TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Tim Erixon
can't explain why he chose to man the blue line instead of playing forward the way his father once did, but it appears he made the right decision.
"To be honest, I don't know why I chose to be a defender," Erixon told NHL.com. "I played the position for as long as I remember. My dad never pushed me to play -- I don't know why. I know that it's a just great opportunity to be here."
It's still early, but there's no question the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder is proving to be quite a pickup for the New York Rangers
. In two victories at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament here at Center ICE Arena, Erixon has a goal, 3 points and a plus-1 rating. The smooth-skating Erixon has been paired mostly with rugged 6-5, 215-pound Dylan McIlrath
Erixon had 5 goals and 24 points in 48 games this past season for Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite League. In 140 games with the team, he has 14 goals and 44 points.
's father Jan, played ten seasons for the Rangers from 1983-1993. (Photo: Dave Reginek/NHLI)
Is he ready for Manhattan?
"I'm very impressed with his first two games," said J.J. Daigneault, an assistant coach with the Connecticut Whale, the Rangers' American Hockey League affiliate. "He's a very good skater and has good mobility, is a good passer and rarely losses a battle on the rush or even down low. He can contain players down low and has good offensive skills, a good head and good poise. There's not much negative to say about this guy."
The Calgary Flames
had drafted Erixon with the 23rd pick of the 2009 Entry Draft, but were unable to sign him. Rather than allow him to re-enter the 2011 draft, the Flames dealt Erixon, along with a fifth-round pick in the 2011 draft, to the Rangers in exchange for prospect Roman Horak
and a pair of 2011 second-round picks. The Rangers quickly signed Erixon.
The younger Erixon is delighted to have the chance to play for his dad's former team.
"I'm happy the way things turned out, and of course it feels surreal that I get traded to the Rangers, with my dad being there and everything," Erixon said. "I didn't want to go back into the draft. There's a lot that played into the discussions with Calgary, and it wasn't the right fit. That's just the way it is."
Erixon was born in Port Chester, N.Y., but moved to Sweden when he was 2, after his father, Jan Erixon
, ended his 10-year career with the Rangers in 1993. Tim believes he's ready to return to North American full-time; whether that's in the AHL or the NHL remains to be seen.
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"I feel that I've proven I'm getting stronger and faster and stuff like that," he said. "I feel good and confident. I'm able to read the play really well and have good hockey sense and I know that's important at this level. I think I play well in my own end. I don't play that physical, but if I get a chance to hit, I'll do it. But I don't screw around chasing hits."
The Rangers think Erixon has a chance to contribute in the very near future.
"I really like the overall package he brings to the table and the skill set," Daigneault said. "He's one of our top defensemen, if not the top defenseman, at this tournament. He's been controlling the power play and playing some penalty kill, as well. I think the future is very bright for him and the organization.
"It was a great move that (GM) Glen Sather
made in giving up two second-round picks and future prospect for this highly-skilled defenseman."
Beside his success in the SEL, Erixon helped Sweden win a silver medal at the 2011 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia, and also won helped his team win medals at the 2009 and 2010 World Junior Championships.
"The World Juniors was good experience and getting to play big games on the small (North American) rinks was good for me," Erixon said. "I really enjoyed it and learned. I'm learning a lot now from the coaches at this tournament and trying to soak everything in."
One thing is certain -- Erixon is no pushover. Despite the fact he has spent the previous four seasons in Sweden, he is not immune to playing the body.
"I'm used to getting hit, so that's not a problem," he said. "Of course, players are going to be bigger and stronger, but I'll be ready."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale