The Lightning didn’t have a second round pick in this year’s draft because they traded it to the Rangers as part of the Ryan McDonagh deal. Instead, their second pick was scheduled to come at the end of the third round. But they grabbed an earlier third round pick when they sent J.T. Miller to Vancouver in exchange for this year’s third round pick, a first round pick in 2020 or 2021 and the expiring contract of Marek Mazanec. The Bolts used that third round pick, 71st overall, on Swedish goaltender Hugo Alnefelt.
Coming into the draft, it seemed likely that the Lightning would select a goaltender. And possibly even as high as the third round. Earlier in June, the front office shipped out the team’s only goalie prospect who seemed anywhere being NHL ready when they traded Connor Ingram to the Nashville Predators in exchange for a 2021 seventh round pick. Ingram had well publicized off ice issues with the team that led to his departure despite being an AHL All-Star last year.
That deal left the Lightning pipeline thin at goalie without many promising options. Most of the remaining goalies were selected late in the draft and seem like long-shots to make the NHL. And while it appears that Andrei Vasilevskiy has the NHL starter job locked down for the near future, an organization always wants to maintain a healthy pool of talent that could be ready in the case of injury or change in performance. More than any other position, things can change quickly in net and relying on one player to stay healthy and perform well is a risk.
Prior to the draft, if you asked most analysts, they probably would have predicted that some of the draft’s top goaltending options would have been available at 71st overall. But that wasn’t the case as the run on netminders started early in the second round. Spencer Knight, a unique talent, went 12th overall to Florida. He was expected to go early. But the consensus 2nd and 3rd best goalies went earlier than expected at 36th and 37th overall when the Hurricanes selected Pyotr Kochetkov and the Senators selected Mads Soegaard. Hunter Jones went off the board next at the end of the second round to the Minnesota Wild and then the Sabres took Erik Portillo 67th just before the Lightning selected Alnefelt 71st.
That made the Bolts the sixth team to take a goalie. It’s impossible to know how high Alnefelt was on the Lightning board and whether they selected him because he was the best player available or because they felt they needed to get a goaltender before the remaining viable options were selected by other teams.
Whatever the case, while 71st is a bit earlier than Alnefelt was projected to go, the Lightning have added a solid goaltender to the pipeline. His selection makes two years in a row where the team has picked a goalie from Sweden. He joins Magnus Chrona who is coming over to North American to play NCAA hockey at Denver this season. Bryan Burns wrote an article at the team site detailing the friendship between the two players.
Because Alnefelt played mostly in HV71’s J20 team last season, opportunities for the public to watch him were scarce. He played five games at the U18 World Junior Championships for Sweden and posted an impressive .921 save percentage. But a five game sample is hardly worth paying attention to. In 15 total international games with the U18 team, he posted a .910. And in 24 league games, a .905.
According to scouts, Alnefelt plays a quiet game. At 6’2”, he’s got plenty of size but isn’t a giant in the crease the way some goalies are. So while he can’t rely purely on size to block shots, he seems to prefer to play a conservative style and avoid over-committing. Cat Silverman details that in her profile of Alnefelt for NextGen Hockey.
His movement is smooth and clean, and he’s more likely to undercommit than over-commit — something that can be fixed with some time and confidence development, but lowers his risk of injury by needing to double back when he shoots out past his posts. He’s got incredible technical core control, capable of making great glove saves while staying low in his skates and great at tracking pucks into his hands.
She mentions his strong glove in that excerpt and that’s something several scouts referenced. Alnefelt has shown a propensity for flashing the leather and it could be that he’s maybe a little too confident in that glove and will need to learn to rely on it less as he moves up the professional ranks over the next few years.
Like all the goalies currently in the Lightning pipeline, Alnefelt is a project. But of everyone, he might have the most upside. He already has international experience and he’s one of the younger goalies in this class. For a position that typically takes longer to develop, his age is another positive indicator. He’ll likely spend next year in Sweden at the J20 level again with a chance at some fill in time for the big club in the SHL.
No soup for you! Team USA with a quality chance, but Hugo Alnefelt flashes the leather and denies Alex Turcotte.— Stars n’ Stripes Hockey (@StarsStripesHKY) April 18, 2019
Nice play by Matt Beniers to chip the puck forward and make the pass to Turcotte. #U18Worlds #NTDP pic.twitter.com/yCMNz7E1Ja
#FlaPanthers prospect Grigori Denisenko (#14 in red) with the moves and the scoring chance but can't get one past the #2019NHLDraft eligible goalie Hugo Alnefelt. pic.twitter.com/FkJqmvEUZP— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) August 26, 2018