Leafs' Sjostrom makes impressive debut

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:47 PM ET

He wasn’t exactly Fredrik the Great, but Fredrik Sjostrom was pretty good.

Playing on a Euroline with centre Rickard Wallin and right winger Nikolai Kulemin, the native of Fargelanda, Sweden made his Maple Leafs debut against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night at the ACC and was a standout.

Sjostrom was perfect on the penalty kill, a key part of his game, and was certainly not out of place offensively, picking up an assist on Toronto’s first goal. Playing left wing beside countryman Wallin, Sjostrom took a pass from Kulemin in the slot off his skate, kicked it up for the shot, Devils’ goaler Yann Danis made the save, before Kulemin scored on the rebound.

The Leafs only took two minor penalties, but Sjostrom and Wallin and started every penalty kill.

Sjostrom finished the game a plus one, with coach Ron Wilson increasing his line’s ice time as the game progressed and the Leafs stretched out their lead. Wilson also matched the Sjostrom-Wallin-Kulemin line against Jersey’s top lines, which changed from time to time, but generally featured Jamie Langenbrunner, Travis Zajac and Zach Parise.

Drafted 11th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2001, Sjostrom bounced around in the NHL, from the Coyotes, to the New York Rangers for a season and a half and then to Calgary this season, signing as a free agent, before being traded to the Leafs in the Dion Phaneuf deal.

He also blocked a couple of shots and recorded a couple of hits, though at 6-1, 218, he wasn’t exactly a physical force on the ice, though he did stand up to beefy Devils’ defenceman Mark Fraser after he was pushed around following a rebound attempt. He also played well positionally and only occasionally did he miss his check, but was sometimes a little slow getting to his man at the point.


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