King Midas of Mora

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:45 AM ET

MORA, Sweden -- Shawn Horcoff is not as famous as Peter Forsberg here yet. But he's gaining ground. Imagine ... Horcoff and Forsberg in the same sentence. Normally Horcoff is a no-name NHL player, a low-profile Oiler even in Edmonton. And here with 59 locked out B16 league hockey players in Sweden, second only to the number playing in Russia, Horcoff is second only to Forsberg in the scoring race.

"Our spectators are saying they wouldn't change Shawn Horcoff for any other player in Sweden this year, including Peter Forsberg," says Mora coach Harald Luckner.

How does this happen?

"I'm getting a lot of notoriety around Sweden. It's really quite amazing," says Horcoff.

"Our club was picked to finish last in the 12-team Elite League. We're one point out of fourth. And I'm having pretty good success."

Good success?

Horcoff has 13 goals and 18 assists for 31 points in 29 games. That's two more goals than Forsberg, who leads the league with 33 points with MoDo, a team six points back of Horcoff's just-up-from-Division II team from this town of 20,000 north of Stockholm.

"I'm just doing what I do," says Horcoff.

"Sweden has one of the better leagues outside the NHL. I came here thinking it would be a good experience and a good challenge for me.

"I just came here with the attitude I'd get as much out of it as I put into it. I'm trying to put a lot into it.

FOURTH-LINE GRINDER

"I came into the NHL as a third-and fourth-line grinder. I was a fourth-round draft pick and they didn't just sign me up and put me on the power play. Here, it's different. They've put me into a major role. I'm on the power play all the time. I'm penalty killing.

"In the NHL you have to figure out your role and go from there. In Edmonton they make you earn it. I'm glad it's like that because it adds so much to your game. But my role is different over here and I think I'll come back to the Oilers a much better player. I've learned to shoot the puck more and make better decisions offensively."

Luckner marvels at Horcoff.

"He's our most important player. He's become one of the most important players in the league.

"He's so important a player because he's carrying the team. He's a real leader and a real example.

"He's shown the other guys how to be a professional because he works so hard."

Luckner says Mike Babcock told him about the way Horcoff played for him at last year's IIHF World Championship.

"I wanted young players who are going to get better, guys who would come over here and work hard for the experience and to get something from our game to take back to the NHL with them," said Luckner.

"Shawn plans to be a coach in the future. He's making a lot of contacts and learning a lot about the game over here.

"We're a young team which has just been promoted to the Elite Division for the first time. I didn't want guys who were going to come over here for a holiday.

LITTLE HOLIDAYS

"Mind you, Horcoff and Dan Cleary are always taking little holidays. Every time we get a break, they're off to somewhere they haven't seen before."

Horcoff and his old Oiler mate took a two-day trip to Paris during one break and are just returning from a three-day trip to Barcelona during the latest break. But they don't miss practice and unlike a lot of NHLers aren't headed home for Christmas.

Horcoff has been so successful here that he has one general manager looking to find guys just like him to add if there is no NHL season.

"I'm not looking for big-name players from the NHL if there is no season. I'm looking for Shawn Horcoffs," says Dan Larsson, GM of the Jonkoping HV-71 club, which has dropped from being league champion to 10th because of a lack of NHL talent on the team.

"Horcoff came to Mora and he worked very hard. He's been a big success. He and Dan Cleary are working very hard together.

''If there is no NHL season they are the kind of players we will look to get for the rest of our season - players who will work for HV-71, work hard for our name and our team, not for themselves.

"I want not-so-famous players like Shawn Horcoff. He's been fantastic."

Horcoff says he's not working at trying to win some fame here and he certainly isn't trying to beat Forsberg in the scoring race.

"Peter Forsberg is the best player in the world and the most famous person in Sweden," he says.

All Shawn Horcoff wants is for Swedish fans to remember he came over here to play hockey, not to be here on a hockey holiday.


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