ANDREAS KARLSSON PLAYING UP TO EXPECTATIONS: Andreas was asked to take aging injury-prone veteran Per-Erik Eklund’s spot and step up and become Leksand’s first line center this season, and he has responded extremely well. He has been a major factor in Leksand’s surprising start to the season (currently 1st in Elitserien with a 8-3-4 record). Maybe I am totally alone in liking Andreas as a player, but I still can’t figure out why the Flames used a draftpick on Erik Andersson when they have a younger, more skilled Swede consistently doing the things they look for in Andersson as well as being in the top ten in scoring in the Elitserien. Maybe there’s a lack of desire to play in Canada on Andreas’ part ? Oh well. Either they bring him over after this season, or I give up hoping for him to take a shot at the NHL. He has proven himself over and over again in Sweden, and it’s time for him to learn just how successful he can be in North America. He is currently seventh in the league in scoring, and he was chosen as one of the centers for Team Sweden in the Karjala Cup in Finland. He could be a third-line center in the NHL.
SAMUEL PÅHLSSON FINDING IT TOUGH TO SCORE: It’s fifteen games into the season and Samuel Påhlsson – a player expected to climb into stardom this season – has only scored 2 goals and recorded 3 assists. There are several factors in this. First, the expectations ran high because of his ability, and then even higher simply because he was another young MoDo-center and people want to find a Peter Forsberg-clone NOW. Påhlsson has been playing under a lot of pressure to carry his team and he hasn’t played up to expectations offensively, but he still works hard, goes into the corners and leads by example. Maybe all the hype surrounding his offensive ability is just hype ? He is effective enough in other areas of the game to play in the NHL, but don’t expect him to be more than average. Another big factor in his modest point-total has been the absence of powerforward Magnus Wernblom. Wernblom who was drafted by the LA Kings was suspended in last years playoffs and missed the start of this season. Now, Wernblom is back and that should make life easier for Påhlsson.
CHRISTIAN BÄCKMAN RECIEVES VOTE OF CONFIDENCE: Frölunda has agreed to loan defenseman Radek Hamr to Färjestad for a month. This is because Färjestad is severely understaffed due to injuries, and because of the fact that Frölunda feels that they have quality defensemen sitting on the bench who should get to play. St.Louis first rounder Christian Bäckman fits this description. Frölunda feels that he is ready for a regular shift in Elitserien, and that if they don’t play him, the Blues might try to bring him over as early as next season and put him in the AHL for seasoning. Frölunda wants to hold on as long as possible to Bäckman, but at the same time they realize that he’ll sign with the Blues in two or three years time and go on to have a successful NHL-career. Great move by Frölunda in my opinion. Showing that they are willing to play an 18-year old who might make some rookie-mistakes while he’s improving and learning, instead of benching him, should send a message to other teams where the young promising kids are watching the games from the stands, or from the bench. Bäckman has recorded 3 assists and 2 penalty minutes in 15 games, and is tied for a team-low -4 with a couple of other players.