Power-forward Victor Ejdsell traveled to Nashville in April with tempered expectations. Maybe too tempered.
The 22-year-old Swede, who had recently been named the most valuable player of the Swedish second league (Allsvenskan) and forward of the year in 2016-17 after leading the league in points (25g-32a-57pts), was looking for a franchise with which he would try to break into the NHL. The 6-foot-5, 214-pound center saw his phone light up with calls from the Red Wings, Blackhawks and Predators, and was unexpectedly presented with the opportunity to join some of the game's greatest franchises.
Enter the Nashville Predators, who knew they couldn't compete with the storied tradition of the other two franchises, but felt they might have something better. So they invited Ejdsell (whose last name sounds like "aid-sell") to take in Game Four of the Predators Round One series with Chicago - live in Smashville. It was his first time attending an NHL game. Consider him permanently ruined for any other in-game experience.
"I had no idea what to expect when I came here, but it was crazy, it was probably the best thing I've ever seen," Ejdsell, who is attending Preds Development Camp this week, said. "Everything, the fans, the game [presentation]... it was a show around the game too.
"I fell in love with it."
He signed a two-year, entry-level contract with Nashville a couple weeks later.
Don't gloss over the ramifications of Ejdsell's story. Nashville General Manager David Poile used the same tactic the Predators Ticket Sales Department has for years. "Just come see a game for yourself," has swayed thousands of fans, and now it's officially working on free-agent forwards as well. Not a bad ace in the hole.
The easy part of Ejdsell's journey is probably already over, as the Swede will now be challenged with jumping from a second-tier league in a foreign country to likely something in North America with smaller-sized ice rinks than he's familiar with in Europe. To his credit, he's looked comfortable in two days at Centennial Sportsplex during Development Camp - his hulking frame difficult to miss.
Ejdsell's just glad he hasn't gotten mixed up and skated right into the boards, he joked recently.
"I went a different path than the other guys back in Sweden," he said. "I played senior hockey for the not-so-good leagues back home, but eventually I got to the junior leagues. I got more help with the off-ice training, and I kind of grew into my own body.
"Everything you do has to be a lot faster to create a better situation for yourself out there [on the smaller ice rink]."
Video: Ejdsell signs with Preds after seeing playoff game
Ejdsell isn't sure what the next step in his career will be, but after continuing to follow the Preds through their run to the Stanley Cup Final and seeing the number of fans outside the arena on Broadway, he knows where he wants to end up. Conveniently, he has plenty of examples to mimic.
"If you look at guys like Filip Forsberg or Viktor Arvidsson or any of the other Swedes, they have such a big impact on the team and they're great players, they're role models for us Swedes who are not drafted or play in Sweden and at some point want to go to the NHL," Ejdsell said. "That's how you have to play."