At 27 years of age, Fredrik Sjostrom is in his prime.
You’re thinking to yourself, this guy must be crazy writing such gibberish…and statistically speaking you’re not far off.
Lets look for a moment at the Leafs lines:
First line- Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel, and Kris Versteeg, who will draw their opponent’s number one checking line and defensive pairing night in and night out. That’s a given.
Second line- Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur, Nikolai Kulemin, will still see a lot of the number one defensive pairing as well and will be going against some skilled players.
Which now brings us to the line Sjostrom plays on with Tim Brent and Colby Armstrong.
These guys have been creating chances while playing a shut down role. But they aren’t by any means drawing any sort of specific defensive coverage from opposing teams equaling offensive potential.
Sjostrom has better than average speed, which has been apparent in his penalty-killing role and in transition through the neutral zone whether going up ice or on the back check.
What made him a first round pick were his size and speed.
His numbers while with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL in the 2002/03 season got him into the NHL and at the time reflected his draft position. He scored 34 goals and had 43 assists in 63 games that year.
He has never scored more than 10 goals in the NHL and the year he did (score 10) he played only 51 games with a Coyotes team that scored only 214 and won only 38 games.
Sjostrom is seeing a hair under 16 minutes on average of ice time per game and has had some incredible chances to bulge the twine early this season.
But he remains snake bitten when it comes to finishing, though his positioning on the ice is sound.
If only he could add a little thought of offense in his mostly defensive minded play, he may see some success.
If he could get one goal in the next couple games and gain some confidence, he has the guys on his line who could get him the puck on a regular basis with hard working board battler Armstrong and creative work horse Brent.
These three could have an offensive impact for the Leafs, which would be a huge step in their hopes towards moving into the post-season picture.
Coach Ron Wilson has to get him shooting the puck more as he has a good shot and when he gets a chance he really has to capitalize.
Perhaps 20 goals is a little far fetched, but certainly 10-15 isn’t out of reach, including some short handed tallies for this defensive specialist and offensive underachiever.