MONTREAL - The Habs seem to have found a hidden gem in the third round of the 2019 Draft.
Prospect Mattias Norlinder has been drawing lots of attention this season in Sweden.
The 19-year-old defenseman plays for Modo in the Allsvenskan, in the Swedish second division, which has given him the opportunity to play alongside some grizzled veterans in Ornskoldsvik.
One such vet is the brother of NHLer Victor Hedman, Oscar, who's in his 17th season in the Swedish league, 12 of them with Modo.
Over the years, Hedman has played with the likes of Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, and the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik. Still, the 33-year-old rearguard says he's been incredibly impressed by the Canadiens' third-round pick (64th overall) in 2019.
"His skating is at an elite level. He skates so fast, both with and without the puck. He's also excellent at moving the pucks. He likes bringing the puck up on the power play. He's able to create a lot because of his speed," mentioned Hedman, a former fifth-round pick (132nd overall) of the Washington Capitals in 2004. "He can also score. He's been doing very well since he joined us."
Norlinder is on Modo's first defense pairing with former Winnipeg Jet Tobias Enstrom. The left-handed shot from Kramfors, Sweden, is also deployed on the point on the power play.
According to Hedman, the Habs prospect has everything he needs to succeed and make the jump to North America in the not-too-distant future.
"I'm convinced he's going to make the team, but I can't say when. He has all the skills to be an NHL player," outlined Hedman. "He's a very talented player. He could be an excellent player for the Canadiens in the future."
A goal worthy of play-of-the-year honors
Norlinder put his talents on full display back on September 25 in a 7-1 Modo win over Mora.
On top of scoring his first goal of the season in the game, the Swedish blue-liner made an incredible play to score his second goal of the game.
That said, the spectacular goal was nothing new for his teammates.
"It was highlight-reel goal. The guys on our team weren't really surprised to see him pull off a move like that, because he's done it a few times in practice," explained Hedman, whose brother, Victor, won the Norris Trophy in 2017-18. "It was even more spectacular to see him do it in a game."
Drawing inspiration in all the right places
Norlinder wasn't in the house at Vancouver's Rogers Arena in June when the Canadiens called his name in the third round of the 2019 Draft.
The 5-foot-10, 179-pound defenseman watched the event from home in Sweden with family and friends.
Since most fans probably haven't had the chance to see Norlinder in action, we asked him to compare his game to certain NHL players to give them a better idea of what to expect.
His answer revealed that he's drawn inspiration from all the right places.
"I like watching Drew Doughty and Victor Hedman. I think I'm a defenseman who's good at both ends of the ice," affirmed Norlinder. "I like joining the attack and using my skating to create scoring chances for the forwards."
Speaking of offense, you don't have to look very far to find out where his scoring touch comes from.
"I played center when I was young. I changed to become a defenseman when I was around 14 years old," explained Norlinder. "Because I was a center, I watched Sidney Crosby a lot. He was my favorite player."
Once again, Norlinder picked a perfect example to follow.