crown³ profile: niclas bergfors

The Niclas Bergfors signing may already be old news to some Nashville Predators fans (he was signed a week ago—yawn) whose main concern at this point is when captain Shea Weber will be re-signed. Even though the 2011-2012 season will be Bergfors’ seventh season playing in North America, his is not a name you hear as often as others from his draft class (ie: Sidney Crosby, Bobby Ryan, Jack Johnson). Perhaps there is a massive Bergfors fanbase out there lurking on the Internet, and I apologize if I underestimate your existence. But I cannot possibly be the only hockey fan to not really know much about who this player is the Predators signed for mere chump change. Wherever you are Niclas Bergfors fandom, I plan to educate the literate public in your stead.

So when I say “chump change,” I really mean “chump change.” The Preds have plenty of extra cash to re-sign Shea Weber paying Bergfors just $575,000 for a one-year contract, making him the lowest paid player on the team. Losing wingers Steve Sullivan and Joel Ward to free agency has left a hole in our hearts and on the roster, but not in our pockets. But obviously what salary a player makes does not always reflect his worth or ability (see: Sergei Kostitsyn who made $550,000 last season).

Bergfors played most of his time in Sweden for hometown Sodertalje SK beginning when he was just 16 years old. In his first full season of junior hockey, he had the most points by a U17 junior with 30 and the next year was awarded the junior version of the Elitserien Arets Rookie (Rookie of the Year), previously awarded to the likes Nicklas Backstrom, Henrik Lundqvist, Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg, etc etc etc. For the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Bergfors was ranked number 5 among European skaters and number 1 in Sweden. In U18 international play, he had 12 points in 10 games and 34 points in 21 games for Sodertalje U20. But this was no 2011 draft and as the first Swede chosen was not selected until 23rd overall by the New Jersey Devils. The next Swede was not drafted until the third round.

Bergfors immediately debuted with a 40 point season for the then Albany River Rats. He played another season in the AHL before making his NHL debut in the 2007-2008 season. He played one uneventful game. It wasn’t until the 2009-2010 season that he was pulled up full time to play for New Jersey, where he played a near-complete season before ending up in Atlanta with fellow countryman Johnny Oduya in the Ilya Kovalchuk swap. Bergfors had a 44 point season after scoring 50 points in the AHL the year before.

I honestly don’t know that I had ever heard Bergfors’ name until he was on the Thrashers roster (shame on me?). I saw him play a couple of times in Atlanta and I even could have told you that he was traded to Florida before this year’s trade deadline (there must be something about the sunny south). But that’s really about it. It seems that other than the AHL (where he was performing up to the first round pick standards), it has been hard to determine what Bergfors is capable of doing as he hasn’t been allowed to stay in one place for very long.

For comparison’s sake, last season Bergfors had a higher production rate than Joel Ward (with the exception of his sky-rocketing performance through the playoffs) and a slightly lower rate than that of new teammates Patric Hornqvist and Sergei Kostitsyn. But from what I can gather, and correct me if I’m wrong, Niclas Bergfors seems to be a pretty consistent forward. It will be interesting to see what he can do on a Predators team high off a history making playoff performance and if he come the spring he will be able to see the playoffs for the first time in his North American career or if he will be on the trading block for the third year in a row.

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