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Bjornfot and Grundstrom Making Early Impact in AHL

Swedes Tobias Bjornfot and Carl Grundstrom both scored in their season debuts with the Ontario Reign

by Zach Dooley @ReignInsider / LAKings.com

After being assigned to the Ontario Reign on Friday, Tobias Bjornfot and Carl Grundstrom immediately made their presence known a day later in their season debut in San Jose.

Grundstrom opened the scoring in the first period, one of two goals that afternoon, followed by Bjornfot's first career professional goal, as he was named first star in the win over the San Jose Barracuda.

Talk about a Swede debut for the pair!

Tweet from @ontarioreign: Bjorn To Be Wild! pic.twitter.com/GVQIRwTDzw

18-year-old Bjornfot, who played on a defensive pairing with veteran blueliner Paul LaDue, saw his first professional career goal come midway through the first period, scoring on the power-play from the left point.

Bjornfot also added an assist in the 5-2 Reign victory, and was named as the game's first star with a multi-point afternoon.

"Yeah, it was a very good feeling to have my first pro goal," Bjornfot said after the Ontario win. "It was a good feeling and was nice that we won the game."

Beyond the points, which also included an assist on teammate Lance Bouma's tally with just 24 seconds to play in the opening period, was a poise and calmness beyond his years.

While it's the big plays, such as the two points on Saturday, that may stand out at first glance, over time it's the little plays that Bjornfot makes that are the most interesting. It's easy to forget that Bjornfot is just 18 years old, when he plays with such composure.

Take a play in the second period for example. Bjornfot took a pass at the center point, with an oncoming San Jose defenseman coming out to defend. Rather than panic and turn the puck over, Bjornfot stepped swiftly to the side, avoiding the defenseman and keeping the play alive.

Ontario Reign Head Coach Mike Stothers pointed to Bjornfot's presence and poise, despite his young age, as reasons for his success in his first 60 minutes with the Reign.

"Toby was very, very good," Stothers said after Saturday's game. "He and Grundstrom made a huge difference for us on the score sheet. Toby shows a poise, and confidence with the puck, that you would only expect out of a five-year vet. He controls the game and makes great decisions with the puck. We a really fortunate to have him in the Reign line up for whatever the time length."

While no player likes to be sent down to the AHL, Bjornfot's mindset was one of positivity. "I had a good meeting up there, and [the Kings] were positive with me," Bjornfot said. "It was fun to play a game again."

The Upplands Vasby, Sweden native noted that the reasoning communicated to him, on heading to Ontario, was to "get more minutes and to work with the development coaches." As an 18-year-old defenseman, sitting in an NHL press box does him little good and being with the

Reign will allow him to not only play, but play in different situations, including the power play as he did in San Jose.

"It's very good for me," Bjornfot said. "I need to develop, I'm a young kid, so I need to play big minutes and that's very fun."
On to Grundstrom, who was equally impactful to Ontario's win.

Grundstrom, the other Swede rookie in the lineup, collected a pair of goals in the victory, including a skillful opening tally to get the Reign on the board in the first period.

Forward Martin Frk sent a rink-wide pass to Grundstrom, who was well positioned to create space for himself down the left wing, beyond the back side of San Jose defenseman Keaton Middleton.

When Grundstrom received the pass, he was already in stride and used his skating to gain a step on the Barracuda blueliner, moved into the left-hand circle and wired a wrist shot over the glove hand of Barracuda netminder Josef Korenar.

Tweet from @ontarioreign: Good to have ya back, Grundy! pic.twitter.com/NTmOxhwaN5

The second-year professional also added an empty-net goal late in the third period as he completed his second career multi-goal game with Ontario.

For Grundstrom, creating opportunities on breakaways, or near-breakaway situations, is not new news for the Reign.

Last season, Grundstrom scored a pair of goals in a February tilt against San Diego, as a part of a three-point night in a Reign victory.

The first goal, his first in a Reign jersey, was of the deke variety, showcasing the winger's versatility in those situations (he later added a forehand-to-backhand move for the goal, which came on a break through the offensive zone).

Watch: Youtube Video

Stothers was happy to add Grundstrom back into his lineup, considering the impact he made last season (10 points from 13 games played) and his skill set at the AHL level.

"It's great when you are able add him to your lineup after spending the first few weeks with the Kings," Stothers said. "He plays a hard, heavy game on the puck here in the American Hockey League. His shot is hard and accurate. Much like [Bjornfot], not sure of the time frame with the Reign but we will play them both a lot of minutes."

Bjornfot continued this week on a defensive pairing with LaDue, while Grundstrom's line changed slightly, with him now skating alongside center Rasmus Kupari and winger Mario Kempe.

The Reign return to action for three games this week - Wednesday in Bakersfield, Friday at San Diego and Saturday at home in a return matchup against the Gulls.

Tune in tonight to watch the Ontario Reign at 6 pm.

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