Much like Victor Soderstrom, Philip Broberg has spent his draft campaign vying to be the best available defenceman once Bowen Byram is off the board. Broberg’s tantalizing skillset, along with dominant performances again peers in international competition have had his name mentioned among the top ten at various points this season.
Personally, I think that’s a bit rich. Broberg’s elite skating ability, willingness to use his size, and an impressive point shot are coupled with poor decision making, questionable processing and occasional lackadaisical defensive play.
You can’t sleep on a player with his skills though, so today we’ll dive into Philip Broberg and determine where he sits among his draft class.
- Age/Birthdate: 17 / June 25, 2001
- Birthplace: Örebro, SWE
- Frame: 6-foot-3 / 203 lbs
- Position: Defenceman
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: AIK (Allsvenskan)
- U16 SM Bronze Medal
- Allsvenskan Most Points by U18 Junior (9)
- Hlinka Memorial Silver Medal
- U18 WJC All-Star Team
- U18 WJC Best Defenseman
- U18 WJC Gold Medal
- U18 WJC Top 3 Player on Team
2018-19 Stat Rundown
|LEAGUE||GP||G||A||P||INV%||5v5 Pr INV%||5v5 ePr60||SEAL||Sh/GP||Sh%||5v5 eTOI||GF%||GF%rel||GD60 rel||XLS%||Top XLS%||XPR|
* Games played sample too low.
One cannot enter into a discussion about Philip Broberg without making reference to his performance at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup last summer or the World Under-18’s in April. Broberg played a starring role for Sweden in both tournaments, tallying 10 points in 12 games, including a number of dazzling highlight-reel plays.
These plays underline Broberg’s premiere skill: elite skating in all regards. Broberg is particularly adept at rushing the puck up ice, and in the U18 tournaments, he used the skill to skate end-to-end, drive the net and score some very impressive goals (and a very impressive assist, in the case of the third clip).
What’s even more impressive is that puck rushes were fixtures of Broberg’s games in the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second tier league where Broberg played 41 games this past season. His explosiveness and footspeed are at such a level that he is able to burn by grown men several times per game, and his hands are good enough the he was usually able to pull pucks around desperate stick checks more often that not.
Not all of Broberg’s rushes end in goals (I’ll note that Broberg’s two goals in pro hockey this season came from screened point shots, not from puck rushes), but at the very least, they allowed him to transition the puck with possession into the offensive zone with regularity, and there’s value in that. These forays up the ice with possession surely contributed to solid microstatistics over the course of the campaign, such as those noted here by Finlay Sherratt.
Philip Broberg is a high upside defenseman with great straight line speed and good puck skills. He also put up pretty good numbers in the Allsvenskan this year.#2019NHLdraft pic.twitter.com/lZ0fqSm3Z3
— Finlay Sherratt (@FinlaySherratt) June 3, 2019
Unfortunately, more often than not he didn’t seem to have a plan in mind, and when faced with talented defencemen he ended up angled into a corner. At that point, he was liable to throw the puck at the net or into the middle of the ice, but not often find a teammate for a scoring chance. This speaks to limited processing and vision, which will become a recurring theme.
The following clip demonstrates something that I noticed over and over again with Broberg: when he gets on a run, he keeps his head up (which is good) but he’s always looking straight ahead (less good), and does not take the opportunity to survey his surroundings. As a result, he seems to be unaware of where his teammates are, and is constantly either trying to do things all by himself or else throwing the puck into areas where he’s hoping a teammate will be (but they frequently aren’t).
In the next sequence, we see a slightly different problem. Once again, Broberg demonstrates his superb skating ability, using long crossovers and powerful strides to generate immediate and definitive separation from the Swiss forechecker. The speed he generates in those first few crossovers allows him to fly up the ice virtually uncontested and take the offensive zone with possession. Once again though, there is no clear path to the net, and upon shaking the defender with a nice cutback behind the offensive end line, Broberg’s pass to a trailing forward misses the mark and the attack is over as suddenly as it began, as the puck escapes to centre.
The issue that this play represents is a lack of vision and precision when it comes to distributing the puck. Broberg has trouble finding teammates in strategic positions, and when he does see them, his passes are inconsistent, even when he is afforded time and space, which in turn significantly reduced the value generated by transitioning with possession.
The same themes were present in the Allsvenskan as well, and although I cannot stress enough how impressive his skating is to be able to separate from professionals with such ease, the vast majority of his possession exits and entries ended as the ones in the next clip did: without a scoring chance.
In one half of the next clip (dark jerseys), Broberg takes the puck up the ice, deftly handling it around opponents to gain the offensive zone. Though he has the targeted defender on his heels, the defender has left enough of a gap and pivots just early enough that he is able to prevent Broberg from attacking the net. Instead, Broberg wraps around the net and tosses the puck in front – unfortunately no one is there and possession is lost.
