NEW YORK -- Growing up in Karlstad, Sweden, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom admired numerous Sweden-born stars in the NHL from afar, including Hockey Hall of Famers Peter Forsberg and Nicklas Lidstrom. Access to live games and highlights was difficult without the technology of today.
Still, there was a buzz in Sweden, where Forsberg, Lidstrom and many others are admired, honored and respected. Today, the market is in a growth spurt and the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series is enhancing the profile of a country already rich in hockey tradition and excellence. It will culminate when the Ottawa Senators (6-3-5) play the Colorado Avalanche (8-6-0) at Ericsson Globe on Friday (2 p.m. ET; NHLN, ALT, TSN5, RDS, NHL.TV) and Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, RDS, ALT, NHL.TV).
To Klefbom, chosen by the Oilers with the No. 19 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, the Global Series is a platform for global exposure of homegrown players who will be spotlighted in the games. Front and center are Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (Landsbro), a two-time winner of the Norris Trophy, and forward Gabriel Landeskog (Stockholm), the Avalanche captain and the No. 2 pick in 2011.
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"It's very fun," Klefbom said. "The last couple of years the NHL overall has been growing so much back home, especially when we have Erik Karlsson, Landeskog and those stars in the League. It's been growing so fast. … It's very fun to see them go there and expand the game."
Former Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson said Wednesday the Global Series will be good branding for the League. Klefbom, 24, would love to see the game's growth in his homeland reach greater heights.
"I would like to see it go in the direction it's going right now," Klefbom said. "It's been growing very, very fast back home in Sweden and certainly in Finland and those countries, too. There's a lot of good players from Europe coming over here. I'd like to see that growth continue and hopefully they can have some more games [in Sweden] and expand the game for sure."
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Sweden's modern-day hockey roots are traced back to two of Klefbom's favorites growing up. Forsberg won the Stanley Cup twice with the Avalanche (1996, 2001) and the Hart Trophy (2003) in 19 NHL seasons. He also won two gold medals in the Olympics (1994, 2006) and IIHF World Championship (1992, 1998), making him the only Swedish member of the Triple Gold Club.
"Forsberg was the guy everybody wanted to be like," Klefbom said.
Lidstrom won four Stanley Cup championships, the Norris Trophy seven times, one Conn Smythe Trophy and was voted into 12 NHL All-Star Games.
"He was so good reading the game and he was not the most physical guy out there, but he was just so smart and so calm in all the situations," Klefbom said. "Just the calmness and the way he read the game and put himself in great position all the time to make the game easier for him. It's actually amazing how good he was in the positioning game and he did not put himself in a bad spot at any point."