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2024 NHL SCOUTING REPORT (VIDEO + GRADES): Stian Solberg, D, Vålerenga IF (EHL)

Stian Solberg
D - #10 Vålerenga IF (EHL)
6’2, 205 lbs, Shoots: L
DOB: 29.12.2005 - Oslo, Norway

As you’ve no doubt heard already, the 2024 NHL Draft class is shaping up to be the most talent-rich crop of Norwegian prospects ever. Headlining this group are two names. One is, of course, Michael Brandsegg Nygard, the speedy, physical winger with the make of a modern power forward. The other, who has shot up draft boards recently, is big, rough, tough D-man Stian Solberg.

Solberg has been playing steady minutes on one of the best teams in the top division of Norwegian professional hockey since his D-2 season but really grew into his role as a minute-munching defensive defenceman this year. Not only that, but his game has constantly been improving all year long. With a strong showing at the U20 WJC, an EHL playoff run for the ages, and a fantastic World Championship in May to cap it all off, Solberg has stepped his game up to whatever challenge lay before him. While there are areas of his game that still need refinement, his trajectory has been up, up, up – improvement during one’s draft year always bodes well for a prospect’s potential to hit their ceiling.

Standing at 6’2 and weighing in at 203 lbs, he’s not the guy you want to see when you’re flying down the right-side wing. If you do see him, you’d better brace yourself, because you are getting flattened. Solberg is physical. It is the hallmark of his game, and he takes pride in that. Sometimes, a little too much pride. He’s got a mean streak, no question about it. It is an aspect of his hard-nosed style that has had scouts fawning over him all season, drawing comparisons to some of the NHL’s most revered hitters like Radko Gudas, Luke Schenn, and even Jacob Trouba. While that may be a tad overzealous, there’s no denying that Solberg’s physical presence is his greatest strength.

However, we shouldn’t limit him to only being a freight train on skates. The more he has played, the more he’s shown. He plays smart positional defence and manages his gaps very effectively. He can sometimes be slow to react, Solberg has also shown an underrated ability to carry the puck with his powerful straight-line skating and ability to protect the puck with his frame. When he gets a full head of steam, he can transport that puck from DZ to OZ without much of a hassle. It’s when he’s put into a position where he must get around complex pressure from defenders that Solberg’s limitations get to him. He’s got rather poor stickhandling and spotty vision. He can make simple plays here and there and even flash the occasional dangle, but struggles to consistently get past defenders, execute on complex passes and navigate forechecking pressure in tight. He may not project to be much of a playmaker at the NHL level. However, he does have a pretty big shot, some fun ideas, and a budding on-puck deception game, so there might be some level of offensive upside to him.


Solberg’s skating has come a long way since the start of the season, and even then, there’s a ton of potential for growth. Generally speaking, Solberg is pretty mobile. While his skating can occasionally look choppy when picking up his feet, he can really build up some solid straight-line speed if given enough runway. This is evident when he carries pucks through the neutral zone with a full head of steam or when sprinting back to cover odd-man rushes against. He’s wired to be the puck carrier on breakouts, building up speed with crossovers, attacking skating lanes and pushing pace.

While he is agile enough to control his gaps and not get beat to the inside, moving laterally and backwards quickly enough in order to defend the rush and adapt to changes in play remains a work in progress. He had a tendency to stumble or trip himself up when changing direction too quickly early in the season. As time went on, he managed to limit the ugliness in his footwork and move enough in four directions to cover more ground in the defensive zone.

Here we see an example of Solberg (#72 white) utilizing his mobility to defend the rush. His strides and crossovers weren’t the smoothest and he was having a hard time turning and shifting his weight, but he made it work.

A nice example of Solberg’s (#72 white) straight-line speed on the hardback skate to catch an opponent who’s been sprung on a breakaway. You can see him accelerate for the first five steps, then focus on matching the speed of the Sparta player before thumping him off the puck.

A really good (and extremely rare) clip of Solberg (#72 white) skating coast to coast for a goal. He’s skating with his head up, building speed with crossovers, reading opponents intent and attacking open ice. I think everyone on the ice was surprised by this play, but Solberg has the confidence to try this stuff at will.

This clip is from a similar situation as clip 1 but from a World Championship exhibition match, and the results are much better. Solberg (#72 white) looks much more fluid and he is able to keep himself more balanced. You can tell he’s worked on his backwards skating here.

In this clip, we see what Solberg (#72 red) could become with even further refinement to his skating. He’s improved his agility to where he’s able to pull off more deceptive body fakes and he’s building speed quicker. Coupling Solberg’s confidence and creativity with further improved skating is a recipe for success and his underrated upside as a puck mover should be nurtured.

Grade: 55


Despite not profiling as an offensive defenceman, Solberg has found a fair bit of success generating offence with his shot. He knows how to shoot and he likes to shoot often. He can let a clapper go from the point and get it on the net, or take a few steps and whip a wrist shot toward the top corner. His ability to barrel down the wing and surprise goalies with a quick snapshot in stride will make your eyes widen with disbelief, as you don’t expect a defenceman known for throwing hits to show impressive rush attack instincts. With continued improvement to his skating, it may even be feasible for Solberg to be a competent rush attacker at higher levels, adding a whole other dimension to his game.

