Sabres’ Swedes Through the Years

As part of the NHL’s Global Series, the Buffalo Sabres will face the Tampa Bay Lightning Nov. 8-9 at Ericsson Globe — a 13,850-seat arena in Stockholm, Sweden.

With the Sabres in Sweden, it presents a perfect opportunity to reflect back on the Swedish influence that’s made its way into the NHL, and specifically, the Blue & Gold.

Ericsson Globe Stockholm
Ericsson Globe, Stockholm, Sweden (Fredrik Posse – CC BY-SA 3.0 –

The Globe, a hemispherical building, is one of Stockholm’s most unique sports venues. It’s been the home to Swedish National Team games and is also a popular concert venue. It means as much to Stockholm as Madison Square Garden means to New York City.

The Swedish Invasion

Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, the third largest country in the European Union and the fifth largest country in Europe by area. It’s produced some very talented hockey players over the years including the likes of Mats Sundin, Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Lidstrom, Borje Salming, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Victor Hedman and Erik Karlsson.

The country has developed some great talent as noted by the 2018-19 season, when there were 21 Swedes who put up 40 or more points.

Borge Salming, defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs
Salming was one of the first European players to make an impact in the NHL, paving the way for future generations of players. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

The country’s development program has proven to be a great way to groom and prepare players for the jump to the North American game and the NHL.

The Sabres have drafted 25 Swedish players in their history, including seven in the last three years and 12 over the last six years. They’ve hit on some and missed on others — only 10 have made it to the NHL. In 2018, there were 10 Swedes on the Sabres’ development camp roster. All told, according to NHL stats, the team has had 11 Swedish skaters and six goalies play for them in their 50-year history.

Sabres’ Swedish Forwards

Johan Larsson

Born in Lau, Sweden, Larsson was drafted by the Minnesota Wild with the 56th-overall pick in 2010. The centerman came to Buffalo as part of the deal that sent Jason Pominville to the Wild. Since then, he has logged 345 NHL games with the Sabres and is one of the team’s longest-tenured players. The consistent, two-way forward typically plays on the third or fourth line and sees time on the penalty kill. While often relied on to start play in the defensive zone, he’s chipped in 33 goals and 48 assists.

Johan Larsson Sabres
Johan Larsson’s highest scoring season was 2015-16 when he lit the lamp 10 times. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Mikael Andersson

Andersson was the Sabres’ 1984 first-round pick (18th overall). He played parts of four seasons with the Sabres, appearing in 99 games from 1985-88. In that span, the native of Malmo, Sweden had 4 goals and 33 assists. Andersson played 15 seasons in the NHL, suiting up 761 games for the Hartford Whalers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders.

Jacob Josefson

The New Jersey Devils drafted Josefson with the 20th-overall pick in 2009. Born in Stockholm, he played the first seven years of his career with the Devils, then signed with the Sabres as an unrestricted free agent for a single year. In his career, Josefson never made much of an impact on the scoresheet, scoring a total of only 20 goals in 315 NHL games. In 39 for the Sabres, he had four points.

Patrik Berglund

Remember Berglund? After coming over from the St. Louis Blues as part of the multi-player deal for Ryan O’Reilly, he bolted the team and returned to Sweden. History shows he played 23 games for the Sabres, potting two goals and two assists.

Patrik Berglund
After losing his passion and joy for hockey, Berglund left the Sabres and had his contract terminated. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Berglund, who calls Vasteras, Sweden, home, was a first-round pick of the Blues in 2006.

Linus Omark

Omark was a fourth-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2007. Born in Overtornea, Sweden, the left winger’s NHL career spanned a total of three seasons and 79 games. He played 13 games for the Sabres during the 2013-14 season and never played another NHL game following that.

Victor Olofsson

Olofsson, or “Goalofsson” as he’s been dubbed, has shown himself to be a diamond in the rough. The native of Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, was drafted in the seventh round (181st overall) in 2014.

Buffalo Sabres Victor Olofsson
Sabres forward Victor Olofsson became the first player in the history of the NHL to score his first seven career goals all in the power play. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

After a brief six-game appearance at the end of the 2018-19 season, Olofsson started this season with the Sabres. He’s already chipped in eight goals in the first 21 games of his career.

Related: Olofsson’s Golden Touch Fuels Sabres’ Power Play

Sabres’ Swedish Defensemen

Henrik Tallinder

Logging the most games for the Sabres is Henrik “Hank” Tallinder. At 532 games played, he’s suited more times for the Sabres than the next two players combined. Hank was a steadying force on the blue line, chipping in 22 goals and 94 assists along the way.

