Devils Draft Series: Noel Gunler — Risky, Swedish Scorer

Noel Gunler
Forward Noel Gunler has tremendous upside, yet is an extremely risky prospect. (Photo by: Bildbyrån/Michael Erichsen)

Profile

Noel Gunler is an 18-year old, Swedish-born right-winger and is listed as 6-foot-2, 187 pounds. Like both fellow-countrymen Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond, he has played his whole junior career in Sweden, specifically throughout Luleá HF’s system. In the final 2020 NHL Draft Prospect Rankings, he is ranked ninth among European skaters, this after being ranked ninth in the midterm rankings.

The Statistics

As a 14-year-old, Gunler started his junior career playing sparingly in each the under-16 and under-18 leagues. The following year he played 18 games in the under-18, second-level league, tallying 17 points. His production led to a promotion to the main level of the under-18 league as a 15-year-old, where played 14 games, and tallied a whopping 28 points and a plus-21 rating. 

The following year he played primarily in the SuperElit league, which is the top junior league in Sweden, where he tallied 22 points in 41 games. Last season, Gunler played in the same league, where he showed much improvement, with 46 points (27 goals, 19 assists) in only 31 games. This point per game average was the highest in the league (minimum 10 games played). And it was also higher than both Raymond and Holtz, who also played in the league the same season.

Gunler played in the SHL, Sweden’s top professional league, at only 17-years old. He tallied five points in 15 games in his draft minus-one season. Then this year scored 13 points and contributed a plus-12 rating in 45 games. It’s worth noting his goal per game average in his draft minus-one season is the highest in league history of all draft minus-one eligible players (minimum 10 games played). This includes the likes of Raymond, Holtz, and even the Sedin twins.  

Gunler’s Scouting Report

Strengths

Gunler’s main strength is his goal-scoring ability. He is a pure goal scorer who rivals countrymen Alexander Holtz and Ottawa 67’s Jack Quinn for the best ability in this area of draft-eligible players. He has a great release coupled with solid accuracy makes for a lethal shot. 

Another important component of this ability is his instincts in the offensive zone, as almost all his shot attempts are of high danger. Whether this is by driving the net, finding open areas on the ice, or picking up the garbage goals in front (such as rebounds and deflections), Gunler scores in all types of ways.

His playmaking ability is also solid. This is largely thanks to the willingness to attempt passes into high danger areas. Often if his pass gets through, it’s going to end with a great scoring opportunity. Overall, he is a great possession driver for his team.

Another area where Gunler excels is the willingness to go into the “dirty” areas of the ice. He does not shy away from board battles and usually does a good job in them. This is thanks largely to his 6-foot-2 frame.

Lastly, Gunler saw his play improve dramatically as the season went on. This was evident through the uptick in ice time. However, he ultimately still played only played under 10 minutes a night, but this number was far less at the beginning of the season.

Weaknesses

Gunler’s main issue, and what makes him a risky prospect, is his inconsistency issues. Game-to-game in the SHL this season, you never knew what player you were going to get. This is a bit discouraging, however, this may have been a struggle for Gunler given how little ice time he got. He did only play about seven minutes a night in his first SHL season. Like his play as a whole, this issue did get much better as the season went on.

Defensively, Gunler can also improve. Specifically, regarding his awareness, as he sometimes can get lost in his own zone. This relates closely to the consistency issue. Also, Gunler has issues defending in the neutral zone. Watching his tape, he is too relaxed against opponents in these areas and often let them clear and enter the offensive zone with ease. However, when he does get settled in his own zone, he is keen on causing takeaways and disrupting opponents with his stick.

Lastly, his skating can use a bit of work. His top-line speed is solid, and above average. However, it takes him a bit to reach that speed. His acceleration is the area that needs improvement.

Projection

Gunler is an extremely intriguing prospect, and it is hard to correctly project him. Iron out his inconsistencies, and he is a top-eight talent in this draft class. However, if he doesn’t, whoever selects him will be frustrated to no end.

For this reason, Gunler is going to be one of the riskier selections in the first round. He has tremendous upside, and with the right coaching can end up being a pick of tremendous value. Due to this, Gunler should be a lock to be selected in the first round. Additionally, as the season went on, the consistency problems seemed to get better, which should encourage teams. That is why another season at the SHL-level should be extremely beneficial.

Expect him to be off the board anywhere from 14-18, but do not be surprised if he goes around the top-10 or even if he ends up free-falling down the board.

Gunler’s Fit With the Devils

Gunler should not be targeted with either one of the Devils’ projected top 10 first-round draft picks. Though he could make a lot of sense with the team’s third pick. He has the skill and upside to be a top-10 pick, so snagging him at 17 regardless of his consistency issues would be stellar value.

Having three first-round picks puts the Devils in an extremely unique position. Of course, the goal is to “hit” on all three, but having the surplus allows the Devils to be a bit riskier. Gunler is exactly that, and at 17 years old, he would be one of the best value picks of the draft given his talent.

Ranking of Evaluated Prospects

1. Alexis Lafrenière (no profile will be released)

2. Tim Stützle (05/07/2020)

3. Quinton Byfield (05/08/2020)

4. Marco Rossi (04/30/2020)

5. Lucas Raymond (04/28/2020)

6. Jamie Drysdale (05/01/2020)

7. Alexander Holtz (04/29/2020)

8. Cole Perfetti (05/06/2020)

9. Yaroslav Askarov (05/05/2020)

10. Anton Lundell (05/11/2020)

11. Seth Jarvis (05/13/2020)

12. Jake Sanderson (05/04/2020)

13. Dawson Mercer (05/16/2020)

14. Noah Gunler (Today)

15. Rodion Amirov (05/12/2020)

16. Jack Quinn (05/09/2020)

17. Dylan Holloway (05/14/2020)

18. Connor Zary (05/15/2020)

19. Lukas Reichel (05/18/2020)

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