Tuesday

Patrik Sundstrom

NHL brother combinations are rich throughout NHL history. Twins brothers are obviously pretty rare. Long before anyone had even heard of the Sedin Twins, Swedish twins Peter and Patrik Sundstrom were starring in the NHL.

Like Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Patrik and Peter Sundstrom were different players. Like Peter, Patrik was an excellent skater, combining deadly speed with excellent balance. Also like Peter, he was a tremendous puckhandler who preferred to pass than shoot, almost to a fault. Also like Peter, Patrik was a strong two way player who worked hard without the puck as well as with it.

Patrik was better than Peter in a number of areas which resulted in the general consensus that Patrik was the better of the two. Patrik was 20lbs heavier than Peter, much of it muscle. While neither player initiated much contact, Patrik's increased size made him harder to knock the puck off of. Combined with his excellent balance, this made Patrik a threat in traffic. Patrik was also more willing to sacrifice his body. A good shot blocker, Patrik regularly took a big hit to make a play, something that Peter generally shied away from. Another major difference between the two was Patrik's shot. While Peter's shot was below average at best, Patrik owned a lazer like wrist shot which he used with great accuracy. However like many Swedish stars of the 1980s, Sundstrom didn't shoot anywhere near enough despite the opportunities he got.

Patrik was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks 175th overall in 1980. It wasn't until the the 1982-83 season that Patrik came to Vancouver, as Patrik remained in Sweden where he starred in the Swedish Elit League. He was also part of two World Junior Championships squads, two World Championships squads, and the 1981 Swedish Canada Cup squad.

Patrik's elite international experience helped ease his transition to the Canucks lineup in 1982. Fresh off of the surprising Stanley Cup Finals run, the Canucks hoped Sundstrom could upgrade their talent level that was necessary to keep competing against Smythe Division rivals like Edmonton and Calgary. While Sundstrom did do just that and became arguably the Canucks best player for much of the 1980s, the Canucks failed to achieve much success in his tenure.

Sundstrom scored 23 goals and 46 points in his rookie season, and backed that up with a 38 goal, 91 point campaign in 1983-84. The 91 points set a Canucks club record for most points in a season that stood until Pavel Bure's spectacular seasons in nearly a decade later.

Sundstrom may have over achieved a bit that season, as he levelled off to the 70 point level for most of the rest of his career. He spent the next three seasons in Vancouver before the arrival of Pat Quinn in the summer of 1987. Though Quinn liked what Sundstrom brought to the table, he liked what the New Jersey Devils brought to the table even more. The Devils were very interested in the two way slick Swede and offered young goal scorer Greg Adams, who was from BC, and promising young goalie Kirk McLean in exchange. Quinn jumped at the deal.

Adams went on to score some huge goals in Canucks franchise history while McLean went on to become one of the top goalies in the NHL for a few seasons in the early 1990s. However it was a deal that benefitted both teams as the Devils were very happy with Sundstrom's effect on their organization as well. Sundstrom played 4 full seasons in New Jersey before retiring in an injury plauged 5th season.

Though he had a disappointing regular season in year one with the Devils, Sundstrom was a big part of the Devil's surprise run into the playoffs. Sundstrom paced the Devils with 20 points in 18 playoff games. Eight of those points came in one game! On April 22, 1988 "Sunny" scored 3 goals and 5 assists in a memorable game against the Washington Capitals!

Sundstrom was a consistent scoring threat, particularly in 1988-89 when he scored 28 goals and 69 points, and in 1989-90 when he scored 27 goals and 76 points. However perhaps his biggest effect was on his linemates Brendan Shanahan and John MacLean. Those two rugged wingers were blessed with a nose for the net and were expected to blossom into power forwards. However it wasn't until the arrival that the two finally achieved their status as stars. To me that is a huge testament of Patrik Sundstrom's ability and importance to the team.

Its too bad that Patrik played with weak teams in Vancouver and New Jersey. Had he had better players to play with, who knows what dizzying heights Patrik could have attained. Much like Thomas Steen in Winnipeg, Patrik helped to dispell the myth that Europeans were soft.

3 comments:

Anonymous,  11:02 AM  

Great player !
Strong like a horse

Jonas 11:44 AM  

Patrik Sundstrom is getting his number raised by his Swedish club Bjorkloven this coming friday. Memories or just shout-outs can be made to 17@bjorkloven.com

http://www.bjorkloven.com/

Rabgal 12:24 AM  

Classy player who brought it all each game. He'll always my favourite Canuck :)

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