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Flames take Swedish d-man

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames

Erixon Gallery

The Calgary Flames dipped into the Swedish hockey pool for the second time in three years, drafting defencemen Tim Erixon, the son of former NHLer Jan Erixon, in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft Friday in Montreal.

"We wanted another good defenceman in our stable. He's close to playing and he is well prepared," said general manager Darryl Sutter. "He's a really skilled player. A very solid two-way guy."

Erixon was born in the United States -- in Port Chester, N.Y., while his father, a defensive forward, was playing for the New York Rangers. However, he now calls Sweden home and plays internationally for Sweden, most recently in the World Junior Championships.

Jan Erixon played 10 seasons in the NHL, all with the Rangers. As a defensive forward he had 57 goals and 159 assists for 216 points, finishing his NHL career in 1992-93.

"Oh for sure he has given me good advice," sadi Erixon, of his father when asked if Jan's guidance helps drive him towards his goal of playing in the NHL.

Erixon currently plays for Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League registering two goals and five assists in 45 games last season.

"I am a two-way defencemen," explained Erixon. "I like to be able to play at both ends. I like the rush and can play on the power play. But I like to play in the defensive zone, too. Playing in both ends is what I like."

Two years ago the Flames drafted Mikael Backlund, a Swedish forward with plenty of offensive skill, 24th overall in the first round. Backlund and Erixon played together for Sweden at the World Junior Championships last season when Canada defeated them in the gold medal game.

Erixon can see the day when he and Backlund both pull on Flames jerseys in the National Hockey League.

"It's great that he is in Calgary. He's a great player and a great leader," said Erixon, taking a break from the whirlwind tour of interviews and photos at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Friday evening.

Erixon said he didn't have a favourite team heading into the draft but was well aware of the Flames.

"It's a good feeling. Obviously the Flames are a great organization," said Erixon.

The Swedes made a big splash at the draft this year as seven players from that country were chosen in the first round.

On a day when big-name players (Chris Pronger)  were moved and others, speculated to move stayed put (Dany Heatley), the Calgary Flames made a minor shuffle, moving down to No. 23 in the draft from No. 20 in an exchange with the New Jersey Devils that also brought them a second pick in the third round on Saturday -- No. 84 overall.

It wasn't a huge splash -- at recent drafts the Flames made noise by acquiring acquiring Michael Cammalleri and Alex Tanguay. But the move Sutter did make garnered the Flames another pick on Day 2 of the draft.

"There's a pile of good players this year. We're happy to have this many picks and hopefully it works out for us," said Sutter. "I think we have seven picks (Saturday) so, really, we are just getting started."
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