It was only a year ago when Filip Forsberg helped Sweden win a silver medal at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship on home ice in Malmo, Sweden.
Forsberg had four goals, 12 points and a plus-3 rating in seven games as captain for Tre Kronor but his country lost the gold medal game in overtime to Finland. The experience as a top point producer and leader for an entire country has certainly carried over to the NHL with the Predators this season.
Forsberg, who was ranked No. 12 on NHL.com's Top 60 prospects ranking, remains our top candidate to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL Rookie of the Year.
Center - NSH
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 24 | PTS: 38
SOG: 127 | +/-: 22
At the midway point in the season, he leads all first-year players in goals, assists, points, power-play points, game-winning goals, shots on goal and plus-minus rating. He is also first among all rookie forwards in average ice time (17:18) and is among the top five in steals. He's been that dominant in his first full NHL season.
Anders Johansson, who served as assistant coach for Sweden at the 2015 World Junior Championship, isn't the least bit surprised with Forsberg's play in the first half of his rookie season.
"He's always been a great character guy and has always been working hard; both Forsberg and [Carolina Hurricanes forward] Elias Lindholm in last year's world junior tournament," Johansson said. "I think that was important for them in their development; it was one big step for Filip but he's always been skilled. I've been following him for five years so I'm not surprised by how good he's been in the NHL but I can tell you everyone in Sweden is really happy for him."
His teammates and fans in Nashville are pretty excited too.
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers – The first overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, ranked No. 6 on NHL.com's Top 60 prospects list, has steadily improved and gained more confidence as the season has gone on. He averages over 22 minutes each game and ranks among the top five rookies in assists and points. Paired for much of the season with either Brian Campbell or Willie Mitchell, Ekblad is second among rookie defensemen in power-play points and is first in hits, blocked shots and shots on goal. Any questions about Ekblad being ready for the rigors of the NHL have certainly subsided.
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames -- The No. 26-ranked player on NHL.com's Top 60 prospects list has trailed Forsberg in almost every statistical category for much of the season. He ranks second among rookies in goals, assists, points, power-play points, game-winning goals, and is among the top five in plus-minus rating. "Johnny Hockey" has prospered earning top six minutes while gaining valuable time on the power play. Gaudreau has also thrived defensively, ranking first in steals. His game hasn't changed from the days as a standout at Boston College, where he won the Hobey Baker Award as a senior. He likes the puck on his stick, is creative and provides teammates with great opportunities.
Also in the mix: Michael Hutchinson, Winnipeg Jets; Tanner Pearson, Los Angeles Kings; Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues