Prior to being signed by the Flames in 2020, Kinnvall was invited to the Flames Development Camp, where he stood out in a good way. After some strong scouting from former Flame Hakan Loob, the team signed him to a two-year entry-level contract. Kinnvall spent this season completing the final year of his deal in Sweden and will make the trip over to North America to start next season.
Turning 24 in a just few days, Kinnvall has developed quite substantially compared to some of the Flames’ younger prospects. He has also spent the last four seasons playing against men in the SHL and HockeyAllsvenskan with Timra IK and HV71, and will be looking to translate his play over to North America.
And whether he is able to take another step forward in his game is the key question for him, and is why he was ranked all over the place in TWC’s prospect rankings. Some saw him as having the tools to take the next step in his development, and ranked him as high as sixth, while others had little faith that he would be as effective in the AHL as he was in the SHL, placing him as low as 14th. Let’s take a look at his game.
Kinnvall’s on-ice results
Kinnvall started the year on an absolute tear, putting up 14 points in his first 11 games. He continued to be around a point-per-game right through to the middle of the season, when he picked up a foot ligament issue that persisted through the back half of the season. He spent some time on the injured reserve, but it was clear that this or another injury was pestering him, and limited his production. HV-71 was relegated from the SHL at the end of a very rough season, and Kinnvall was not much help offensively in their battle to remain, putting up no points in three games.
However, to his credit, Kinnvall finished the season with 22 points in 32 games, good for seventh on his team, and second among defencemen. League-wide, he finished the season 15th among defencemen, but sixth among defencemen in points-per game (minimum 10 games played). A good sign of his offensive ability.
Kinnvall’s strengths and weaknesses
Similar to Noah Hanifin or more refined Jeremie Poirier, Kinnvall is a heavily offensive defenceman. A prototypical powerplay quarterback, Kinnvall can see the game at a very high level, and has great vision to be able to make quick passes and create chances. He also has a hard shot that can be netminders right from the point, and knows how to keep his shot low to allow for tips in front.
Take a look at this clip below of two primary assists that Kinnvall picked up in this game. In the first, he makes a nice pass to his defence partner, and keeps his feet moving in case the puck goes back the other way. In the second, he sneaks his way to the top of the circle, fakes out a defender, and fires a shot on net. That shot ricochets off the goalie and out to a teammate who puts it into the net.
A strong offensive player, Kinnvall has great vision and awareness of where to be to create chances. He is unafraid to join the rush and be an extra man forward that defenders struggle to account for. Check out this rush goal that Kinnvall put up.
We can look at video of his incredible offensive plays until the cows come home, but let’s get to his defense, which has been a bit of an area of concern. Kinnvall has been criticized for being too offensively focussed, struggling to track back when needed. Alexa Potack of Dobber Prospects noted (as quoted by Mike Gould on FlamesNation) that “his weakness is his defensive game. It concerns me for his NHL upside as he has a lot to work on with rounding out his game. He has the tools to get power play minutes but I’m not sure what his potential as an NHLer is with the defensive ceiling it seems like he has.”
However, it looks like his defensive game has taken a bit of a step forward in spite of HV-71 having a horrific season. According to Pick224, Kinnvall finished the season with a 43.2% goals for percentage, however, when he was not on the ice, the team finished with a 17.5%. Clearly Kinnvall’s on-ice defensive impact is substantial.
Even looking at video, Kinnvall’s defensive plays are clear to see. Check out this clip of him tracking back to breakup a breakaway:
Kinnvall’s next steps
When he was signed by the Flames, Kinnvall noted: “I need to be stronger and be better with my positional play in the defensive zone.” This will be the thing to watch for Kinnvall going into this season. However, his offensive abilities and hockey smarts have made him able to cover some of his defensive weaknesses so far in the SHL. That likely won’t be good enough in the AHL, and Kinnvall will likely spend most of this season working with the Heat’s coaching staff to improve his game.
However, what Kinnvall brings to the table far outweighs his risks. As described by Loob, Kinnvall is “a right-handed shot, good on the power-play, scoring points like he’s done the last two years . . . You don’t find too many free agents like that.” He’s not wrong, and with skills like this he could be challenging for an NHL role sooner than later.
While the Flames are stocked on the left side of their defence, Kinnvall is one of just four righthanded defencemen in the organization. He joins fellow Swede Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev, and prospect Jake Boltmann in this category. He also has a ton of experience playing against men, and if he can transition his game to the North American game effectively, he could make the jump to the NHL sooner than later.
The NHL is absolutely the goal for Kinnvall, and if he does make the jump, he will join Elias Lindholm and Jacob Markstrom as the third Flame from Gavle, Sweden on the Flames. Here’s hoping he can push for a roster spot sooner than later.