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30 in 30: 'Underrated' Eriksson now Bruins' X-factor

by Corey Masisak

The idea of an underrated hockey player in the NHL almost always comes from either possessing a skill that can't always be quantified with traditional statistics or from playing in what could be classified as a non-traditional market.

Loui Eriksson has been a player who qualified in both of those categories for years, and subsequently his name has always popped up on "most underrated" lists or in discussions on the topic. One of those details about Eriksson is no more; after being traded from the Dallas Stars to the Boston Bruins, there won't be any more stories written about how he doesn't get the attention he deserves.

How well he can blend in and thrive with his new team will be a key part of determining if the Bruins are able to repeat as Eastern Conference champions and participate in the Stanley Cup Final for a third time in four seasons.

"Yeah, it will be a little different than Dallas," Eriksson said shortly after the trade. "I'm really excited to go there and see all the fans. I know they have a lot of people coming to the games and it's a really good hockey town. I heard a lot of good things about Boston, the whole city, and it'll be nice to check it out before everything starts. I'll be ready to play there, and it will be awesome."

Eriksson has been a productive offensive player, even an elite one at times for the Stars. He scored 36 goals in 2008-09 and had at least 70 points in each of the three seasons after that. What has set him apart from other 70-point producers is his defensive ability.

Any discussion of the top defensive forwards in the League is going to center around, well, the center position. Centers have the most responsibility, and winning faceoffs helps a team avoid playing defense. Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Pavel Datsyuk and Mike Richards are frequently mentioned among the top defensive forwards.

How a wing impacts a team's defense is tougher to quantify, but Eriksson has earned the reputation as one of the best at his end of the ice. With Nathan Horton gone to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Jaromir Jagr off to the New Jersey Devils, and Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley part of the package to land Eriksson, the Bruins will obviously need him to score. His particular set of skills will be welcome in Boston.

"He's going to be a real good player, a good two-way guy probably a little closer to the [Bergeron] mold than the guy who is more of a good one-way offensive player," Boston coach Claude Julien said after the trade. "He'll produce. He's going to hopefully produce even more with us with the people that he's going to be surrounded with, but he's a great all-around player and that's what our team is built on."

Where Eriksson fits is something Julien and the Bruins will hash out at training camp. Pairing him with Bergeron would have Boston fans who are into advanced statistics salivating at the possibilities. It is possible Julien would like more responsible play on David Krejci's line, or that Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla are too similar to play together.

Either way, Eriksson is likely to play right wing on one of the team's top lines. He is listed at left wing on most hockey websites, but he's been a versatile forward with the Stars. He's also been "underrated," but that is going to change.

"I've played both sides through my whole time I played in Dallas. And I know both sides. But I like to play on the right side and I know I've been talking to [Boston general manager] Peter [Chiarelli] about it and he said he wants me to play on the right side," Eriksson said. "So I think that will be a good fit for me. I know they have real good players, especially Bergeron, and they have Krejci as centermen, and they have a lot of good players to play with. So I don't think it will be any problem to play with those guys because they're going to make me better and I'm going to try to make them better too. So it will be real nice to come and play with them."


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