When it comes to Swedish hockey players, the Blackhawks have had some pretty good ones over the years.
Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Marcus Kruger all hail from Sweden, just as Viktor Stalberg did.
Now you can add rookie winger Joakim Nordstrom to that list.
The 21-year-old Nordstrom made the team out of nowhere in training camp and scored his first NHL goal in Friday's win over the New York Islanders. He is plus-2 in five games and has found chemistry with Kruger as a penalty killer.
"I think he's just going to get better and better," said Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith. "He's a smart player. Nobody really talked about him coming into camp a whole lot.
"He's one of those Swedes, and we've got a few of them now, they're smart players that play good defensively. He's only 21, and I think he's just going to get better."
Nordstrom caught the coaching staff's attention from the first day of scrimmages at Notre Dame. He is big and quick and isn't afraid to throw his weight around. He can play wing or center but has settled in at wing for now.
"You're comfortable putting him out there, whether you've got two centermen in your own end, he can jump in," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He can play center, which is a nice asset to have."
Nordstrom says the biggest adjustment for him has been the smaller ice surfaces in North America. Everything happens quicker, and he's still getting used to it.
"I've felt better every game that I played," Nordstrom said. "I'm getting more comfortable with the system and smaller ice, so I've just got to keep working hard."
Nordstrom finished last season playing 11 games at Rockford, so the small ice isn't completely new to him.
"Even though it's smaller ice we still want to play the same game as we did in Sweden, which is puck possession," he said. "On the smaller ice you have to be quicker in your thoughts and make sure that when you make a move with the puck there's less area to do it."
Killing penalties with Kruger looks so natural for Nordstrom.
"He's a very smart player," Nordstrom said. "He's simple to play with and makes it easy for me and his teammates, so it's nice to play with him."
While Nordstrom scored Friday, Ben Smith had a goal Saturday in the 2-1 victory over Buffalo, and Brandon Bollig has chipped in with a goal as well. It's the kind of four-line contribution Quenneville looks for.
"I think the other lines, we're generating some high quality stuff but have nothing to show for it," Quenneville said.
Nordstrom was drafted in the third round (90th overall) in 2010.
"I don't know where they keep getting these guys from, but maybe we should give our draft guys some credit, too," Keith said.
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