It’s Moller Time!
It’s Moller Time!
Swedish ace lights it up in Prague
Making his IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship debut last year in Minsk, the shifty Stockholm-born winger was Sweden’s second-leading scorer (3-6-9) behind linemate Joakim Lindstrom (11). They sparked Tre Kronor to the bronze medal.
So far this year, Moller is third in overall tournament scoring with seven points (4-3-7). He should easily outpace last year’s totals, despite averaging under 16 minutes per game.
Moller and Lindstrom were also linemates with Skelleftea of the SHL. They won two Swedish championships there together. They’ve quickly rediscovered their chemistry in Prague, even though Moller spent 2014-15 with the KHL’s Ak Bars Kazan and Lindstrom split his time between the NHL’s St. Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs.
“He’s a great player,” Lindstrom said after Moller racked up two goals and two assists in Sweden’s 4-3 win over Germany on Thursday. “I’m not surprised. He seems to find areas to score from all the time. It’s good to see.”
Moller, 26, is hungry to earn his first IIHF gold medal. He had two close-but-no-cigar experiences with the Swedish World Junior team, earning silver in both 2008 and 2009. In the latter case in Ottawa, he served as the team captain.
He knows how to play hard without going over the line. He was named the SHL’s most gentlemanly player last year with just 14 regular-season PIM.
This year, Moller led the KHL playoffs with six game-winning goals as Ak Bars Kazan marched to the final before bowing in five games to SKA St. Petersburg.
His prowess on these big stages makes some observers wonder if a return to the NHL could lie ahead for the former Los Angeles Kings prospect. He played 87 games over three seasons (2008-09 to 2010-11) with the Kings, who drafted him in the second round in 2007 (52nd overall).
He’s under contract with Kazan again in 2015-16, but Filip Forsberg, who led the Nashville Predators in scoring this season as a rookie, believes Moller could still prosper in North America: “Obviously all skilled players can play in the NHL if you’re good enough. He’s one of them for sure.”
It’s just a question of whether he’ll get another opportunity. Hockey is truly an unpredictable sport. Think of the circuitous path Moller has followed to arrive at this year’s Worlds.
Almost nine years ago, Moller went from Djurgarden Stockholm’s junior program to the now-defunct Chilliwack Bruins of the Western Hockey League.
In this beautiful British Columbia farming community outside Vancouver, the Canadian major junior team sent him on a summer river rafting trip to welcome him. He was billeted with forward Matt Meropoulis, who scored just six goals in three WHL seasons and finished his hockey career with the University of Alberta. Moller was second in Bruins’ scoring two seasons in a row behind Mark Santorelli, who played in Austria this year.
With the Los Angeles organization, he sometimes got to skate alongside Slovenian superstar Anze Kopitar or Russia’s Alexander Frolov, but he suited up more often with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs with the likes of Canada’s Jake Muzzin and the U.S.’s Trevor Lewis.
And after building his case for stardom in Skelleftea and Kazan, he’s here, keying a Swedish attack that has everyone taking notice, win or lose.
Following Canada’s 6-3 victory over the Swedes, forward Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars said: “Sweden, their compete level and how quick they are, it kind of reminded me of my first year playing against the Detroit Red Wings, when I was going in their end, kind of watching the puck, skating around, trying to get to it. They’re a great hockey team and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw them again.”
Moller is a big part of that positive impression.
“He’s not the biggest guy, but he works really hard and shoots the puck from everywhere,” said Forsberg admiringly.
With two round-robin games left against Switzerland and France, don’t be surprised if Oscar Moller has some more goals left in his stick. It looks like the best is yet to come for this Stockholm sniper.
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