Tim Triumphant

by Peter Westermark
on
Goaltender Tim Thomas´ early season performances for AIK in the Swedish Elitserien is leaving hockey people wondering why he isn´t playing in the National Hockey League.

Being no stranger to the European game, the 26-year-old American arrived in Stockholm this summer after spending last season with the Detroit Vipers of the IHL. He had previously starred in the Finnish SM-Liiga for powerhouse HIFK Helsinki.

AIK has started the season remarkably well and a lot of the credit goes to Thomas who has backstopped the team to a placing at the top of the league table after eight games. Looking at the American´s statistics it is easy to understand why he is being hailed as a hero with barely one fifth of the season played.

His numbers are simply Hasek-like.

He is sporting a 94.4 save percentage and a goals against average at 1.72, and that is playing behind a defense that was average at best for the most part of last season. Thomas appears calm and quietly confident in the net, whether it´s cutting angles or aggressively challenging shooters.

”Thomas won the game for us today,” said AIK Head Coach Pär Mårts after a mid-october 4-0 road win over Björklöven in which AIK was outshot 37-19. ”We lacked organization, didn´t win any faceoffs or battles along the boards. I´m thanking Tim for the three points,” Mårts elaborated.

Björklöven´s Head Coach John Slettvoll agreed: ”Tim Thomas was unbelievable today.”
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Puck has been dropped in Sweden

by Peter Westermark
on
The Swedish Elitserien started today with two games. Newly promoted Timrå beat reigning champions Djurgården in overtime, 3-2, after 20-year-old starlet Henrik Zetterberg beat goalie Mikael Tellqvist with a low wristshot. AIK defeated MoDo 3-1 on home ice in the other game.

Hopefully, the Timrå – Djurgården game was a sign of things to come in the Elitserien. It was a free-flowing game filled with scoring-chances created by two teams that seemingly couldn´t even spell ”trap”. Considering the increase in odd-man rushes and the effectiveness of quick passing, maybe it´s time for the NHL to follow in the IIHF’s footprints and remove the red line.

The story of the game was highly touted Henrik Zetterberg, the early favourite to win the ”Rookie of the year” award in Sweden. Zetterberg, a 7th round steal by the Detroit Red Wings in 1999, is a 5’11, 180 pound speed-demon oozing of offensive flair.

Another Detroit draft-pick, Djurgården defenseman Niklas Kronwall, is also on the fast track to stardom. The 2000 Entry Draft first round pick (29th overall) is being cast in a more offensive role this season and will make huge improvements on his five point total from the 1999/2000-season.

The early favourites to win the championship this season are Färjestad and Luleå, boosted by the return of former NHLers Jörgen Jönsson and Mikael Renberg, respectively.

Swedish Hockey 101

by Peter Westermark
on
If you know the basic facts regarding the structure of Swedish clubs – stop
reading now. If you don´t, you might learn something new.

Most teams started as non-profit organizations as a way to get people living
in the area interested and active in sports. The only thing one had to do to
become a member of the club was to pay a small fee to enter. The active
members elected a board that should run the club. This structure is still
common in Sweden, although the importance of money in hockey has grown. The
structure of most major clubs are similar to the structure of most
companies, although hockey is not a profit oriented business designed to
please an owner or a group of owners. Teams can not be sold or moved.

Some clubs are even introducing themselves at the stock exchange, turning
themselves into a profit-oriented business. The thinking behind the
metamorphosis is that teams have to have a sound economy if they want to be
successful in the Elitserien, although this sounds pretty ironic considering
the vast amount of Swedish clubs that are in debt.

One key source of revenue is local businesses as they supply sponsoring and
advertise on boards and jerseys. Teams whose Elitserien status can be
attributed to having a large company in the town include MoDo, who has even
assumed the name of the company, and Luleå, who is heavily sponsored by
SSAB(Swedish Steel).
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Elitserien veterans in high demand

by Peter Westermark
on
More than six Elitserien veterans could be drafted this year, and there are two major factors that have created this demand. First, the expansion of the NHL obviously creates a need for more players. Second, some players are simply late bloomers, and there are diamonds in the rough in every league.

From the Elitserien, defensive defensemen seem to be the most attractive players. Brynäs´ Niclas Wallin and Malmö´s Andreas Lilja are solid stay-at-home types who can get involved physically. Lilja has expressed a desire to play in North America, but the wishes of Niclas Wallin still remain a secret.

Swedish champions Djurgården have been losing key players right and left it seems, and the situation could get worse. Espen Knutsen has already signed on to play for the Columbus Blue Jackets, and two more players could be on the verge of crossing the Atlantic to play. Unsung hero defenseman Mikael Magnusson had a very solid showing at the World Championships and in the Elitserien this season, and there is some buzz that he might be drafted this year. The 27-year-old defender scored 5 goals and 6 assists in 49 games and also racked up a solid 73 penalty minute total. The other player rumoured to be heading for the NHL is a bigger surprise, not so much around the name as the timing. Defensive center Niclas Falk, who had a poor season by his standards, has not been drafted after good seasons in the past when he was a key player in both Djurgården and for Team Sweden at the World Championships.
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Swedish Rankings

by Peter Westermark
on
Leksand defenseman Lars Jonsson is the top rated Swede according to the Swedish correspondents at Hockey´s Future. He has achieved that by playing at a high level all season long and displaying flashes of greatness on both the Swedish national junior team and on Leksand´s junior team. Leksand officials expect Jonsson to step right in an play 30-40 of the 50 regular season games in the Elitserien next season.

The second rated player is Martin Samuelsson who was highly touted as a 16-year-old. He had to battle both injuries and inconsistency this season and his offensive output has to be considered a disappointment. A point-per-game pace in a soft league is not good enough for a potential first round pick. He added a silver lining to his poor season with a good U18 World Championship where he scored 3 goals and 5 assists in 6 games. The gifted Samuelsson, who moved from Stockholm to play for MoDo´s juniorteam, has now moved back to the Swedish capital and will suit up for Hammarby´s senior team next season. A good choice for Samuelsson who left a MoDo club where a lot of the players seemed more concerned about playing for the scouts than playing for their teammates at times. A selfish attitude won´t cut it in senior hockey, and next year will be very beneficial for him.
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