Sweden hadn’t won a World Junior championship since 1981, so when Blackhawks prospect and Team Sweden alternate captain Joakim Nordstrom bit into his gold medal in Calgary on the evening of Jan. 5, 2012, it marked the end of “an amazing journey,” as he describes it, for a national program that has rebuilt itself over the last decade. But for Nordstrom and other Swedish prospects hoping to find success across the Atlantic, the journey is only beginning.

Nordstrom, 20, was the Blackhawks’ third-round draft pick in 2010 and just completed his first season in the Swedish Elite League, registering three goals and three assists in 47 appearances for AIK. The scoring numbers aren’t pretty, but they are befitting a young, mobile shutdown specialist who is not done honing his offensive talent.

“I’m a pretty good skater, with a good passing game,” Nordstrom explains. “But I need to shoot the puck more often.”

As a second-year veteran of Blackhawks Prospect Camp, Nordstrom is relishing the opportunity to showcase his two-way abilities, forming Team B’s top line alongside 2011 first-round draft pick Phillip Danault and Swiss free-agent invitee Denis Hollenstein.

“We had pretty good chemistry, and we always supported each other,” Nordstrom says. “We created a lot of dangerous opportunities, so it felt pretty good.”

THE SWEDISH REVIEW

Blackhawks fans don’t get many opportunities to follow European prospects, especially if they play overseas, so chicagoblackhawks.com asked Blackhawks Head European Amateur Scout Niklas Blomgren to evaluate how the club’s three Swedish prospects fared in 2011-12.

Joakim Nordstrom, C (AIK, SEL)
47 GP, 3G, 3A, 4 PIM
"Nordstrom had a good season where he went from more of an extra center in 2010-11 to a regular player in the Swedish Elite League. That, in combination with winning a gold medal at [World Juniors], made his last season a good one. He keeps on getting stronger and getting more experience and this year [he’ll] take on even more responsibilities for AIK."

Klas Dahlbeck, D (Linkoping, SEL)
55GP, 2G, 2A, 20 PIM
"Dahlbeck played his second full season in the Swedish Elite League and got very good minutes along former Chicago player Magnus Johansson, as well as former NHLer Niclas Havelid. Playing with older, accomplished players helped him gain confidence and learn what it takes to be successful. Also, playing with the men's national team at the highest stage of European hockey during the November and February breaks showed that he can play at a very high level."

Johan Mattsson, G (Sudbury, OHL)
37GP, 23-11-2-1, 3.16 GAA, .910 SV%
"Mattsson played in Sudbury and had a bit of an up-and-down year. He was plagued by the hip that he had surgery on this past May, and he now needs to regain the form and consistency that made him a successful player in 2010-11."

Nordstrom and fellow countryman Klas Dahlbeck both signed entry-level contracts with the Blackhawks last month, and along with goalie prospect Johan Mattsson, they form the next wave of emerging Swedish talent. In a country with a robust passion for the game, it seems like everyone has a significant tie to someone else in hockey—a neighbor, a friend, a mentor—and Nordstrom is no exception to the rule.

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