Post-Draft Prospect Profiles: Hugo Alnefelt No. 71 to the Tampa Bay Lightning
Hugo Alnefelt made a name for himself as the best first-time draft-eligible Swedish goaltender for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft this past year.
He had a decent regular season for HV71 in the J20 SuperElit but was the most impressive when he played for Sweden at the Under-18 World Hockey Championships. Alnefelt put in a very solid tournament as Sweden’s starting goaltender. Sweden made it all the way to the finals before beating Russia to earn the gold medal, the country’s first at the U18-level.
As with many other large goaltenders, Alnefelt (6-foot-3 and 183 lbs) plays a modern butterfly-style, often going down early to cover the ice well while letting his big upper body handle the rest of the net. He can occasionally keep a lower stance to allow him to make more reactionary saves, but he often relies on using his frame as a square towards the puck to cut off angles.
Alnefelt isn’t a very aggressive netminder. He rarely exits the blue paint and would generally rather stand quite far into the net, a trait which allows him to gain power from the posts when moving laterally.
Against a lone shooter or a breakaway, Alnefelt usually goes out towards the edge of the crease — this allows him to take away most of the net. He is quite a decent skater, which allows him to quickly get back into the net if the lone opponent tries to go around or wait him out.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) August 12, 2018
Due to having a low stance and often going down in the butterfly early, Alnefelt covers his five-hole well. He also shows quickness when he has to go down on his knees to take away the option of shooting between his legs. Overall, Alnefelt covers the ice extremely well, not only because he puts his pads down early but also because of his flexibility and agility in his lower body and while being on the ice.
Alnefelt has good reflexes with his arms. He can make quick saves with his blocker, and his glove-side is incredibly hard to beat. Even when it seems like he is beat; he can make a swift, reactionary save with the glove to stop what looked to be a sure goal for the opponent. Alnefelt’s quickness in his glove enables him to not only stop pucks but also to quickly catch rebounds from high shots that hit his torso. In general, Alnefelt has decent rebound control but he could work on using his body as less as a pure wall while under heavy pressure than he currently does.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) January 20, 2019
One of Alnefelt’s main weaknesses is his puck tracking; he can struggle to keep his eyes on the puck through traffic or to spot when or where the shot is coming from. This results in goals-against or soft rebounds from far out that easily could have been avoided if he had known from where the puck was coming.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) August 12, 2018
Another part that could use improvement is Alnefelt’s core strength. He is not weak but can struggle to keep his upper body up while going sideways. The same can happen on shots that are from quite close to the net, that forces him to make a quick non-methodical save. This means that even if he makes the initial save; he will have his torso down on/almost on the ice, which makes it hard for him to stop a shot of a rebound.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) August 7, 2018
While Alnefelt can make incredibly flashy, difficult saves — usually due to his lateral movement or quick glove — they are sometimes the result of poor positional play or lack of awareness on his own part. With better reads of what’s in front of him, Alnefelt wouldn’t have to rely on those ten-bell saves.
The ability to make those kinds of saves is positive. To get into the situation where you have to often make them is not.
Alnefelt can also struggle to make reads on creative plays, which can catch him off guard and unready.
On the positive, Alnefelt’s ability to never give up on plays displays high competitiveness. He will always do his utmost to stop the puck — even when it seems like he is beaten. He also competes well on loose pucks in front of him when he is in position to do so and never gives off a vibe of dejection when things don’t go his way.
The mental part of Alnefelt’s game can be both a strength and a weakness. He is usually very calm, composed, plays with confidence and will quickly bounce back after conceding a goal. He rarely gets affected if the team in front of him plays bad and usually do not overwork situations.
But he can also look unfocused, allow soft goals and almost look like he is in panic when he flails with his arms to try to save a puck that he has spotted too late. This results in that he can steal games for his team that they have no business winning but also put his team in tough situations out of nowhere. Alnefelt’s mental game can be part of why he has been inconsistent during the regular season but then was able to step up in a shorter tournament such as the U18 World Championship.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) April 28, 2019
Like most other Swedish goaltenders Alnefelt isn’t the greatest with his stick. He can make simple plays to his defenders but typically do not get heavily involved in the play with the puck.
Alnefelt will most likely spend much of the upcoming season in the SuperElit, as he isn’t a consistent high-level goaltender at that level yet. He could, however, see some ice-time in the SHL as well, as HV71 only has two goaltenders under contract, and their backup is out with a hip injury for at least another two to three months.
But there should be no rush, as Alnefelt, just like most other newly drafted goaltender prospects, should be seen as a project moving forward and not a player that will make an impact in the NHL in the next few seasons.