played for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Saturday night, where he was leading the team in scoring with 12 goals and 14 points. Sunday morning, he was on a plane headed to Pittsburgh to make his NHL debut.
Talking about his early season success, Ullstrom said, “This year I came in a little bit more comfortable right off the hop. I got lucky and scored some goals down there. I think I’ve come a long ways since I came last year for sure.”
Though he didn’t score a goal in his NHL debut, Ullstrom was one of the bright spots in the Islanders shutout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night.
|Sidney Crosby moves the puck in front of David Ullstrom on November 21, 2011 at Consol Energy Center. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images) |
“It was exciting to get out there and play against those guys, but obviously it was a tough loss,” Ullstrom said in the locker room following Monday night’s game. “I was just trying to work hard and be in the right spots and be reliable, work hard.”
Compiling four hits, two shots and winning two of three faceoffs in 13:30, that kind of work ethic is exactly what Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano has been looking for.
“I thought David played well,” Capuano said. “Between him and Matt Martin
, they had 13 or 14 hits on the sheet, but when you break the video down they had more than that.”
Capuano added, “He had energy, it was good to see him shoot the puck and have a little puck possession. He was obviously a little nervous in that atmosphere, but I thought he played well and he skated well and did some good things for us.”
Ullstrom, who played all of last season at center, has played the first few weeks of the 2011-12 season on the left wing. Monday night, he resumed that position alongside Martin and Josh Bailey
“Growing up, I played a little bit of winger, little bit of center,” Ullstrom said. “My last year in Sweden, my first year pro, I played on the wing a lot so it’s not anything I think of. I can play wherever they need me.”
Playing on the wing is actually beneficial to the 22-year-old’s game.
|Kris Letang moves the puck in front of the defense of Frans Nielsen and David Ullstrom on November 21, 2011 at Consol Energy Center. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images) |
“I can use my speed a little bit more on the wing, forecheck and create turnovers that way,” Ullstrom said. “And it obviously changes how I hit and my overall offensive game. I like to play on the wing. I feel really comfortable there.”
Last season, the Jonkoping, Sweden native made his North American debut after playing professionally for his hometown team, HV 71 of Jonkoping during the 2009-10 season. Coming to North America can be an adjustment for European players making the transition to the smaller ice surface, but Ullstrom actually sees it as more of an advantage than a hindrance.
While the numbers indicate a solid rookie season, he finished fourth on the team in points (41) with 17 goals and 24 assists in 67 games - Ullstrom’s first North American season proved to have its share of adversity as he found it difficult to consistently contribute offensively.
Coming into his second year, Ullstrom changed how he prepared.
“I just came in mentally ready and I knew what to expect,” Ullstrom said. “As far as training camps go and stuff like that. I came in more comfortable this year. I worked on my strength and conditioning (last summer) and overall strength. So I just came in good shape and I was mentally prepared.”
So even though he didn’t get the Islanders out of their scoring slump, his comfort level with the team gave him the ability to be more relaxed when it came to playing his game.
“I was just trying to do my best and I know I did,” Ullstrom said Monday night. “This is a great league and there are a lot of good players so you have to be at your best level every shift. It’s all about details and habits.”