Nashville Predators forward Patric Hornqvist has traveled a interesting journey from being the last player chosen in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, to playing on one of the top lines of Sweden – the defending Olympic champions at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
The 23-year-old native of Sollentuna, Sweden, grew up playing hockey in his native land. He played on a couple of different junior teams as well as for Djurgarden in the competitive Swedish Elite league.
As a 20-year-old, Hornqvist was named the Rookie of the Year in Sweden in 2006-07 scoring a team high 23 goals, which 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 Junior Championships and the World Championships.
The following season he played in Sweden again and returned to the World Championships in Quebec City/Halifax. It was there that he really caught the attention of the Predators, as he led Sweden in goals with six, which was the second highest number in an event that is second only to the Olympics in prestige of international competitions.
Hornqvist came to North America for the first time last season when he played 28 games for the Predators and 49 games for the Preds AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. He started the 2008-09 season with the Predators but was overmatched 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 things that he was expected 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.
His statistics are indicative of his improved play as he leads the Predators with 23 goals and also has 14 assists. Hornqvist has earned most of his points by going to the “dirty” areas, battling in front of the net and in the corners. 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 the top two lines with Forsberg and Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg, both of whom should be future Hockey Hall of Famers.
Sweden is the defending gold medal team from 2006 and is one of six teams in Vancouver that is expected to compete for medals.