In the other half of the clip (white jerseys), Broberg picks up the puck with space for a breakout and carries the puck up the ice as his team organizes to present options for an entry. Broberg chooses to take the zone himself, which is fine, though in the process he cuts laterally across the zone forcing his teammates to slow up at the blue line. Consequently, when Broberg enters the zone he has no support; he then quickly skates the puck into double coverage, where he is neatly stripped of the puck and the play turns back the other way.
Broberg is much better off when he gets rid of the puck shortly after entering the offensive zone. He has a couple of options here: finding a teammate for a chance, or taking a shot on net himself. In the next clip, Broberg fires a shot on net from the far side of the right circle. It’s a low percentage shot from a low danger location, but it’s better than turning the puck over altogether, and at least has a chance at creating a rebound.
A better option, if it were available, would be to cut toward the centre lane of the zone and shoot from there, such as the goal he scored against Russia far above. Broberg has a much more difficult time performing that type of move in pro hockey, dealing with defencemen who give up much less and force him to the outside.
That leaves passing as the ideal option upon entering the zone. See the clip below, as Broberg carries the puck up ice and gives it to a teammate for a shot on net.
If Broberg could turn those rushes into scoring chances, either by net rushes or slot passes, more frequently, he’d have quite a bit more offensive value.
Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. While players can be told to pass the puck off after entering the zone rather than carry it into the corner, it’s a lot more difficult to develop the requisite vision and on-ice awareness in a player so that he can actually perform that pass in a game situation.
Broberg is undeniably at his best when he is skating the puck, but he can’t be doing that all the time. Incorporating other aspects of the game often invites further struggles. Broberg can an times be tentative and indecisive with the puck in his own zone, such as in the next video. Broberg waits for teammates to get into position for a breakout pass, but waits to long, double-clutching multiple times as forecheckers maneuver through his lanes. By the time he gets the puck away, the option is gone – his recipient is covered the breakout turns into a neutral zone puck battle instead.
Worse, he can be prone to boneheaded mistakes. After making a nice move to shake a forechecker, Broberg takes his time before putting the puck directly on an opponents stick in the middle of the ice at his blue line. Luckily, his defensive partner was able to bail him out before a chance against was generated, but this is an unsettling play, made worse by a) how much time Broberg took to make this play, and b) that the intercepting opponent was hardly even moving; it’s not liked he was streaking into the passing lane, it came right to him.
Defensively, there are more red flags. Broberg is liable to make ill-advised pinches at the attacking blue line, or, like this next one, right in the middle of the ice, taking himself out of the play. This puck ends up in the back of his net due to an egregious turnover by a teammate, but Broberg is still floating high in the offensive zone, apparently unable to decide whether he should get back to help his teammate or cover the trailer – instead he does neither.
Broberg frequently slows down in the defensive zone, and it’s difficult to tell exactly why. Sometimes it seems that he thinks he has more time than he actually does; this type of situation often leads to opponents bearing down on him, and his options diminishing as a result of his own lack or urgency.
Other times, it appears to be some combination of a lackadaisical approach to defensive play and a general lack of sureness regarding what he should be doing next. Neither is a particularly appealing trait.
For all the speed he shows when he’s carrying the puck, it’s disconcerting to see plays like this where he stops moving his feet and instead tries to lean in and poke the puck off an opponent who is in the midst of a power move. At 6-foot-1 and over 200 pounds, you’d like to see Broberg use his body to defend here, but physicality does not seem to be a part of Broberg’s game. It’s worth noting that he reacts late in this sequence as well, likely because he assumes his teammate has it under control.
Philip Broberg is a tantalizing prospect, of that there is no doubt. His skating is among the best in the draft, particularly his best to accelerate with power coming out of his own zone. His puck handling, while not exceptional, is good enough that it doesn’t hinder him in his wild rushes. He has an above-average shot and shows some proclivity for puck protection and evasion. But he also comes with a host of concerns, namely decision making and on-ice awareness.
A player of Broberg’s raw talents is not going to go unappreciated. He is a first round talent by virtue of his skating alone. The questions becomes: what is he capable of at the NHL level?
I still see Broberg as a top-4 defender, but I do think that the team that acquires him at the draft is going to have to pay close attention to his shortcomings and work with him to limit them as much as possible. Broberg needs to add a good degree of urgency in his own end, and he needs to simplify his offensive game. If he is able to do that, he could become a very valuable player. If he can’t, he’ll still have value, but he’ll come with the sort of risk that makes NHL coaches nervous to play him in high leverage situations.
