Selected in the second round of the 2003 draft, Loui Eriksson has been one of the Dallas Stars‘ top-ranked prospects before he even played a game of North American hockey — and for good reason. The Goteborg, Sweden native was the Swedish Elite League’s Rookie of the Year in 2003-04 and followed up that achievement the next year with a Swedish Elite League Championship in 2005.
The next year, Eriksson made the jump to North America. In just his first season, Eriksson scored 31 goals and 60 points in 78 games while playing for the AHL Iowa Stars. The left wing ranked second on the team in points and was also named Iowa’s 2005-06 Rookie of the Year.
With such big accomplishments already under his belt, expectations for Eriksson entering the 2006-07 season were high. In fact, Eriksson lasted just 15 games at the AHL level before Dallas decided the future for Eriksson was now at the NHL level.
While Eriksson made the Stars opening day roster, he was soon sent down. It was the forward’s call-up on Nov. 16, 2006, due to a rash of injuries, that provided him with an extended chance to prove he could play at the NHL level. Thus far, Dallas has been pleased with his progress.
“He seems to be getting better and better every day,” said Stars General Manager Doug Armstrong, “And his comfort level at the NHL is now there. He’s doing more things with the puck. He seems to be willing to try different things to create offense. He’s got a real strong base to him so we see him getting stronger and stronger and we think that he’s just starting to scratch at the type of player he’s going to be in the NHL.”
While the Stars have been pleased with his progress, Eriksson has been his own toughest critic. He has admitted that he has struggled with the transition to the NHL level.
“The hardest thing is its good speed. The whole game is different. It feels like more physical, a lot of speed and the passing is really quick everywhere. I think [my transition] has been going well. I’ve played some good games, some bad games.”
Eriksson’s struggle to keep up with the faster pace of the NHL has shown up on the score sheet. In 47 games, he has four goals and 13 points including two power-play goals while averaging 12:59 minutes of ice time per game. The point total is an expected drop in production from Eriksson’s totals last year given his transition to a higher level. Lately he’s been playing on a line with Mike Ribeiro and Ladislav Nagy.
While Eriksson admitted to struggling on the ice, he has also admitted to struggling off of it as well. The 21-year-old forward admitted that not knowing when or if he would be sent down has been tough and has made it hard for him to stay loose to perform.
“It’s hard when you come up and you stay at the hotel two months,” said Eriksson. “That’s the hardest thing is staying at the hotel and [you] don’t know if you’re going down [back to the AHL] or if you’re going to stay the next day, but it’s what you have to do.”
Despite Eriksson’s self-criticism of his performance thus far this season, he does admit that while the transition has been tough, he is feeling more comfortable with each game.
“Of course, I feel much more [comfortable] than in the beginning,” said Eriksson, smiling.
While the Stars remain very pleased with how the young forward has adjusted this season, Armstrong has admitted that Eriksson does have some work to do this off-season.
“I think strength is going to be an issue with him,” said Armstrong. “Taking the puck hard to the net, just creating some offense and that’s going to come with time and experience.”
The Stars will look to have Eriksson add some muscle to his 6’1, 183-pound frame to help make him more effective in winning battles along the boards and in front of the net. The rest, they believe will come with time and experience.
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