It was an unique situation. Sure, Victor Ejdsell had a great season, winning the scoring title after piling up 57 points (25+32) with Bik Karlskoga. Still, the step from being an undrafted 21 year-old prospect in Hockeyallsvenskan, the second best league in Sweden, to becoming a sought after free agent among NHL teams is still a huge one to take. Ejdsell managed to do that. When last season was over, he was invited to North America by several NHL teams to visit their facilities and listen to their sales pitch.
In the end, the big center chose to sign a two-year deal with the Nashville Predators. A visit to Bridgestone Arena in the middle of a successful playoff run was enough to convince him. The team he said “no thanks” to was Central Division rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks. Therein lies the irony.
Fast forward to February 26th this year. With the NHL trade deadline approaching, Ejdsell and his agent were very much aware of the fact that the Nashville Predators were looking for ways to make the team stronger ahead of the playoffs.
“We knew that they were going for it. If you do that and have a good chance of winning, you want to make the most of that opportunity. We knew that it was either me or a player in the AHL that was going to be dealt”, Ejdsell told Swedish website hockeysverige.se a few days ago.
“We had been talking about the possibilities and it happened. I received a text message in the evening, saying that I had been traded.”
Victor Ejdsell, who has spent the season on loan with reigning Swedish champions HV71, was a part of the trade that made forward Ryan Hartman a Nashville Predator. The irony? That Ejdsell was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, the team he turned down to sign with Nashville.
“At the time, I felt Nashville was the right fit for me, but it could have been because of the circumstances when I came there to visit. A playoff game, an exciting atmosphere and a great experience. When I came to Chicago, they had just been eliminated from the playoffs, so it was a very different vibe”, Ejdsell explained.
This doesn’t mean he is unhappy to be with the Chicago Blackhawks organisation now. On the contrary, he sees a better opportunity to become an NHL player with his new team, which isn’t as stacked with skilled forwards as the Predators are.
“I went to visit Chicago for a reason. I was interested by what they had to offer. I’m happy with how things turned out”, Victor Ejdsell said.
“If you look at the trade from an outside perspective, it gives me a much better shot at playing in the NHL. And I was interested in Chicago to begin with, so it feels good.”
The next challenge for Ejdsell, who turns 23 this summer, is the Swedish playoffs with HV71. If his team exits fast, he’ll likely finish the season in the AHL with Blackhawks’ farm club Rockford Icehogs, a team who happens to have a coach who knows exactly what Ejdsell brings to the table. Former NHL:er Jeremy Colliton coached Mora in Sweden last season. There he saw a lot of the skilled center as his team butted heads with Ejdsell’s former team Bik Karlskoga at the top of the standings in Hockeyallsvenskan.
Victor Ejdsell’s rookie season in the SHL has been a success. In the last regular season game before the playoffs, he reached 20 goals and finished with 34 points in 50 games. Only seven SHL players managed to score 20 goals or more this year. His coach with HV71, former New York Rangers’ forward Johan Lindbom, has liked the progress Edjsell has made.
“His game has really evolved. It was a big step for him to go from Hockeyallsvenskan to playing in the SHL. But he has shown that he could adapt to this level”, Lindbom told hockeysverige.se.
“You see how skilled he is with the puck, how he has grown into his big body, intensified his skating and how good he is at protecting the puck. He has really progressed as a player.”
Ejdsell is pleased too. Although he admits that it took him some time to figure out the defensive part of the game at the SHL level, he feels like he surprised himself with how well he played.
“I would actually say that things have gone better than I anticipated”, he said.
“I’ve created a lot of scoring chances and been more prominent than I expected. I feel like I’ve been playing well in my first season in the SHL.”
In a short span of time, Victor Ejdsell has gone from an afterthought in Swedish hockey to become a star player in the SHL. Now it remains to be seen if he is talented enough to play in the NHL too.