From the Production Line to the Legion of Doom and the Stastny Brothers to the Sedin Twins, fans around the National Hockey League have long being captivated by high-scoring duos and trios who play as linemates. Swedish hockey is no different.
The fabric of Swedish hockey tradition is interwoven with the exploits of lines such as the early-to-mid 1980s AIK trio of Per-Erik "Pelle" Eklund, Rolf Edberg and Peter Gradin, the early 1990s rise of Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund as linemates for Modo and Farjestad's "Jonsson Gang" in the 2000s, featuring Jorgen Jonsson, Peter Nordstrom and Pelle Prestberg.
Which team in Elitserien will feature the top line in 2012-13? If preseason performance is any indication, the HV71 Jonkoping trio of Rhett Rakhshani, Jason Krog and Jesper Fast could be one of the most dynamic lines in the league, if not the best.
New York Rangers prospect Jesper Fast appears poised for a breakout season with HV71 in 2012-13. His line with Jason Krog and Rhett Rhakshani dominated in five European Trophy games. (Photo: Getty Images)
Krog, who racked up 113 points at the AHL level in 2007-08 and played 202 NHL games with five teams, is entering his second season with HV71. Last year, despite missing five games, he ranked 12th in Elitserien with 40 points. This season, the center should have high quality linemates in Jonkoping. Through five European Trophy games, the playmaking specialist compiled six points, including an uncharacteristic five goals.
Rakhshani is a new arrival to HV71. After averaging an even point-per-game in 49 AHL games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and dressing in five NHL games for the New York Islanders in 2011-12, the American left winger signed with HV71 in the offseason. Rakhshani, 24, compiled 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five European Trophy games.
"He is a strong-skating and technically sound player who did well for himself in the Islanders' organization with getting a regular chance in the NHL," HV71 general manager Fredrik Stillman said in announcing Rakhshani's signing. "Rhett is young and can still develop into a sharp finisher. He's hungry and his ambition is to return to the NHL next season."
Fast was recently signed to an entry-level contract by the New York Rangers but loaned back to HV 71 for the season. The 20-year-old, whose surname was formerly spelled Fasth, appears poised for a breakout campaign as the third member of Krog's line. The speedy right winger posted six points in five European Trophy tournament games, and many think he could dramatically increase his production this season from the five goals and 16 points he produced in 21 Elitserien regular season games in 2011-12.
"No pun intended, but he's very fast and he's got a great stick and he's got hockey sense," Rangers assistant general manager Scott Gorton told the team's official website. "The thing to be excited about is that he's a pretty well-rounded guy that can really shoot a puck and make a play, and he's got that great speed that you see in today's game. As we have seen in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's about speed, skill and hockey sense, and he's got all three."
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Last season's champion, Brynas IF Gavle, boasted what ultimately proved to be the most dominant line in the league. The unit was driven by Jakob Silfverberg. The Ottawa Senators' prospect led his team and ranked second in the league in scoring with 54 points (24 goals, 30 assists). He was the consensus league MVP, winning the Golden Helmet award. In the playoffs, Silfverberg compiled 13 goals and 20 points in 17 games to capture postseason MVP honors as well. In the process, he shattered the league's single postseason goal-scoring record, previously held by Daniel Alfredsson.
Silfverberg's linemate, Detroit Red Wings prospect Calle Jarnkrok, also enjoyed a strong 2011-12 season. The player nicknamed "Iron Hook" (the literal English translation of his surname) scored 39 points to rank second on the team and 14th in the league during the regular season. During the team's playoff run, he posted 16 points in as many playoff games to place fifth on the postseason scoring chart.
The duo's line had varied third members over the course of the regular season and playoffs. Most frequently, one among St. Louis Blues prospect Sebastian Wannstrom or veterans Mats Lavander and Jonathan Granstrom lined up as the third member of the line. On occasion, Silfverberg and Jarnkrok were joined by Daniel Widing or Minnesota Wild prospect Johan Larsson. Normally a center, Jarnkrok moved to wing as needed.
This season, Silfverberg has committed to play in North America. Jarnkrok, who was signed to an entry-level contract by Detroit this summer, will remain with Brynas. In what promises to be another top unit in the league, Jarnkrok will be flanked this season by new arrivals Johan Harju (formerly of Lulea HF and the Tampa Bay Lightning) and former Nashville Predators winger Andreas Thuresson.
A year ago, AIK Stockholm had the top-producing regular season line in the league, featuring the league's overall scoring champion, Robert Rosen (60 points), and top goal-scorer, Richard Gynge (28 goals). Both players have since departed the club, with Rosen going back to his previous club, the Vaxjo Lakers, and Gynge signing with the KHL's Dynamo Moscow. To date, Gynge has three goals and four points in his first three KHL games.
Another team looking to re-constitute its top line is Frolunda Gothenburg. With both former Philadelphia Flyers forward Mika Pyorala (22 goals, 40 points) and Fredrik Pettersson (16 goals, 40 points), the club needed to recruit suitable replacements to play on the line centered by Mathis Olimb (41 points). The club has brought in a pair of high-profile replacements: former Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings forward Fabian Brunnstrom (35 points in 45 AHL games last season) and former Detroit prospect Dick Axelsson (9 goals, 20 points with Modo in 2011-12).