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PETER THE GREAT

Flames prospects Linus Lindstrom and Filip Sveningsson are inspired by legendary Forsberg - and dream of having same impact

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

They share an inspiration. An example to emulate. A body of work to aspire to.

The Hall-of-Fame centreman may have been in the golden autumn of his Hall-of-Fame career as they reached their teenaged years, but they've heard the stories. Remember the lustre. Poured over the clips. Long-ago committed the bible-length list of accomplishments to memory.

"Oh, Peter Forsberg, for sure,'' says Linus Lindstrom. "He was my favourite player."

Filip Sveningsson goes that a step further.

"Peter Forsberg. He was the best player."

Count the Flames' two Swedish prospects, heading home after the organization's four-day development camp last week, as unabashed Foppa fans.

Over 13 NHL seasons, Forsberg was, of course, a singular player. Almost a force of nature. Low centre of gravity. As tough as old shoe leather and as crafty as a pickpocket.

Never backed down, never backed up.

Two-time Stanley Cup winner. Calder Trophy, Art Ross Trophy and Hart Trophy recipient. Named of the NHL's Top 100 Players during its centenary-year celebrations.

Nothing less than a national treasure back home in Sweden.

"I watched him a lot,'' says Lindstrom, the Flames' fourth-round, 96th-overall, selection in the 2016 draft. "As you say, a helluva player.
"Played tough. Took the puck to the net when he could. I didn't have one team that I cheered for but I followed players. Forsberg was my favorite.

"I watch Crosby now. Take little things he does and try them out in practice.

"But Forsberg, he was my hero."

Sveningsson, too, aspires to operate on-ice in a similar style to the signature No. 21, one of Örnsköldsvik's, and the country's, favoured sons.

"I'm not Peter Forsberg,'' he says sheepishly, "but I'm kinda like that. I like to hit. I like to have the puck. You need both parts to play in the NHL.

"(Forsberg) wasn't that big but he could protect the puck so well. So strong. He had pace. Great skill.

"Who wouldn't want to play like Peter Forsberg?"

Who, indeed.

Left-winger Sveningsson - a seventh-round selection in 2017 - spent the lion's share of 2017-18 as part of HV71 Jönköping's junior set-up (where he posted 17 goals and 39 points in 35 games), elevated for 11 starts to the big team and the top tier.

"When I jumped into those games, you learn so much,'' he says of the bump up in class. "Coming up from the juniors, it's hard to play your own hockey there. I'm an offensive forward, so it's not so easy to make an impression. You're not playing a lot of minutes. You're maybe on the fourth line. The role is different than you're used to.

"But you just have to settle in and do your best. It's good because you're learning parts of the game that maybe you hadn't had to concentrate on so much before."

"Suddenly, I'm playing against men. Bigger, stronger, faster, mentally tougher.

"This year, that's a first step, playing the whole year there. I don't want to rush anything. I want to develop as an offensive forward, have the puck, make plays. Do what I'm best at.

"So I just want to take it at my pace. Four years, I want to be here. If I could, I'd play in the NHL now. But I can't. I'm not good enough.

"When I do get here, I want to be able to play my game."

Lindstrom, a year older at 20, will be entering his third full season for Skelleftea of the SHL. The offensive returns have thus far been modest - 11 points in 95 contests - yet the potential is undeniable.

"A bigger role back in Sweden with one year left there,'' he says of his primary 2018-19 aim. "Play powerplay. PK. More ice time. Those are my goals.

"I want to play here as soon as possible.

"But I know I need to gain weight, get stronger, faster. Gaining weight (he's listed at 180 pounds), that's my biggest problem right now.

"You have to be ready, fully prepared, when you come over here because this is the best league, these are the best players, in the world.

"It's my dream to play in the NHL."

As it is for Sveningsson.

And was, a quarter century ago, for a certain Peter Forsberg.

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