Djurgarden's developing bluechippers Robert Nilsson and Johannes Salmonsson have found life difficult due to the onrush of NHL talent in the Swedish Elite League. Neither of the forwards have been able to make an impact for their team so far, struggling to hang on to fourth line duties due to acquisitions of talented NHL'ers such as Nils Ekman and Marcus Nilsson. The youngsters have combined for only an assist so far this season.
As for most teams, the lockout has been a blessing for Djurgarden who had suffered from low attendance figures in past years, seldom filling their 13,850-seat arena. All that changed when all seats were packed for MoDo's first visit, albeit star Peter's Forsberg was not in the lineup due to a sore throat.
17-year old phenom Nicklas Bergfors is gradually becoming a mainstay in the SEL and so far has been the only NHL draft-eligible player to make an impact there. On October 12, the Sodertalje winger scored the game winning goal in a 2-1 game against MoDo, his first ever goal at this level.
"This is something I'll remember for the rest of my life", a thrilled Bergfors said, playing against the likes of Peter Forsberg and the Sedin twins.
Bergfors' future in the league, however, is not entirely concrete, as Sodertalje eagerly awaits the arrival of Finnish star Olli Jokinen. Bergfors may have to light the lamp several more times to avoid a demotion.
The best kept secret to North American hockey fans - though hardly for Swedish observers - has been Frolunda's netminder Henrik Lundqvist. The New York Rangers property is off to a red-hot start to the season, which has scouts drooling over his potential. Currently, through 11 games, he leads the league in save percentage and goals against average with sensational .951 and 1.36 figures, respectively.
Lundqvist is hardly green to the SEL level of play now, after top-notch seasons in 2002-03 and 2003-04. However onlookers are pointing out that the 22-year old is looking quicker and more poised than ever before.
A pleasant surprise between the pipes so far has been Edmonton prospect Kristian Antila who was originally signed as a back up Gusten Tornqvist. The big netminder has exhibited surprising agility and a steady positional game, and currently sports a .920 save percentage.
Washington property Rastislav Stana is second overall with a .933 save percentage for Sodertalje.
Tough Love for Liv
The defending champions HV 71 have looked like chumps to begin the season (3-6-2 through 11 games) and goalie Stefan Liv is now wearing the goat horns. Liv's 3.62 goals-against average and .876 save percentage precipitated the club to sign Phoenix Coyotes' netminder Brian Boucher who will join the team in early November.HV's coach Per Marts, however, has said that he does not intend to relegate Liv completely to the sidelines.
"To us it is about having two great goalies, not about scratching Stefan," said Marts. "He will get his chance to compete and I can only hope that he will rise to the challenge."
This is for the first time in four years that Liv is not a number one netminder in the SEL.