Aside from having a great name, Oscar Fisker Mølgaard is interesting to me because he seems to check a lot of boxes for what Toronto seems to look for at the draft. One common theme they've mentioned over and over, when describing what they liked about a guy they picked, is "hockey IQ" or various synonyms for it. From Hirvonen, Niemelä, Moldenhauer, and others.
The other interesting thing about Mølgaard is just how big of a developmental leap he took this season. He started the pre-season this year as a virtual unknown, playing with a team in Sweden's U18 league. For reference, while it isn't unheard of for a good prospect to start the season there, it's not common either. Most prospects with potential first round hype will start at the U20 level, if not in one of the pro leagues (SHL, Allsvenskan, etc).
And Mølgaard not only started at the U18 level, but he wound up spending about 2/3 of his games this season in the SHL. That's an incredible series of leaps in difficulty that he not only earned, but eventually thrived on. And from what I can see, there are signs he may still have room to grow in other leaps once he physically matures.
So let's talk about the Dane with the sweet name.
THE BASICS: STATS AND CONTEXT
- Position: Center/left winger
- League(s): SHL (41 games) and J20 Nationell (21 games)
- Height: 6’0″
- Weight: 163 lbs
- Birthdate: February 18th, 2005
Here are his draft rankings, as of writing this:
- Bob McKenzie: Honourable mention, outside his top 80
- Scott Wheeler: 39th
- Elite Prospects: 28th
- Dobber Prospects: 26th
- Smaht Scouting: 35th
- Future Considerations: 38th
Mølgaard played this whole year in Sweden. He started at the U18 junior level during the pre-season, but got a quick call up to the U20 level. After 21 games of that, he got a call up to the SHL after the first couple of months. Any prospect worth their salt will at least get into a couple of pro games by their club. The really good ones will spend most, if not all, of their draft year in either the SHL or at least the Allsvenskan (Sweden's second tier pro league). Nylander, for example, split his draft year between the SHL (22 games) and the Allsvenskan (35 games). Leo Carlsson, almost as a top 5 pick this year, spent his whole season in the SHL.
Mølgaard got called up to his SHL club, and didn't return until they were eliminated and he rejoined the U20 junior team for 3 playoff games. He averaged 9:29 TOI while in the SHL, but in his first games he was playing around 6 minutes. By the end, he was in the 12-15 minute range – he even earned some time on the powerplay. He was also invited to be part of Denmark's World Championship roster where he's played around 10 minutes per game in their bottom six. Production wise, he had 4 goals and 3 assists in 41 SHL games, which may not seem like a lot but it is very good for two reasons.
First, he was good enough to stick in the SHL all season after getting called up. That on its own is rare. Second, any Swedish prospect who both sticks in the SHL and scores at a good rate (while playing as a center) in their draft year are almost guaranteed to be a top prospect in the draft. Mølgaard's production puts him in the same company as Isac Lundeström (drafted 23rd overall) and Joel Eriksson Ek (drafted 20th overall).
Those players offer a good insight into the quality of player you're looking at with Mølgaard. He may not jump off the page at you as a dynamic, elite, dominant force, but he certainly has the look of being an impact NHL center. Here's how.
THE GOOD: SKATING, EFFORT AND SMARTS
There's been a lot of post draft interviews where various representatives of the Maple Leafs have talked about how "smart" some of the players they drafted were. That is definitely one of the recurring themes in their draft and scouting process, and one of the main reasons why I am including Mølgaard in my profiles – it isn't just because I really like him. Dubas may be gone, but everyone else from his scouts and AGMs are – as of now – still around.
Mølgaard combines a high level of effort and pace, with just being smart and making smart plays. He managed to impress his SHL team and earned more minutes as a 17 year old center, after starting the season at the U18 level, because he just did the right things. He has that "knows where to be on the ice" factor in terms of his positioning. He reads plays well to anticipate what is going to happen, and then makes sure to be in the area to influence the play.
What helped him a lot this year is his skating. He may not be the very fastest or best skater in this draft, but it is definitely a strength of his. He plays at a high pace and is always moving, trying to make sure he's where he needs to be all the time. Without the puck, he uses his speed to relentlessly close on the puck carrier and refuse to give him any time or space to make an easy play. With the puck, he uses his skating to great effect on transitions to carry the puck into the offensive zone with control.
This is a good set of highlights from some of Mølgaard's SHL games that show his style of play. He skates and works hard, and despite being average height and still pretty young and light, he is capable of keeping his balance and fighting through contact along the boards. In fact, he wins a surprising amount of battles for the puck along the boards. He also shows good habits in getting the puck off the boards and taking it into the middle to make a play – whether it's a shot or pass. As you might remember from my piece on Matthew Knies, those are pro-ready habits and skills that translate very well to the NHL.
