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Ready for Rodin

by Ryan Biech / Vancouver Canucks
It’s been a summer of change for the Vancouver Canucks with the high profile acquisitions of defenceman Erik Gudbranson and winger Loui Eriksson. Both of those overshadowed an addition that was completed before last season ended: the re-signing of Swedish winger Anton Rodin.

Rodin is a former 2009 second round pick of the Canucks who has played in the AHL and the Swedish Hockey League throughout his young career so far.

After being selected in the NHL Entry Draft, Rodin returned to Sweden to further develop his game with hopes of eventually making the leap to North America. Most Canucks fans got their first look at Rodin when he represented Sweden at 2010 World Juniors in Saskatchewan, and it was a very good first showing.

Helping lead Sweden to a bronze medal with 10 points in 6 games, Rodin showed flashes of what his potential could be - a playmaker who uses his combination of high end skating abilities, hockey vision and passing abilities to make everyone on his line better.

Rodin returned to Sweden for the 2010-11 season, posting 7 goals and 19 assists in 53 games in the Swedish Hockey League, which is extremely impressive numbers for a 21-year-old. He appeared ready to make the transition to the AHL and move forward with his career.

However, battling a shoulder injury, the Gavle, Sweden native had some struggles his first time in North America. At the conclusion of the 2012-13 season, after only posting 14 points in 49 games during an injury filled 49 game season with then AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves, Rodin returned to Sweden to play for his hometown Brynas IF.

The Canucks had submitted a qualifying offer prior to his departure to retain his NHL rights, which was a savvy idea at the time because although Rodin had some trouble adjusting to the AHL, the skill he possessed was still clearly displayed. That small move now looks even better because after three years in the SHL, Rodin appears ready to make the leap to the NHL.

Those injury concerns from earlier in his career are a thing of the past, as Rodin has recently shown a propensity to battle in front of the net and get those dirty goals. Throughout this past season, he has taken a big hit, got back up and jumped back into the battle. Scoring big goals right in front of net or battling in the corners and coming out with the puck. Promising signs for a skilled player looking to round out his game.

All of this while being one of the best players in the Swedish Hockey League. Rodin was leading the league in scoring before suffering a freak injury in practice where a teammates skate cut him just below the knee, that resulted in him missing the remainder of the regular season and playoffs.

Despite missing 19 games last year, Rodin concluded the SHL season tied for 15th in points and finished the season in first place in points per game at 1.12 PPG and 6th in assists per game with 0.636 A/PG. That production did not go unnoticed as Rodin won the SHL Golden Helmet, which is awarded to the most valuable player in a player vote, similar to the Ted Lindsay Award in the NHL. His production was comparable to totals that were posted by Colorado Avalanche centre Carl Soderberg and New York Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello before they made the leap to North America. So there is a track record of players who saw high levels of success in the SHL translating to the NHL.

All of those offensive accolades are impressive and are the noticeable parts of Rodin’s game, but he has also rounded his game out to be effective in all three zones. He uses his skating abilities and reads to help in the defensive zone and then transition the puck out of the zone.

That is an important development for any player, because sometimes the puck just won’t bounce the right way or a player can’t seem to buy a goal. So having the ability to make a tangible impact in your own zone goes a long way towards making a tangible impact to every game.

The injury that Rodin suffered in January has limited Rodin’s ability to skate this summer, but it is expected that he will be ready to go for training camp next month.

With that being said, it’s hard to predict what will happen with Rodin, however if his past season is any indication of what can happen, then there is reason to be excited. The underlying skill is there to make an impact in offensive zone, and Rodin has shown over the past three seasons in Sweden to be an effective defensive player when required. All that’s left is for Rodin to make his NHL debut this fall and try to bring some of that success to Vancouver.

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