Ejdsell has strong NHL debut in Hawks’ Shootout loss to Sharks

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San Jose Sharks’ Kevin Labanc (62) scores a goal against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Anton Forsberg (31), of Sweden, during a shootout in an NHL hockey game Monday, March 26, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

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by Scott King

Victor Ejdsell, an emergency recall from Rockford, was thrown right into the fire on Monday night for his NHL debut. The 22-year-old Swedish forward, who came over from the Ryan Hartman to Nashville trade on February 26, centered the Hawks’ top line between Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane.

“It was super fun to be with them,” Ejdsell said of his new linemates. “They are great guys and incredible hockey players. They helped me a lot. It was a great opportunity too.”

The 6’5, 213-pound Swedish winger also saw time on the team’s top power play unit and went five-for-nine on faceoffs (55%).

“On the stat sheet, it doesn’t look so hot,” said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville of Ejdsell’s +/- rating of -3. “But I didn’t mind him at all. I thought he had a lot of nice plays, good vision, good anticipation, a lot of direct plays, knew where people were around the ice…

“For a big guy, he knew where to go and I think he was comfortable with the puck which was good to see right off the bat.”

Hawks players were also impressed with Ejdsell’s first showing. “He was great,” Chicago defenseman Connor Murphy said. “He was poised with the puck. He’s been playing in Europe on the big ice and it didn’t seem like it phased him to play in the tight spaces, he made a lot of nice little plays getting up ice.”

Hawks GM Stan Bowman described Ejdsell as a “highly skilled player” following the transaction that brought him to Chicago. He was the MVP of Sweden’s second league last year with 25 goals and 32 assists in 50 games and joined the premier league this season where he tallied 20 goals and 14 assists in 50 games.

Ejdsell reported to Chicago’s AHL affiliate the Rockford IceHogs on march 21, where he had one assist in two games. His first NHL game came one month after the trade.

“It was insane,” Victor said of playing in his first NHL game. “It was incredible to play in front of this crowd, these fans. It’s a huge building, a lot of fans out there and the feeling was incredible.”

Jim Cornelison’s rendition of the Star Bangled Banner also left a lasting impression on Ejdsell. “I never heard a guy sing the anthem so loud. It gave me chills.”

The journey for the sizable Swede was expedited due to John Hayden being ruled out for Monday’s game with an upper-body injury and the Blackhawks’ need for help up the middle with Jonathan Toews suffering an upper-body injury and missing the last two games. It probably didn’t hurt that the Hawks were eliminated from payoff contention for the first time in 10 years, so getting a look at prospects who could play a bigger role in the future is a bonus at this point.

“I was in Sweden like five days ago,” Ejdsell said of his fast-track to the show. It’s been real fast and I’m just super excited to be here and I’m just thrilled.”

Game Action

Marcus Sorensen gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 9:15 in the first period. Alex DeBrincat answered back for the Hawks later in the first and again challenged Patrick Kane for the team lead in goals (26).

One minute and eighteen seconds later Connor Murphy kept the goals coming with a shot from the point to give the Hawks their first lead of the game. Evander Kane beat Hawks goaltender Anton Forsberg at 16:39 in the second period on a breakaway to tie it 2-2.

Tomas Hertl scored at 15:41 in the third period to give the Sharks a 3-2 lead. Patrick Sharp scored late to tie it up 3-3 with 2:22 left in regulation.

The Blackhawks would take the Sharks to overtime and fall in a shootout 4-3.

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