Nils Höglander just scored the goal of the year. The competition is over, we’re calling it now, no other goals need apply. Heck, he just scored the goal of several years. For the next few seasons, every list of the year’s top goals has to have Höglander’s goal at number one.
Speaking of one, it’s absurd that Höglander wasn’t picked in round one of the 2019 NHL Draft. There was just one reason he was available for the Canucks in the second round: he’s 5’9”.
That’s it. Everything else about Höglander screamed “first round pick,” including the 50 games he played in the SHL in his draft year. No other 18 year old played as many SHL games as Höglander, a testament to how much his Rögle coach trusted him, and his 14 points led all first-time draft-eligible players in the SHL in scoring.
Beyond just his numbers, Höglander’s sublime skill was readily apparent. His hands are as silky smooth as they get and he pulls off moves that other players wouldn’t even think to try.
Such as the goal he scored in the second period of Rögle’s game against Djurgården on Tuesday, where he dazzled everyone with a lacrosse-style goal. It was an unbelievable goal, executed at incredibly high speed while under pressure from 6’4” veteran defenceman Marcus Högström.
Everything about this goal is simply incredible. Höglander manages to out-battle the much larger Högström, then banks the puck off the back of the net to himself to further bamboozle the defencemen. That’s when he lifts the puck up onto his stick, evades the stick-check from Högström and tucks the puck just under the bar.
That type of goal is also known as “The Michigan” after Mike Legg scored with the move for the University of Michigan Wolverines. It was a big game too, an NCAA Tournament game, and Michigan went on to win the national championship.
The Swedes refer to it as a “Zorro-mål” which simply translates to “Zorro goal.” To “zorro” the puck is to lift it up onto your stick and control it in the air with a lacrosse-like motion.
What sets Höglander’s goal apart from other Zorro-mål is that he did it far more quickly and under far more pressure. Most similar goals start with the player controlling the puck behind the net without anyone checking them. That gives them the time to zorro the puck onto their blade and lift it up without getting stick-checked.
Höglander did it immediately after winning a puck battle, with the defenceman still within striking distance, but lifted the puck onto his stick with such a fluid motion that he still pulled it off. This is simply an unreal move to pull off this quickly in a game.
"First I tried to win the battle behind the goal, then I saw the situation, so it was just to test. It was pretty cool,” said Höglander during the intermission.
“Pretty cool” feels like it’s underselling it just a little.
This isn’t even the first time Höglander has scored a Zorro-mål, as he won the Goal of the Year award last season in the SHL with a similar, if slightly-less-spectacular move.
Top Prospect Nils Höglander (2019 NHL Entry Draft) scored a beauty with the "Michigan Move" in the SHL tonight.... 👀— Robert Söderlind (@HockeyWebCast) January 23, 2019
(🎥 C More) pic.twitter.com/AgTJZ0iyiu
Again, when he first pulled off this move, it was when he was standing alone behind the net with no pressure from a defender. This year’s edition trumps last year’s completely.
The goal was Höglander’s third of the season and he now has three goals and four points in ten games. And he’s still just 18 years old; he doesn’t turn 19 until December.