On the Vålerenga and the Norwegian national team, Solberg saw power play time as a shooting threat from the point. While he’s got to improve his puck distribution before getting serious consideration for power play time at higher levels, he’s really learned to put some serious weight behind his slapshot and can really connect on one-timers. It’s pretty easy to see this become a legitimate tool for Stian to create some offence with more refinement, and guys are going to start thinking twice about putting their bodies in front of a Sol-bomb.

Solberg (#72 white) sending a quick, low shot toward the net looking for a deflection. The shot finds a teammate’s stick and gets a good one that almost trickles over the line. This is the most common type of shot for Solberg, at least at even strength.

Here we see Solberg (#72 white) getting some time on the power play, but he’s not manning the point like he typically does. Instead, he’s along the half-wall looking for space to get a shot off from closer range. Once he gets it, boy, does he ever whip that wrister!


Here we see Solberg (#72 white) connecting on some howitzers. The way he switches with his winger after passing the puck low to him, granting him a gorgeous look from inside the house, showed some good off-puck movement.


Ouch! Solberg (#72 white) must have been watching some Shea Weber footage before the game. You don’t get much space for a slapshot in today’s NHL, but Solberg has the potential to unleash a canon when that space presents itself. Put your body in front of it and you’ll meet the same fate as that Latvian player. If not, it might be in the back of the net in the blink of an eye

Solberg (#72 blue) is streaking down the ice from the defensive zone and getting a shot off from a sharp angle in stride. Really great idea and drive, but couldn’t fool the goaltender. As you can see, Solberg has a diverse arsenal of shots that could generate offence in the future. Depending on how his skating develops, perhaps plays like this will get there as well.

Grade: 55


While there were only occasional flashes of skill, Solberg showed he can be an adequate puck mover and puck handler in the EHL. He hits simple passes and outlets, though not without some wrinkles and spotty vision. He shakes off pressure with patience and deception, sometimes even pushing forward and attacking the heels of defenders to create an advantage for himself and his team. However, when he encountered problems in tight that needed solving, Solberg showed some warts.

His hands aren’t the quickest and he isn’t the shiftiest on his skates, so he can’t execute manipulative stick moves or fakes quickly or in tight. This made carrying pucks around or through defenders a challenge. Despite this, Solberg is full of confidence and tries to make creative plays happen. While it’s mostly D-to-D passes or throwing the puck into space down low, he can surprise everyone with a toe-drag-rip-through move on someone while streaking down the wing. It’s clear that Solberg wants to play a certain way and the ideas are encouraging, but he needs quite a bit of work to get there. It’s tough projecting much of the “fun” stuff he’s shown at his current level of competition to higher levels, but it’s hard to bet against a guy so willing to at least attempt them.

Solberg (#72 blue) hitting an outlet pass under pressure from earlier in the season. It was a bit risky to draw in forechecking pressure like that without being in motion, but it worked out.

Here’s a bit of the not-so-good hands. An unfortunate bobble at the blue line by Solberg (#72 white) led to a turnover and a goal. The struggle to settle bouncing pucks as well as execute on stickhandles is a bit rough, but should get better with some practice.

Here we have an example of Solberg (#72 blue) failing to get around opponents in the neutral zone while carrying the puck. You might say it was unlucky that the linesman was there, but it looked like he was just about out of room anyway and would have been stripped of the puck sooner or later. That move wasn’t fooling anyone.

I don’t think Solberg (#72 white) gets too discouraged by mistakes, otherwise, he wouldn’t have the guts to pull of a move like this in game 7 of the EHL semifinals. Although he didn’t beat his man, this took some coordination to pull off and it’s the ideas you care about at this point in his development.

Finally, Solberg’s (#72 red) stickhandling and vision looked like it took at the World Championship. He stickhandled quickly and passed that puck with amazing precision and timing. This level of playmaking is not something Solberg normally does, but it was very refreshing to see him execute a play. We won’t know if this is a part of his game until his SHL career starts in the 24-25 season – unlikely, but not impossible.

Grade: 52.5


What Stian Solberg knows, he knows well. He exhibits strong positional awareness and makes good defensive reads, which is what has been one of the key factors to his excellent in-zone defence this season. He does a good job identifying skating lanes when carrying pucks or supporting the rush and supports breakouts with safe off-puck positioning behind the puck carrier in case things go awry.

Typically, Solberg plays defence with his eyes up and his head on a swivel. However, he has inconsistent pre-scanning habits, especially when he’s looking to make a pass up ice. He has a tendency to hang on to the puck too long and not take advantage of solid passing options. You’d wish he read the ice as well on-puck as he does off-puck. Even when off-puck, Solberg has shown some issues when adapting to changes in the direction of play, which has led to some difficult moments in viewings. Thankfully, one can learn to read and anticipate play with lots and lots of reps and guidance. This shouldn’t be a dealbreaker with Solberg and his hockey sense should project to be about average when it’s all said and done.