For what it’s worth, I think that awareness and decision making are among the hardest things to instill in players, which is why I remain skeptical about his overall upside. I wouldn’t be taking a chance on Broberg until at least the mid-teen’s, or possibly in the early 20’s. Not that I think he’ll last that long, as his flashy talent is likely to entice a defence-needy GM into taking a chance on his potential.
We often caution about weighting international play too heavily, and domestic play not heavily enough. These tournaments are always in small samples, increasing the effect of randomness, and are subject to massive swings in quality of teammates and quality of competition (you don’t often see stats broken down by how many points were scored against Slovenia versus how many were scored against Canada, but you probably should). Then there’s the age factor – you can’t ignore a season playing against grown men in favour of two weeks playing against fellow teenagers. That’s why, with Broberg, it’s so important to consider his season in the Allsvenskan.
From an offensive perspective, the two goals and nine points that Broberg amassed this season in 41 games are on the lower end, even once league adjustments are taken into account. Running his situational and age factors through the SEAL adjusted scoring model, Broberg’s production is equal to about 0.52 points per game of a mid-birthday draft eligible CHL player. His scoring rate is 24th among first time eligible defencemen and is directly comparable to the likes of Billy Constantinou and Kaedan Korczak, who are projected to go in the second or third round, not the first.
It’s not as though Broberg was devoid of power play time – he ran one of the units in each game that I watched him play, and three of his nine points came with the man advantage. His ice time was limited, at just 14:33, but that is a function of playing in a professional league as a teenager and is thus implicitly accounted for in the league adjustment.
Next, let’s make note of his cohort-based projection though pGPS. Based on a fairly small sample of just ten matches, Broberg has about a one-third likelihood of becoming a full time NHL defenceman, and about a one-quarter likelihood of becoming a top four defender. These are certainly promising numbers. The fact that Hampus Lindholm is present in his cohort should draw eyes as well.
This paints a rosier picture of Broberg’s future, and though I would invoke caution due to the sample size, I should reiterate that I expect Broberg to be an NHL defenceman – it’s the overall upside that I would quibble with.
Where things start to crack statistically is Broberg’s on-ice goal numbers. The 47.4% goals for percentage he managed at 5-on-5 this season isn’t bad – until you take into account that AIK was among the best teams in the Allsvenskan this season: they scored the most goals, allowed the second fewest, and were on the verge of achieving a promotion to the SHL. When Broberg wasn’t on the ice, AIK controlled 65.6% of the goals at 5-on-5, leaving Broberg with a relative goal share of minus-18%.
This next graph displays rolling goal shares over the course of the season, both on and off-ice at 5-on-5. As you can see, Broberg hovered around even, while the team dominated when he was on the bench.
Teasing out the individual teammates, we see a set of interesting results. Broberg’s most frequent linemates, forward Eric Castonguay and fellow defenceman Andreas Hjelm, has similar results whether with him or without him. However, several other teammates had great success with Broberg (generally in small samples) and solid success without him, while Broberg was abysmal without them.
Finally, this teammate chart brings the lackluster production rate together with the 5-on-5 goal share that lags behind much of the rest of the team.
What I see him is a player that gained a certain amount of benefit from playing with a strong team, giving him average numbers league-wide – but poor relative to most of his teammates.
Would it be fair to expect Broberg, an 17-year old defenceman to dominate in a professional league? Of course not. But when the discussion turns to “is he the second best defenceman?” or “is he worthy of a top ten pick?”, you have to set your expectations high. Against those high expectations, Broberg does not measure up.
Between video breakdown and statistical analysis, my conclusion is as follows: Philip Broberg projects to be a good NHL defenceman, but not a great one. He would be much better off going to a stronger NHL team that has the time to allow him to develop properly and work at his shortcomings, rather than a poor team thrust him in the lineup at 19 because they to make a splash and don’t have strong depth at the NHL level.
I would advise teams picking in the top ten this year to go in another direction (probably a forward), and allow Broberg to slip to a more appropriate slot. Once the proceedings get into the middle and latter-half of the first round, that’s when Broberg’s name should be called.
Rolling Season Data
Raw data for the charts used in this article came from eliteprospects.com, hockeyallsvenskan.se and swe.hockey.se.
Some clips were pulled from videos from prospectshifts.com. Check out Philip Broberg’s page here (paywall). Other clips were pulled from original broadcasts, with all rights reserved for the original broadcast companies.
Dad, husband, hockey fan. Founder/analyst/editor/admin of NextGenHockey.ca. Contributor at CanucksArmy and the Nation Network. Blending video analysis and statistical modeling. pGPS, SEAL, etc. The Minnesota Twins are finally good again!