Team Sweden assistant coach Tommy Albelin
doesn't get too many looks at sneaky forward Loui Eriksson
, and we're not just talking about during the NHL season when Albelin is in New Jersey as Jacques Lemaire
's assistant and Eriksson is in Dallas playing for the Stars.
Albelin barely noticed Eriksson in Sweden's 3-0 win over Finland Sunday night, and the youngster may have been his country's best player. He scored 2 power-play goals on three shots in more than 16 minutes of ice time.
Eriksson, Nicklas Backstrom
and Daniel Alfredsson
have been Sweden's best line in the tournament so far. They have combined for 6 goals and Backstrom has 4 assists.
"You don't see him a whole lot when he's out there, but then you look at the score sheet after the game, he always seems to have a goal or an assist," Albelin told NHL.com. "It's the same in Jersey when we play them in Dallas. He is very hard to find, very slippery around the net. He's got a long reach, he's slippery and he finds rebounds."
Eriksson has been having a strong season in Dallas with 23 goals and 31 assists through 61 games, but he's quietly (would it be any other way?) having a breakout Olympics.
With 3 goals in the preliminary rounds, Eriksson trails only Dany Heatley
and Brian Rafalski
for the tournament lead. He's tied with Jarome Iginla
, Evgeni Malkin
, Tomas Plekanec
and Tore Vikingstad
Iginla and Vikingstad had hat tricks, though.
Eriksson, Malkin, Plekanec and Kimmo Timonen
are the only players with at least 2 power-play goals.
"He's really a skilled guy with a sneaky long reach and really fast," Sweden forward Henrik Zetterberg
told NHL.com. "When he gets his chances he usually puts them away. That's a good player to have in this kind of tournament."
Eriksson's reach helped him score his second goal Sunday. He wrapped the puck around Miikka Kiprusoff
's outstretched right skate, tucking it neatly just inside the left post. He said he was using an extra long stick for Sunday's game.
"He almost saved it there, but I got it through," Eriksson told NHL.com. "There was about an inch."
"That was a really nice move," added Sweden coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson
. "He really has those long arms and that long stick."
Sweden goalie Henrik Lundqvist
marveled at the move, too. He played with Eriksson for years back in Sweden when both were with the Vastra Frolunda Hockey Club, and remembers calling him "Lucky Loui" because he scored a lot of lucky goals.
The nickname doesn't apply anymore.
"You can't be lucky when you keep scoring like that," Lundqvist said. "The way he sees the game right now, he's very confident and he has good speed. I played with him as a junior over in Sweden and he had so much skill, but now he's stronger and faster. He's just a great player."
Eriksson doesn't want anybody to know that, though.
"You know what? I don't want to be the big guy here," he said. "There are so many good players. I've been having a good year in Dallas, so I'm just trying to play my best here and help out the team to win games. But I don't want to be the big guy."
Even with his early success, he doesn't have to worry about that. Veteran gold-medal winners like Zetterberg, Lundqvist, Nicklas Lidstrom
, Peter Forsberg
, Niklas Kronwall
and Alfredsson keep players like Eriksson shielded from the spotlight.
But if Eriksson keeps scoring, maybe then Albelin will start to notice him during games instead of just on the score sheet afterwards.
"Watching him in Dallas all the time, he always seems to end up around the puck or the net somehow," Gustafsson said. "He has good hands and good feet. He has been doing good, and together with Backstrom and Alfredsson they have really found it. They have good chemistry."
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