On Nov. 8 and 9, the Tampa Bay Lightning will play back-to-back games against the Buffalo Sabres in Stockholm, Sweden as a part of the 2019 NHL Global Series. This matchup between the Lightning and the Sabres will be a tantalizing one for the Swedish crowd, as both teams feature a star Swedish defensemen.
For the Lightning, you have Victor Hedman, the 2018 Norris Trophy winner who is inarguably the top defenseman in franchise history. For the Sabres, you have Rasmus Dahlin, the first overall pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, and a budding superstar in his own right.
While these two Swedish-born star defensemen will be the feature of this Global Series, the Lightning have had a steady flow of Swedish players pass through the franchise. From Stanley Cup winners to a team captain, let’s look back at some of Tampa Bay’s best Swedish players.
Lightning’s Limited Swedish Goaltenders
Despite being an NHL franchise for more than 25 years, the Lightning have had very limited experience with Swedish goaltenders. In fact, they have only had two Swedes in net throughout their history.
The first was Johan Holmqvist, who backstopped the Lightning during the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons. In his time with the franchise, he played in 93 games, going 47-31-9. His tenure with the Bolts was short, however, as he was dealt to the Dallas Stars at the 2008 Trade Deadline along with Brad Richards for Mike Smith, Jeff Halpern, and Jussi Jokinen.
Anders Lindback, the Lightning’s second Swedish goaltender, had an equally short stay with the franchise. When the Lightning acquired Lindback from the Nashville Predators during the 2012 offseason, they did so believing that he was going to be their goalie of the future. He had the size, build and potential to become an All-Star, and Tampa Bay was ready to give him the opportunity.
Unfortunately, Lindback could not put it all together at the NHL level. He would eventually split time with Ben Bishop before being released from the franchise during the 2014 offseason, just two seasons after he was acquired.
Swedish Forwards Influenced Lightning From Beginning
The first Swedish forward to play for the Lightning was Mikael Andersson, who started with Tampa Bay during their inaugural 1992-93 season. Andersson would go on to play seven seasons for the Bolts, registering 54 goals and 123 points. After he finished his playing career, he would rejoin the franchise as a scout, a role that he continues to serve to this day.
The next Swede to play for the Lightning was long-time Philadelphia Flyer Mikhael Renberg. After he helped lead the Flyers to the 1997 Stanley Cup Final, Renberg was traded to Tampa Bay, where he was promptly made team captain. This move would only last for roughly two seasons, however, as he was traded back to Philadelphia during the 1998-99 season.
Related: Sabres’ Swedes Through the Years
Another pivotal Swedish forward in the Lightning’s history is Stanley Cup winner Frederik Modin. Modin played six seasons in Tampa Bay, scoring 145 goals and 286 points. Most importantly, Modin registered eight goals and 19 points during the Lightning’s run to the 2004 Stanley Cup.
Outside of these franchise-shaping forwards, the Lightning featured Swedes including Nils Ekman, Andreas Karlsson, and Jimmie Olvsted, who all played smaller roles for the team. They played roughly two seasons each in Tampa Bay, registering just a handful of goals each season.
Swedish Defensemen Built Recent Lightning Success
Over the course of the last decade, no country has played a bigger role in shaping the Lightning’s blueline than Sweden. As mentioned earlier, Hedman has been the centerpiece of Tampa Bay’s rebuild for more than a decade.
While Hedman was still developing his game, however, the Lightning signed two veteran Swedes to act as his mentor. First was Mathias Ohlund, who joined the Bolts during the 2009 offseason. While his time in Tampa Bay was severely limited due to injury, Ohlund still played a key role on the blueline during the 2011 playoffs, while teaching Hedman how to play a more complete game.
After Ohlund suffered a career-ending knee injury before the start of the 2011-12 season, the Lightning had to look elsewhere for Hedman’s defensive partner. It took until the 2014 offseason, when they signed Swedish defenseman Anton Stralman to a five-year deal.
In his five seasons playing for Tampa Bay, Stralman established himself as one of the franchise’s all-time great defensemen. He was a perfect foil for Hedman, acting as a defensive-first partner to help him focus on his offensive game. Even if he joined their cross-state rivals during the 2019 offseason, Stralman will always hold a place in Lightning history.
Lightning Have a Deep Swedish History
While Sweden may not have contributed the most players to the Lightning’s roster over the years, the country has played an influential role in the franchise. With Hedman still in his prime years, at least one Swedish player will continue to be a focal point in Tampa Bay for years to come.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.