Red Wings prospect Dick Axelsson will be paying special attention to what he considers to be the most intriguing preseason matchup on the NHL docket this month: a meeting between the 11-time Stanley Cup champion Red Wings and the eight-time Swedish Elite League champion Farjestads at Lofbergs Lila Arena in Karlstad, Sweden, on Sept. 30.
Axelsson, a 6-foot-2, 176-pound forward who'll likely begin the 2009-10 season with Detroit's AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, played 21 games with Farjestads last season, scoring 6 goals and 18 points in 21 games. He added 4 points in nine playoff games -- playing hurt in the final two contests of the Swedish Elite League final -- as Farjestads won its second title in four seasons.
So inquiring minds want to know. Will Axelsson, Detroit's third choice (No. 62) in the 2006 Entry Draft who signed a three-year deal in 2008, be rooting for his former team or his potential future teammates?
"That's a good question," Axelsson told NHL.com. "I guess I hope for a good game. I hope Farjestads plays well but it's going to be tough. This is exciting and fun at the same time because Farjestads is my old team and I hope someday to be playing in Detroit."
Farjestads finished 31-8-17-3 last season while outscoring its opponents 158-122 en route to winning the Swedish championship. The club has made 18 appearances in the Swedish finals since the Elite League’s inception in 1975.
"They are a very good team and we won the league last year -- there were many good players and great coaches," Axelsson said. "They are one of the top four teams in all of Sweden, and we won 17 home games (at Lofbergs Lila Arena). I learned a lot playing with the older guys on that team and it was a really good experience for me. I just tried to play my game and I thought I played pretty well."
Farjestads was Axelsson's final stop in his ascent up the Swedish ladder. He starred for Huddinge in Sweden's under-20 level during the 2005-06 season, posting 19 goals and 34 points in 38 games while accruing 157 penalty minutes. He was finally given a shot in the Elite League during the 2007-08 campaign with Djurgardens, scoring 12 goals and 25 points in 47 games despite being one of the team's youngest players.
Wings Director of European Scouting Hakan Andersson is a native of Stockholm and knows the enormity of having the Wings play on Farjestads’ home ice.
"I have to believe (Detroit) is the better team," Andersson said. "It's the last exhibition game before the regular season starts, so I expect us to play 100 percent. They had a strong team in Sweden last year and lost some of the players from that club, but they're still a top-four team in Sweden. The Red Wings are, by far, the most popular NHL team in Sweden and I can tell there is a lot of hype. Journalists are calling and everybody's expectations are high."