Player of the Month
The European Hockey.Net European Player of the Month is awarded to the player with the most oustanding performance over the course of the month
Nominations are collected at the end of each month, then a vote by the site's admin team decides the winner.
March 2005 - Henrik Lundqvist
No less than 13 players were nominated for this month's award. Despite several excellent performances there was one player whose performance really stood out above others in the month March.
Västra Frölunda and Team Sweden goaltender Henrik Lundqvist had already had a terrific season, but he was able to surpass his own performances during the playoffs. In nine March playoff games in the Swedish Elitserien, Lundqvist allowed just 11 goals. On top of that he made 240 saves and recorded 3 shutouts (in total, Lundqvist accumulated 6 shutouts in 14 playoff games.)
Lundqvist was born in Åre. Sweden's most popular ski resort. Yet he never considered skiing to become his sport. "It has always been ice hockey to me," he claims.
He moved to southern Sweden because his sister was a promising tennis player. It was a move he and his twin brother Joel didn't regret. Both were drafted in the 2000 NHL draft, Joel by Dallas and Henrik by the New York Rangers, however for the moment the brothers play together on the same team. Henrik says, "It is funny that we could play together for such a long time. That made things easier when we moved from home at age of 16".
The Rangers seem to have found themselves a gem though. They selected the netminder in the 7th round, 205th overall and already last year he was voted best goaltender of the IIHF World Championships. This year he's followed that by being amongst the best goaltenders in the Swedish Elite League - his save percentage of 93.6% and Goals Against Average of 1.79 needing no further explanation.
"I was very motivated to perform well in the post-season", Lundqvist told eurohockey.net. "I wanted to win at all costs. I must admit it wasn't just my performance. The whole team played excellent which made it easier for me too."
Lundqvist was honoured when he heared he had won the European Hockey.Net Player of the Month award. "I feel flattered to win this award and to be considered amongst the elite in Europe, especially considering the past winners and the group of nominees this month."
His numbers get even more impressive when considering the Swedish Elitserien underwent a landslide this year with the influx of NHL lock-out players. Sweden was regarded as having one of the strongest leagues in the world last season. Does Lundqvist think so too? "I don't know. It is very difficult to rate the leagues," he says. "There are a number of other leagues too that have got a lot of NHL stars. It's a very close contest, but I think the Russian Hockey League is at least as good as the Elitserien".
The high calibre of the league this year resulted in visitor numbers rising in Sweden. Lundqvist: "It is fun with all the attention, everyone is involved. I just hope there won't be a huge set back next year if the NHL does resume."
Being an elite player in an elite league means continued challenges for the goalie, and Lundqvist knows it's not neccessary for him to move. However, The New York Rangers will surely have him on the radar if the NHL resumes next year, and he feels a move to North America would be refreshing. "You can develop everywhere, but I must say that playing in North America would be a new thing to me. I would have to start all over, new conditions, new challenges."
When asked last year what area of the game he most needed to improve, Lundqvist told EH.N that his play behind the net needed work. "I played less behind my goal this year," the Swede admits. "The team benefits most if I stay in front of the net, and the defense takes care of play behind the net. However if necessary in North America I will work very hard on improving my play behind the net."
If he does make it into the NHL next season, Lundqvist will meet one of the best goalies in the world in his opinion. "It's always hard to rate goalies, but personally I feel Martin Brodeur is one of the best that I've seen." Asking him about past heroes, "From when I grew up I remember Peter 'Pekka' Lindmark to be special," Lundqvist remembers.
Before a move across the pond becomes an option, Lundqvist will join Team Sweden in Austria to play in the IIHF World Championships. Sweden has got an impressive list of absentees this year, as reported before in an article on the Swedish WC selection. Nevertheless Lundqvist remains hopeful. "I think we've got a good team despite those absentees. I think we can conquer for gold." When asked about the favourites, reigning world champions Canada, he points out, "They do have 12 players that did not play competitively this year, but that doesn't matter too much as those players are world class."
The Rangers already selected Henrik Lundqvist in the summer of 2000. Now it seems like the right time to reap the crops. For sure the New York Rangers' scouts will be witnessing his performance in Austria at the World Championships. If Lundqvist can keep up his current form it's unlikely the Swedish netminder won't be seen in the 'Big Apple' next season.
From the eurohockey.net archive
- March 2007 - Petr Sykora
- February 2007 - Bernd Brückler
- January 2007 - Martin Prochazka
- December 2006 - Martin Kariya
- November 2006 - Pavel Brendl
- October 2006 - Kimmo Rintanen
- September 2006 - Aleksei Morozov
- May 2006 - Kenny Jönsson
- April 2006 - Aleksei Morozov
- March 2006 - Reto von Arx
- February 2006 - Nicklas Lidström
- January 2006 - Patrick Yetman
- December 2005 - Miroslav Hala
- November 2005 - Vasily Koshechkin
- October 2005 - Tony Salmelainen
- September 2005 - Sergei Zinoviev
- May 2005 - Jaromir Jagr
- April 2005 - Henrik Lundqvist
- March 2005 - Henrik Lundqvist
- February 2005 - Marian Gaborik
- January 2005 - Jaromir Jagr
- December 2004 - Tim Thomas
- November 2004 - Marian Hossa
- October 2004 - Jukka Voutilainen
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