What impressed the most of Mølgaard's game in the SHL, and probably the main reason why he was able to stick around and get more ice time, is his defense. You can see from the chart of Mølgaard's tracking data that, in the SHL, his defensive microstats are very strong. Not strong for his age, strong for the entire league, as a 17 year old center. That is a remarkable thing to achieve for his age.
All that skating, effort and awareness combined to make Mølgaard very effective defensively. It's not just his tracking data, he got rave reviews from scouts and his coaches for his two-way play as well. He earned a reputation for being able to pick off or deflect passes, and be a nuisance to the opposition. At 6'0" and only 163 lbs, he's not exactly imposing physical player. But he was able to be effective because he's smart and quick.
THE FLAWS: LACK OF ELITE OFFENSIVE SKILLS
I would characterize Mølgaard's offense as being simple but effective. He is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, and I'd say his strongest offensive impacts will be as a facilitator and driving possession than being a raw point producer. It may have been more difficult to notice, since he outright said in an interview that he tried playing a simpler and safer game to earn his coach's trust, but he didn't really show much dynamic, high end offensive skill.
Mølgaard can make plays, but not really an elite puck handler capable of dekeing through multiple defenders. He is a good passer, but I wouldn't say he's capable of pulling off high difficulty passing plays like a Mitch Marner. He is good at scoring goals, but doesn't have an elite shot. He gets his goals by being around the net, causing chaos and doing the dirty work. In fact, two of his four SHL goals were on rebounds he scored off his backhand.
This does make Mølgaard feel like a "safe" pick, in that it does limit what you think his upside could be. Unless you think there's untapped offensive potential that he can develop in the next few years that can turn him into a high-end offensive force, we do kind of know who he is as a player. There are other prospects who will likely be available at 28 who are less "safe", with a profile that's more boom or bust. They have a lot of offensive skill, but may not have the ability to survive in the NHL. Those are the kinds of players that seem like better "swings" with a first rounder, at least I know that was my mindset when I started out doing this prospect work.
Mølgaard has a lot of supporting skills that would make him an effective pro, but likely not a star in his own right. On the other hand, he seems like a future fan favourite for being a fast, hard working third line center. Maybe a top six supporting winger if he can't stick as a center. But that's all assuming that the rest of his game reaches its potential.
What will really help his game is getting stronger, which is something I feel like I say in 95% of these profiles but it's always true. The fact that Mølgaard can already play well in the second best European pro league is a good sign for his potential, and that's when he's a pretty skinny kid. Adding muscle to his legs and core so he's even more difficult to push around will only add to his board game, as well as add power to his skating and checking. And like I mentioned with Cristall, it can also help him add power to his shot – which is probably the one offensive skill that needs the most improvement right now.
Personally, I love Mølgaard's potential overall. I actually do think he has all the tools to be an effective two-way center, or two-way supporting winger in the top six. He may also have a bit of Matthew Knies or Zach Hyman in him, in terms of offensive potential that comes from his ability to cause chaos. Forecheck hard, win board battles, and get it into the middle to create scoring chances.
As of writing this, Mølgaard doesn't seem to have a lot of late season draft hype around him. Not compared to some other guys who were at the World U18s and had great tournaments. Denmark was not a part of any of the top division international tournaments this year: not the Hlinka, not the World Juniors, and not the World U18s. He did have a very good year helping Denmark qualify for the top division in his age bracket, and he is playing at the World Hockey Championship with the men's team. A good showing there can go a long way – just as Adam Sykora from last year's draft.
In the mid-season rankings from January, Bob McKenzie had Mølgaard as an honourable mention just outside his top 80. While I expect that to be higher in his final ranking, I would not be surprised if he winds up being ranked somewhere in the second round. But I also wouldn't be surprised if some teams have him in their first round, just as some public scouting outlets already have him in their first rounds.
Mølgaard is someone I really like, enough that if my other favourites are off the board already at 28, I wouldn't mind just taking him outright at that spot. But I think he is also my favourite option if Toronto trades down. It may be less likely that he's still on the board whenever they come up again, but getting him plus another prospect later in the second or third rounds appeals to me muchly.
Thanks for reading!
I put a lot of work into my prospect articles here, both for the draft and Toronto's prospects. I do it as a fun hobby for me, and I'd probably do it in some capacity even if PPP completely ceased to exist. But if you like reading my work, some support would go a long way! I pay for a few streaming services (CHL, some NCAA, some USHL, the occasional TSN options for international tournaments that are broadcast) to be able to reliably watch these prospects in good quality streams. I also pay for some prospect-specific resources, such as tracking data and scouting reports from outlets like Elite Prospects, Future Considerations, McKeen's Hockey, and The Athletic.
Being able to get paid for this helps me dedicate more time and resources to it, rather than to second/third jobs. And whatever money I make here, a lot of I reinvest back into my prospect work through in those streaming and scouting services. Like I said, I'd be doing whatever I can afford for this anyway, so any financial help I get through this is greatly appreciated!