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Preds Prospect Update: April 4

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
Predators defensive prospect Mattias Ekholm continues to have a great post-season in the Swedish Elite League (Elitserien) as his Brynas team defeated Farjestads 4-1 in the semifinals. Brynas will face the winner of the Skelleftea AIK and AIK Stockholm series in the finals. Ekholm added an assist in the series clinching game against Farjestads and has six points (1g, 5a) in 11 playoff games—ranking him second among defensemen.

“He’s really got confidence in his skating ability and the way he that he was setting up his plays in the offensive zone,” Predators assistant general manager Paul Fenton said. “He’s improved his defensive posture and his defending ability. So he’s really heading in the right direction.”

That’s good news for the Predators, considering Ekholm started this season in Nashville but was having trouble adjusting to the North American game and ultimately returned to Sweden in October.

“When the kid has half-aspirations of being here and half-aspirations of being still in this league that he came from—if you’re not 100 percent committed it’s very hard to get the true guy,” Fenton said. “I’m looking forward to him coming over next year knowing that he’s staying. Whether he’s staying in Nashville or Milwaukee, it’s going to be a great experience for him to come in and be able to stay here and not know that he has a safety net, if you will, going back.”

Ekholm, who was named Elitserien rookie of the year in 2010-11, picked up the Borje Salming Award this season as the league’s best defenseman.

“I think it’s just recognition of the talent that he has and being able to apply it on the ice night in and night out over there,” Fenton said. “That’s a very good league. There’s no question, it’s a very good league. And for him to be able to be the best defensemen … it’s a great award for him.”

Fenton added that he believes Ekholm will make the Swedish national team that will compete in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships, May 4-20 in Sweden and Finland.

More From Overseas:
Happy Birthday to Magnus Hellberg. Nashville's first pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Hellberg is celebrating his 21st birthday today (April 4). Hellberg has spent the majority of his season in the Swedish Elite League, appearing in 17 games with Frolunda as the team's No. 2 goaltender. He is currently playing in the post-season on loan to Orebro in Sweden's second league.

Preds 2008 First Round pick Chet Pickard dressed for his first career NHL game last night, serving as the back-up goaltender for starter Anders Lindback. After the game Pickard tweeted out, "That was a dream come true tonight! #bigwin." While Pekka Rinne returned to practice today (missed last night's game due to illness), Pickard is expected to remain with the big club through the playoffs as a third goalie.

Josh Shalla (left wing, Saginaw) and Austin Watson (right wing, London) will face off in the second round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs. Shalla has 8 points (3g, 5a in 6 playoff games) while Watson tallied 1 goal and 1 assist in his club’s first round sweep of Windsor. “Should be a great series,” Fenton said. “I think Saginaw, from what I know about them, has a really talented offensive team. Big and strong. And London is geared up again to make a run for the Memorial Cup. So the two of them should be having a great battle." As for the two prospects: “I think they’re both playing very well. We’ve got a couple reports on Shalla and he continues to be in a real positive light.”

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