J ust 11 days after being acquired in a last-minute trade deadline move by the Nashville Predators, Filip Forsberg made his NHL debut at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday night.
In a trial-by-fire of sorts, Predators head coach Barry Trotz sent Forsberg onto the ice for his first NHL shift against the Detroit Red Wings’ top line – Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and – for Sunday night – Justin Abdelkader.
“I was just going into the game and giving him an opportunity,” Trotz said. “I know it’s a big task – you think I’m always protecting guys. I had a ‘plan b’ in place if he was not going to be able to handle those guys and he seemed to be okay.”
At 18 years, 244 days, Forsberg was the third-youngest player ever to play in a game for Nashville. Only Scott Hartnell (18 years, 171 days) and teammate David Legwand (18 years, 243 days) were younger when they first appeared with Nashville.
Despite his youth and inexperience, the young Swede had 18:37 in his North American debut, a 3-0 loss to Detroit. Forsberg also managed 2 shots on net, 1 hit and had a takeaway during his inaugural game.
“He’s going to be fine,” Trotz said. “I mean, he’s 18 years old and he’s playing against Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Franzen. We’ve been playing these guys for 14 years and it’s hard to find guys who can play against those guys night-in and night-out. I thought he did a fine job.”
“I like to play a lot,” Forsberg said. “I made some good things (happen) and had some bad things (happen), too. Hopefully, I can step things up a bit before the next game.”
Forsberg was acquired by Nashville in a trade on April 6 that saw long-time Predator Martin Erat head to the Washington Capitals with Nashville prospect Michael Latta. Drafted 11th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Forsberg was a highly regarded Swedish prospect who has been playing against adults in Sweden’s professional system since he was 16 years old.
Despite his experience playing in Sweden, Forsberg admitted that the NHL was an entirely new experience.
“It is a big difference from where I’ve played,” Forsberg said. “Of course the players have so much more skill than I am used to, but it was high tempo out there.”
With Nashville mired in a 6 game losing streak and out of the playoff picture, Forsberg’s debut provided a rare bright spot for the team.
“He played well. He’s a young guy,” Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “He played with energy and you can tell he’s a good player.”
“He made all the good plays,” Trotz said. “In the first period, he made a couple of really good plays on the power play. He has a real poise. I like his intelligence. He sees the ice well. He’s not rattled.”
“He was good,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said. “Obviously, he is very nifty and good in small areas with the puck and made a couple of quick plays and almost scored in the second. He is going to be a good player.”
After Sunday night, Forsberg has very little time to catch his breath with the Predators playing the second half of back-to-back games at Bridgestone Arena on Monday night against Vancouver.
However, with one game under his belt, the teenager did not seem to be over his head in the slightest.
“He doesn’t seem fazed,” Trotz said.
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua