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Mattias Tedenby: Viable Option for Devils Top Six or Next Niclas Bergfors?

Back in 2009 the New Jersey Devils lost star wing Brian Gionta in free agency. At the time (much to the dismay of Devil fans) there was no reactive signing by Lou Lamoriello to replace the production of Gionta (20 goals (3 on the power play) and 248 shots in 81 games played), rather there was the plan that 2005 1st round pick Niclas Bergfors was ready for a prime role within the Devils offense. We all know how the Bergfors experiment played out; Bergfors played admirably, scoring 13 goals (5 PP) and had 134 shots in 54 games for New Jersey before being one of the prime assets going to Atlanta in exchange for Ilya Kovalchuk. He then proceeded to bounce from Atlanta to Florida and then Nashville before being released. He is now in the KHL.

That said, while we do have the power of hindsight here, it didn't seem that Bergfors, given his production in the SEL or the AHL, was going to fully replace a top six forward.

While not the same exact situation the Devils face similar circumstances this year. They lost forward Zach Parise (31 goals (9 PP, 293 shots in 82 games) and have not made a reactive free agent signing or move to compensate for his loss. Parise, a much bigger loss than Gionta was, will likely be replaced from within. The likely 'Plan B' option in this case is 2008 1st round pick, Mattias Tedenby.

Tedenby's ascension into the top six might also be necessary as the Devils are not only trying to replace the production of Zach Parise, but possibly Petr Sykora (21 goals (4PP) 170 shots in 82 games) as well.

The similarities are there; two late first round Swedish forwards, chosen three years apart both given an unimpeded opportunity to claim a top six forward role four years after being drafted. Can Tedenby succeed and become an impact player for the Devils or will he have a similar Devil career to Bergfors?

After the jump I will take a look at the offensive production of both Tedenby and Bergfors at comparable ages to see if we can see any similarities between the two, and I also highlight two areas which lead me to believe Tedenby can have an impact next year.


Notes: Age 17 was both players' draft seasons. I only included the top league of the SEL when looking at each player stats. Stats were generated from, and the Swedish Elite League website.

Viewing the table above it is pretty easy to see that neither Tedenby nor Bergfors had statistics in their development leagues (SEL for Tedenby, primarily AHL for Bergfors) that 'wowed' you.

Bergfors averaged .58 points and .25 goals per game in the AHL. At even strength level, Bergfors had .12 goals per game. His lack of goal scoring at the AHL level didn't come from the lack of trying. Capping off his fourth AHL season he averaged almost 3.5 shots per game, something the Devils obviously hoped would translate to plenty of opportunities at the NHL level. Looking at his full body of AHL work you saw an inconsistent player. Perhaps he started in the AHL a bit young at age 18. Maybe another year in the SEL that saw him be more productive than his age 17 season would have been better for his development. In his four years in the AHL Bergfors had plenty of opportunities to shine, however injuries and inconsistency plagued him.

Looking at his numbers (and this was actually my thoughts back in 2009) it seemed like it was a 'now or never' moment with Bergfors. Either playing with talented NHLers was going to bring out the potential the team thought he had when drafting him or he was going to be a 'passenger' on a top line. Again, hindsight showed us that Bergfors was more of a passenger on a good line than an impact player himself.

Are we looking at a similar scenario with Tedenby?

Instead of heading to the AHL after being drafted Tedenby stayed in the Swedish Elite League. The only time Tedenby put up a point-per-game rate was in his draft year when he was in the Swedish Junior System, scoring 30 points in 25 games for the HV71 Junior club. After his draft year he stayed primarily in the top league but didn't have great success at age 18. He made up for a lackluster year In the SEL playoffs though as he scored 6 goals in 18 games and set himself up to be a top player on the HV71 squad the following year. Unfortunately he didn't follow up on his playoff effort scoring only 12 goals in 44 games in the regular season and 2 goals in 16 SEL playoff games.

During his final two years in the SEL Tedenby averaged about 10 minutes of ice-time per game. Unfortunately the SEL site does not break out even-strength time vs. power play time but I would imagine most of those minutes were at even strength simply based on the scoring rates of other players on his club. Also, shooting stats were not available for the years he was in the SEL.

Tedenby then came over to North America and instead of spending a lot of time with the Devil AHL club at Albany, he was quickly recalled to the NHL after 12 games in early November of 2010. He spent the rest of the season in the NHL and learned to play a little defense under Jacque Lemaire, scoring 8 goals along the way. 2011-12 was a bust for Tedenby, as he was never able to find a level of comfort on the Devils third line and after a half-season of struggles the Devils demoted him to Albany after they acquired Alexei Ponikarovsky to help solidify their top nine forwards.

It is my opinion that at similar points in their careers Tedenby is much farther ahead than Bergfors was. While Tedenby certainly hasn't earned a top six forward role, he's shown more of an ability to product at the NHL level (at this point Tedenby has played in 101 NHL games, Bergfors had played 9 at the same age) provided he is palying with talented players.

Of the many management/coaching miscues of 2010-11 one of them was probably bringing Tedenby along too quickly when the Devils called him up in the fall of 2010. It would have been better leaving him in a top six role at Albany where he could get used to increased minutes, the length of the schedule and gain scoring confidence at his own pace. This may have hurt Tedenby to a small degree last year.

While the comparisons to Bergfors are easy to make as the situations are quite similar, I am not as worried about Tedenby being thrust into a top six forward role as I was with Bergfors three years ago.

Things To Look For Next Season:

Looking into a few area via I think that we can be excited about Tedenby for his ability to put shots on net at a solid rate at even strength and the fact that if he is really given a shot within New Jersey's top six he will play with better linemates.

In both 2010-11 and last year you find that he generated enough shots at even strength per 60 minutes to fall within the Devils top forwards. In 2010-11 he generated 27.1 shots per 60 minutes ranking tied for 2nd among forwards. In 2011-12 he generated 24 shots per 60 minutes ranking 9th among forwards.

For 2010-11 his primary linemates went from Jason Arnott (36.8%) Patrick Elias (29.2%) to 2011-12 where his primary linemates became David Clarkson (62%) and Ryan Carter (36.1%).

If Tedenby earns a top six forward role this season I would expect production more similar to 2010-11 than last year as he would likely be playing with forwards who can keep the puck in the offensive zone and pass better than his linemates from last season. Playing with the Clarksons and Carters of the world is a lot different than Patrik Elias or Dainius Zubrus.

Tedenby's shot rate and the idea that he would be playing with better players lead me to believe he will have more success next year. He was miscast on a line with David Clarkson as their style of play didn't mesh very well.

Tedenby needs some consistency this year. He has bounced around with linemates and ice-time the past couple of years and it will be up to Devils coach Pete DeBoer to do what he did for David Clarkson in 2011-12. Show the player that he has confidence in him and allow him to make some mistakes without fear of being immediately benched.

There are worse plan B options out there than Mattias Tedenby. He is still very young and hasn't yet had a really good opportunity to show what he can do for New Jersey. While once I was in the camp that the Devils needed to go outside the organization to replace the production of Zach Parise, I am feeling more at ease with the idea of Mattias Tedenby being that replacement.

So now it's your turn. Do you think Tedenby will follow in the path of Bergfors? Will he drive a scoring line or be simply a passenger? Do you think he will fare better or worse than Bergfors did? Will better linemates help his productivity? Thanks for reading and sound off below!