Swedish Sound Tigers-Persson and Sundstrom-Ready To Impress

 

Since 2006, the Elitserien, or Swedish Elite League (SEL), has been the most significant provider of NHL talent outside North America. The NHL and the CHL (Canadian Hockey League), with their annual late June drafts, are always looking for the next Nicklas Lidstrom, Matts Sundin or Peter Forsberg.

In the 2011 NHL Entry Level Draft, the Islanders selected two players from Sweden, John Persson and Johan Sundstrom, who will most likely be starters for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers this season. Each has taken a different path to reach their goal … a full time job in the NHL.

The fourth Persson brother to play for Swedens’ Mora IK (Mora Ishockeyklubb), John was selected by the Red Deer Rebels (WHL) in the first round of the CHL’s 2009 ‘Import Draft’. After posting just 7 goals and 4 assists in 62 games with the Red Deers, he went unnoticed in the 2010 NHL draft, his first year of NHL draft eligibility. His sophomore season his numbers caused notice. (Photo: Pope Steve XXVII)

In 68 games played, Persson would score 33 goals and add 28 assists while playing to a plus 34. He would no longer go unnoticed, but carried an asterisk next to the impressive numbers he put up.

Centering his line during Perssons’ breakout season was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the number one pick in the 2011 draft. Many GM’s thought that Perssons’ success was in large part due to playing with RNH and once again he went unnoticed until Garth Snow selected him in the fifth round, 125th overall.

2011-12 saw a dip in goals scored with 23, a slight increase in assists at 35 and his AHL debut. In just ten regular season games with the Sound Tigers late last season, John scored 4 goals and 4 assists during the teams division championship run. He will be noticed next season.

Rather than relocating to Canada, Johan Sundstrom remained in Sweden to pursue his career.

Born on September 21, 1992, Sundstrom missed the cutoff date for the 2010 NHL draft by six days. He was not without the talent necessary to play for one of the SEL’s top teams (Vastra Frolunda HC) however, and as one of the younger players in the league impressed coaches and scouts alike. (Teka England/Flickr)

As a newcomer on a team rich in talent, Sundstroms’ ice-time was limited to the typical fourth line minutes one would expect a rookie to be given. His play and willingness to compete did not go without notice and he was selected to represent Sweden in the 2012 World Juniors.

The gifted forward was given a good deal of responsibility centering the teams top unit and serving as alternate captain. He has all the potential one would expect of a second round pick and will be interesting to watch him learn the North American game like so many of his countrymen before him.

 

- Mike Flannery

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