The bulk of the attention ahead of the draft has gone to a small handful of goaltenders, with Spencer Knight leading the charge and fast risers like Mads Søgaard and Pyotr Kochetkov sparking extra debates.
That’s left Swedish backstop Hugo Alnefelt, the personable starter who led his country to a U18 WJC gold medal this past year, without a ton of hype. He’s been one of the least talked about of the top draft-eligible goaltenders, and there’s a chance that he’ll be the one who kicks off the late round draft selections — dropping below not just Kochetkov, but potentially a handful of the draft-eligible North American candidates as well.
It’s a bit of a weak draft class for European goaltenders, and teams that scout the position heavily may be somewhat cautious to make a reach for someone like Alnefelt knowing that there are a handful of other options coming up next year.
His shining performance at the U18 World Juniors, though, and the promise that his game shows — not to mention the cleared up spot that Felix Sandström’s departure for North America leaves for him to get some looks this coming year at the SHL level for HV71 — could make him an attractive later round option for a team looking to replenish their goaltending depth down the line.
- Age/Birthdate: 18 / June 4, 2001
- Birthplace: Daneryd, SWE
- Frame: 6-foot-3 / 194 lbs
- Position: Goaltender
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: HV71 J20 (Sweden SuperElit)
- TV-Pucken Best GAA (0.66)
- TV-Pucken Best Goaltender
- TV-Pucken Best SVS% (.955)
- TV-Pucken Gold Medal
- J18 Elit (South) Best GAA (1.63)
- Hlinka Memorial Silver Medal
- U18 WJC Gold Medal
- U18 WJC Top 3 Player on Team
2018-19 Stat Rundown
Alnefelt’s technique has been described based on small sample sizes, since his most visible play for the majority of the world has come on the international stage. The lack of easily accessible film from his games with HV71’s J20 and J18 programs leaves his elite U18 World Juniors performance as the best option for pulling highlights, which certainly serves in his favor.
Ultimately, his numbers at the World Juniors were as good as Danish prospect Mads Søgaard’s were poor, but he had the benefit of a historically strong team in front of him; Sweden’s roster is far deeper than Denmark’s and he was able to use that to his advantage. The defensive structure in front of him at the World Juniors was a huge help, especially when it came to cutting down on the riskiest of shots by the opposition.
Even with that defensive structure, Alnefelt showed some holes in his tracking game that he’ll need to improve. He remained a step behind the trajectory of the puck at times, and it showed in some imprecise arrivals at the shot that left him relying on his strong glove hand. Take, for example, this save against Team USA during the tournament:
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
His hesitation to follow the shooter’s telegraphing movements to the left, despite a second American skater waiting for a rebound by that left post, left him with a lot of vulnerable area – even though he did manage to make the eventual stop. And while he remains more conservative with his lateral aggression than the similarly-active Søgaard (despite a much smaller stature), the lack of more steady and confident stops mean that there’s still work to be done when it comes to his puck trajectory and game reads.
No draft-eligible goaltender is perfect, though, and there is still quite a lot to like about what Alnefelt has shown so far.
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.
There’s a chance he’ll get a few looks with the HV71 club at the SHL level during the season next year, since he already spent the bulk of his 2018-19 season as a 17-year-old playing for the J20 program (and looked well above his age class when he did make a brief appearance with the J18 team).
He’ll want to show that he can take steps forward with his tracking and game reads, and sources have suggested his confidence level when communicating his intentions is still a work in progress. Still, his performances this past year against 17- and 18-year olds show that he’s clearly one of the best goaltenders his age coming out of Sweden right now; he’s got a lot of the raw materials that it takes to develop into a great prospect, he just needs to spend a bit more time putting it all together.
It’s important to remember that Alnefelt just turned 18 a few weeks ago, and it’s even more important to remember that it’s tough to compare numbers between nations and leagues when evaluating goaltending prospects. In the J20 SuperElit division in Sweden, every goaltender who statistically outperformed the 18-year-old Alnefelt – who was just 17 during the season – was older than him but one. The bulk of the J20 goaltenders were 1999 or 2000 birth years; only Alnefelt and 2020 draft eligible Calle Clang broke into the Top 15 among the league’s starters in save percentage.
Swedish junior coach and scout Tommy Enroth explained that workload context is hugely important when considering what Alnefelt produced this past year, and that his numbers and technical performance suggested he’s both technically sound and boasts the kind of conditioning that bodes well for taking on busy seasons.
“He’s a decent with his stick and doesn’t shy away from making plays with his stick to his teammates,” he wrote, adding that he marries technique and stamina well. “He has good physical tools and seems to have a good stamina to carry on a heavy work load and play a lot.”
Assuming he gets to spend another year playing J20 SuperElit this upcoming season, expect that workload to stay high – but given the numbers he put up this year, expect him to only continue taking steps forward.
Raw data in this article came from eliteprospects.com and stats.swehockey.se.
Goaltender, coach, journalist, and runner. Raising a rambunctious two-year-old in the Phoenix area. Bylines at The Athletic NHL, InGoal Magazine, NHL.com, and more along the way. Specialist in goaltending video and analysis, but great for chats about distance running and New York style pizza in her spare time.