never got to play in as he was stuck in the neck-head area and missed the 5-Nations tournament entirely.
Through all of these injuries and false starts, Holmström still finished the season strong and ended his SuperElit season with 20 points (seven goals and 13 assists) in 21 games, along with three points (one goal and two assists) in the SuperElit Playoffs. It was a good enough performance for Holmström to earn a spot on the Swedish Under-18 World Hockey Championships roster. That decision paid off for Sweden, as Holmström was highly-effective with three goals and assists alike for six points in seven games, among them one goal in the finals against Russia and two assists in the semi-finals against Canada. Holmström showed up when the games mattered most and Sweden won their first gold medal at the U18 in their nation’s history.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) April 28, 2019
So, what makes Simon Holmström one of Sweden’s most interesting players for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft?
While Holmström possesses a decently large frame for age at 6-foot-1 and 192 lbs, his most noteworthy attribute is his skating. He is a skilled skater with an explosive first few steps that allow him to surprise defenders, quickly transitioning from a standstill to top speed. Holmström is also an evasive skater. With his agility and edge work, Holmström can turn on a dime to avoid contact or create space. His acceleration is superb, and so too is his top speed — in fact, Holmström’s top speed might be among the best in his class. It’s hard for opponents to keep up with Holmström due to his light and efficient stride. Even if they can, the way Holmström works with his feet to change speeds and create lanes for himself and his teammates.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) January 24, 2018
Holmström combines soft hands, creativeness and puck skills with his skating to fill-out his offensive package. He is an excellent 1-on-1 player and can beat defenders with ease if he gets too much time or space with which to stickhandle. Even when Holmström is skating at full-speed, he can pull out a well-timed dangle to surprise his opponents. His creative mind and ability to make unexpected plays turns him into an unpredictable and versatile threat, which can cause a lot of trouble for defenders since they struggle to anticipate what he’ll do with the puck.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) November 4, 2018
Holmström is a dynamic offensive player, that thrives in the offensive zone and can create and finish scoring chances all by himself. He plays a strong cycle game, where he uses his mobility and size to cover the puck before making a play and he can keep the possession of the puck by himself to help his team set up the play in the offensive zone.
Unlike many other players that have skating and speed as one of their main offensive strengths, Holmström can play at a very low pace as well. His vision and offensive hockey IQ enable him to make smart and deceptive plays from standing still in the offensive zone and if a defender tries to check him or make a pokecheck he is quick to take advantage of the space that opens up. As soon as he spots a passing lane Holmström can quickly send a hard, distinct pass through small openings to find a teammate’s stick.
Holmström’s offensive hockey sense and passing abilities are two of the main reasons why he is a great powerplay-player, he typically likes to bring the puck behind the net from where he can dish out passes to either side of the net or straight into the slot.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) January 24, 2019
While Holmström is a pass-first type of player he still has a strong wrist shot and can also beat a goaltender 1-on-1 with a nifty move. Holmström’s wrist shot has a quick release, close to no wind-up and good precision — with it he can surprise a goaltender that excepts him to make a play or find the net if he is given a scoring chance close to the crease. He also doesn’t need a lot of room nor time to shoot, and with his soft hands, he can create the space he needs to aim. To be able to challenge goaltenders from further out Holmström could add some more power to his wrist shot.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) April 23, 2019
Regarding areas of improvement Holmström could work on his decision making with the puck. Sometimes he plays with a bit too much flair, or doesn’t fully utilize his teammates and instead tries too much on his own while trying to set up an attack.
He would benefit from making easier and less creative plays in the neutral zone at times, which would lead to fewer turnovers. As Holmström plays currently, he can come off as a bit nonchalant and careless when he has the puck.
Holmström’s defensive awareness is another part of his game that could be improved, he can be quite sloppy with his positioning and his offensive instincts sometimes takes over while he is playing at his own end of the ice. He isn’t a soft player but could add some aggressiveness and attitude as he sometimes can get a bit comfortable and be content to stick to the outside and look for a pass instead of trying to take the puck towards the net when he is physically challenged.
All in all, Simon Holmström is one of the most intriguing, and exciting, Swedish prospects in this year’s NHL Draft. He has many tools and abilities which can help him become a top line player in the NHL if he manages to put it all together and reaches close to his full potential.