Tallinder, born in Stockholm, was drafted by the Sabres in the second round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. He played nearly his entire career with the team, spending three seasons with the Devils before returning for one final season in Buffalo. His career spans 12 years and 678 games.

Calle Johansson

Johansson was drafted by the Sabres with their first-round pick in 1985. The Gothenburg, Sweden, native played the first 118 games of his 17-year, 1109-game NHL career with the Sabres. He then spent 15 seasons playing for the Washington Capitals and one season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Johansson was a four-time 10-goal scorer. He pitched in 119 goals and 416 assists for 535 points.

Rasmus Dahlin

The first-overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft has a bright future ahead of him. In his second season, he’s nearing his 100th NHL game and already has 10 goals and 45 assists.

Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin
Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin was the second Swede to be selected first overall. The first was Mats Sundin in 1989. (Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)

Dahlin grew up far away from the NHL in Trollhattan, Sweden, a city of 46,000 about a three- or four-hour car ride from Stockholm. He’ll have plenty of family and friends from his native country in the arena.

Lawrence Pilut

Pilut, the Swedish Hockey League’s defenseman of the year in 2017-18, signed with the Sabres as an undrafted free agent in May 2018.

The native of Tingsryd, Sweden, played 33 games for the Sabres last season. After undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, he started this season playing for the Rochester Americans, the Sabres’ AHL affiliate. He was called up this weekend for the two-game, trans-Atlantic trip to Sweden. He’ll likely fill in for the veteran Marco Scandella who was placed on injured reserve.

Sabres Swedish Goaltenders

It’s interesting to note that all six Swedes to play goal for the Sabres had save percentages (SV%) between .910 and .928. Their goals against averages (GAA) ranged from 2.35 to 2.92. They’re all fairly respectable numbers.

Robin Lehner

Lehner was originally drafted by the Ottawa Senators with the 46th-overall pick in 2009. The 6-foot-4, Gothenburg native played parts of five seasons with them, though only appearing in 86 games. Former Sabres general manager Tim Murray traded a first-round pick for Lehner in 2015. With the Sabres, he played 133 games in 3 seasons, posting a record of 42-61-22 with 6 shutouts.

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner
Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner has raised tremendous awareness while advocating for mental health care. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

At the tail end of the 2018 season, the steely-eyed netminder sought help for bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, while struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. His candid and personal story has been a beacon of light for those battling similar issues.

Related: Lehner’s Most Important Save

After going unsigned by then-Sabres GM Jason Botterill, Lehner became an unrestricted free agent and inked a one-year deal with the Islanders. There, he was a Vezina Trophy finalist, posting a sparkling 25-13-5 record, 2.12 GAA and .930 SV%. He helped backstop the team into the second round of the playoffs. He now plays for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Jhonas Enroth

Enroth was drafted in the second round of the 2006 NHL Draft by the Sabres. Standing 5-foot-10 and weighing only 175 pounds, the Stockholm native played 118 games across 6 seasons for Buffalo. His best season came in 2010-11 when he went 9-2-2 with 1 shutout. His last season with the Blue & Gold was forgettable. In 2013-14 he went 4-17-5. He’s since played for the Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Linus Ullmark

Ullmark left Sweden in 2015 to start his North American career. He was drafted in 2012 in the sixth round and has played 69 games for the Sabres and is hoping to play in one of the games in Sweden this week. The netminder said he would love to take his teammates to Gamla Stan, also known as “Old Town,” a medieval city center in Stockholm. “It’s very beautiful,” said Ullmark.

Anders Nilsson

Drafted by the Islanders in the third round (62nd overall) of the 2009 Draft. Nilsson, from Lulea, Sweden, has bounced around the NHL, playing for six teams and never staying for more than two seasons at a time. He played 26 games for the Sabres during the 2016-17 season, winning 10 starts.

Anders Lindback

Lindback was born in Gavle, Sweden. The 6-foot-6 netminder was drafted in the seventh round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Nashville Predators. He played for the Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Dallas Stars before joining the Sabres for the latter part of the 2014-15 season. In 16 games, his record of 4-8-2 record was nothing memorable.

Anders Lindback’s career record was 45-58-8, with 3 shutouts. (Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

Mikael Tellqvist

A third-round pick in 2000 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tellqvist never made it past back-up status in the NHL. The native of Sundbyberg, Sweden, played four seasons for the Maple Leafs (playing a total of only 40 games), then suited up for the Phoenix Coyotes for three seasons (playing 67 games), before joining the Sabres for the end of the 2008-09 season. He appeared in six games, posting two wins and a loss.