Patric Hornqvist: From Last Pick to Olympian
By Buddy Oakes
The Nashville Predator's Patric Hornqvist has travelled a interesting journey from the last player chosen in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, to playing on one of the top lines for Sweden - the defending Olympic champions at the 2010 Games.
The 23-year-old native of Sollentuna, Sweden, grew up playing hockey in his native land. He played on a couple junior teams, and for Djurgarden in the competitive Swedish Elite League.
As a 20-year-old, Hornqvist was named the Rookie of the Year in Sweden in 2006-2007, scoring a team high 23 goals (this broke the rookie record set by his boyhood idol, Peter Forsberg).
That season, he also had his first adult international experience, playing in both the World Juniors and the World Championships.
The following season Hornqvist played in Sweden again and returned to the World Championships in Quebec City. It was in Canada where he really caught the attention of the Predators as he led Sweden in goals with six. This was the second highest number of goals in an international event that is second only to the Olympics in prestige.
Hornqvist came to North America for the first time last season when he played 28 games for the Predators and 49 games for the Pred's AHL affiliate in Milwaukee.
He started the 2008-09 season with Nashville, but was over-matched and spent the season shuttling between Nashville and Milwaukee. With the Preds, he had two goals and five assists. While in Milwaukee he had more success, scoring 17 goals and picking up 18 assists.
At the end of last season, Hornqvist sat down with the Predators’ brass and was given specific goals to accomplish in the off-season. During the summer, he worked with a coach in Europe and made vast strides in his skating ability.
The biggest difference this season has been his mental adjustment to the NHL level of play. His confidence has grown game by game as the game has "slowed down for him," as Coach Barry Trotz describes his transformation into a top-six forward for the Predators.
Hornqvist's statistics are indicative of his improved play as he leads the Predators with 23 goals and also has 14 assists. Most of his points are earned in "dirty" areas, battling in front of the net and in the corners.
Barry Trotz has repeatedly compared him to fellow Swede, Tomas Holmstrom, who is one of the best at setting up in front of the net, distracting the goaltender and putting loose rebounds into the net.
While Hornqvist is the second youngest player on team Sweden, based on his excellent play this year in the NHL, he was placed on one of the top two lines with Peter Forsberg and Henrik Zetterberg – both future NHL Hall-of-Famers.
Sweden is the defending gold medal team from 2006 and is one of six teams in Vancouver is expected to compete for medals.