We talked earlier about the Malmo Redhawks, and gave you some background on the team and their city.
That, however, was a month ago. Now that Malmo is out of training camp and about three weeks into their Alsvenskan season, we have a decent idea of the roster they'll be sending out to face the Blue Jackets in the final exhibition game, so let's take a look at what we've got.
(Note: Special thanks to Bruce Peter of Puck Worlds, who has been a great resource for questions about the Redhawks, Swedish Hockey, and the international game in general! Please check out PW on game day - I'm sure he'll have some good insights into the matchup and the other NHL Premiere exhibition games!)
Game Time: 1:00pm ET
More Information: Check out Puck Worlds!
Radio: The FAN 1460 AM
My Swedish is...uh...extremely rusty Norwegian, so I'm mostly sticking to stats here to try to figure out top players to watch, with a little help from Bruce and Google Translate.
The local boy likely to bring cheers is forward Carl Soderberg, who appears to be able to play on the pivot or the wing, and has racked up back to back 50 point seasons for the Redhawks in 2009 and 2010, and has already tallied 8 assists in the 2010-2011 campaign. A 2004 2nd round pick of the St. Louis Blues, Soderberg decided to stay in Sweden rather than come to North America, and has been one of Malmo's most consistent performers.
Joining Soderberg on the top line is 22 year old Danish winger Nichlas Hardt. Though a bit undersized by NHL standards at 5' 9" and 190 lb, he's coming off a 42 point season last year (19G, 23A in 52 GP), and has tallied four points in the first 6 games of the regular season. Fellow Dane Morten Green rounds out the Redhawks top line, bringing in 41 points last year in 51 games. Green and Hardt also play for the Danish National team, where Green is one of their assistant captains.
A wild card for this season may be the recently acquired veteran center and new team captain Jesper Mattsson, who played in the Calgary Flames farm system in the late 90s. A Malmo native, he previously played for the Redhawks while they were members of the SEL in the early 2002s, then spent the last 5 years with Farjestads BK, where he's been a consistent 25-35 point pivot. Since returning to Malmo this season, he's brought in 3 goals and 4 assists in 6 games - and I'd bet is probably the hometown hero for the Malmo fans. Don't be shocked if he gets some big cheers, particularly if he can keep the Redhawks in the game against the CBJ.
Finally, keep an eye out for Slovenian winger Jan Urbas, who joined the club from their under 20 squad last year and put up 17 goals in 42 games. He's likely to be another top line or second line winger to contend with.
The obvious player to watch for Jacket Fans will be 2009 draft pick Anton Blomqvist, considered the core of Malmo's "Baby Hawks." A solid defender, he's not a huge offensive threat, but he did manage 3 goals last year, and has tallied one assist so far this season. His game is more about position and breaking up plays, and I'd expect him to work to create turnovers and puck possession, just as he did at the CBJ prospect camp this summer.
Malmo's biggest offensive threat from the blue line is Patrik Hersley, a 2005 pick of the LA Kings. After two seasons split between the AHL and ECHL and a trade to the Flyers, he returned to Malmo last season and scored 16 goals and 15 assists in 48 games.
The rest of Malmo's defense appears...well...anemic, offensively, but they did get 16 points, mostly assists, from blueliner Robin Weihager, and Weihager has produced a goal and two assists in 6 games so far this season. They also get decent shutdown play from Jesper Damgaard, who also captains the Danish national team.
In net, Markus Svensson is the go-to guy for Malmo, posting a 2.57 GAA and .911 save percentage last year, and so far he's been about the same, with a 2.62 GAA and .907 SV% in 5 games. Their backup, Jonathan Bjuro, is a 19 year old prospect who was recently brought in from the AIK under-20 program. In 11 Allsvenskan starts, he's averaging 2.30 GAA and a .915 SV%, but his "normal" numbers in the U-20s were in the 3.20 and .890-.900 ranges, so it's hard to say if he's really "getting it" at the pro level, or if this is just a bit of a rookie bump. All things considered, I wouldn't really expect him to see game action, but you never know...
Malmo is considered a very average team in a very average league, but it's clear that they do have players who can put the puck in the back of the net if the defense doesn't give them the proper respect. The biggest challenge for the Blue Jackets is going to be making sure that they aren't looking past the Redhawks and the game in Malmo Arena to San Jose on Friday. If they can keep their heads in the game and shut down Malmo's top line, it seems like they should have the ability and depth to control the match.
Now for Columbus' Roster:
|EXTRA: Jared Boll, Derek Dorsett, Marc Methot, David LeNeveu
|INJURED/SICK: Andrew Murray, Tomas Kana