Right off the face-off, Solberg (#72 blue) takes charge and keeps his cool under pressure. We see him attempt to move forward, recognize that there isn’t much of a way beyond the obstacles in his path, curl back, and pass the puck to his teammate. He then opens himself up as a pass target for the teammate with the puck, in case he needs it. Solid puck support, poise, and play reading from Stian here.

While Solberg’s (#72 white) greatest strength is hitting, it should be said that he has a tendency to chase hits. This is an example where he has his opponent gapped up but tries to close the gap too early and misses completely. This is a decision-making issue that should be ironed out over time, but you’ll probably have to coach it out of him.

Solberg (#72 red) reads where the play is going and makes sure he supports the odd-man rush as best he can. He turns on the jets but controls his speed so as to put himself in the best position to accept the cross-ice feed from his teammate before burying the puck in the back of the net.

Here is an example of Solberg’s (#72 white) great defensive reads and positioning. On the PK in the defensive zone, Solberg reads that a saucer pass is going cross ice. He moves towards the intended target, sees that the pass is too hard to handle, leverages his momentum and engages physically, driving the target through the boards and removing him from play. Solberg quickly gets possession of the puck and banks it high off the glass and out, shaving valuable seconds off the clock.

Even at the World Championship, some ugly decisions were made. Here we have Solberg (#72) getting caught completely flat-footed at center ice trying to whack a puck back towards the offensive zone and getting burned. Again, this should be much less frequent the more reps he gets, but it is still frustrating to see happen when he’s improved so much everywhere else over the course of the year.

Grade: 50


Hitting is a skill, and most players will learn how to throw a solid check before reaching the NHL. However, relishing in the malice you inflict on your opponent is not something you can teach. Solberg has both of these aspects encoded in his DNA. He’ll staple you to the boards, send you upside down with a hip check, and knock the wind out right of you in open ice. He may even replace your spine with a carbon fibre stick if you’re brave enough to duel with him in the corners and in front of the net. Can you say “built for the playoffs”?

That being said, it would be selling him short to say that he’s only capable of violence. Solberg already has great strength, length and a solid frame to work with defensively. He can angle off attackers to the outside and use his stick to take away shooting and passing lanes. As if his ability to hit wasn’t evidence enough, his physical skills are quite advanced. He does a good job absorbing contact and using his frame and strength to keep opponents to the outside during retrievals and to wear them down if they’re on the inside.

Clichés are clichés for a reason, and there are many that one can attribute to Solberg. Gritty, built differently, got that dawg in ‘em, tough as nails… take your pick. Solberg doesn’t take any guff and won’t hesitate to stand up for himself or for teammates. He’ll answer the bell and do what it takes to win. He’s always working to get better – his improvement throughout the season is evidence of that. In Oslo, he was beloved by fans and teammates alike. Intangibles are tough to factor into one’s analysis of a player. However, with enough industry chatter corroborating the claim that he’s a fantastic person on and off the ice, it’s hard not to give weight to them.

This is just punishing lights-out defence by Solberg (#72 blue), him at his best. He’s moving his feet, engages physically and sticks to him, eventually wedging his body between the puck carrier and the puck and recovering possession of his team. Gotta love the cross-checks, too.

Here we see some great gap management by Solberg (#72 white) against an enemy who’s trying to challenge him head-on. He knocks the puck loose with a sweep of the stick which gets his opponent to lower his head, and then closes the gap on him in a hurry. He gains control of the puck cleanly and takes it around the net, insulating it with his body from a harassing forechecker, before passing it off.

Ding, ding! Solberg (#72 blue) won’t back down from a challenge. The game is over and his team has just won, but that doesn’t stop Stian from getting in the face of the opponent and sending a message. If you don’t wear his team’s jersey, you are in danger. If you do, he’ll put his body on the line for you. Now that’s what I call leadership!

Solberg (#72 white) hurting opponents physically and mentally by throwing a big hit (plus takedown) along the boards and drawing a penalty on the retaliation. There is a sense of cunning you need to be an agitator, and Solberg certainly knows what buttons to press. He’s been quoted saying he loves to get in the face of opponents and annoy them, so NHL teams can expect him to bring rat-like qualities to the ice.

Last, but certainly not least, we have Solberg (#72 blue) lowering the boom on a poor soul. This clip could have been one of a thousand candidates, but this hit shows just how much of a brick wall Solberg is already at 18. Complete and utter stopping power. It’s not just a defensive tool – Solberg is looking to throw one of these as early as he can and set the tone, or to create some momentum for his team.

Grade: 65

OFP: 58.75

A note on the 20-80 scale used above. We look at five attributes (skating, shooting, puck skills, hockey IQ and physicality) for skaters and six for goalies (athleticism/quickness, compete/temperament, vision/play reading, technique/style, rebound control and puck handling). Each individual attribute is graded along the 20-80 scales, which includes half-grades. The idea is that a projection of 50 in a given attribute meant that our observer believed that the player could get to roughly NHL average at that attribute at maturity.