by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer
GOTHENBURG, Sweden — This is why Loui Eriksson signed with the Vancouver Canucks and why he was so excited to get to Team Sweden’s training camp for the World Cup of Hockey 2016 this week.
It’s because of games like Team Sweden’s 6-3 win against Team Finland in his hometown Saturday and passes like the two he received, the first from Henrik Sedin and the second from Daniel Sedin, on the power play in the first period that led to goals.
Eriksson’s two power-play goals gave Team Sweden the early lead in the second of its three pretournament games. Team Sweden plays its third pretournament game against Team Europe at Verizon Center in Washington on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN3, SN360, TVA Sports 2).
“Like I’ve always been saying, they’re such smart players to play with and it makes it easier if you know how to play with them,” Eriksson said.
He learned he could play with the Sedins during the 2013 IIHF World Championship, when he was first on the receiving end of their brilliance.
Eriksson and the Sedins played the final four games of the tournament together and combined for 22 points to help Sweden win the gold medal. Team Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg was an assistant coach for that World Championship team.
“He has similar hockey IQ as Daniel and Henrik,” Gronborg said of Eriksson. “They’re thinking hockey the same way and that’s a huge strength.”
Eriksson got excited about recreating his first experience with the Sedins when he was named to Team Sweden’s World Cup roster along with the twins on March 2. He will see plenty of them after signing a six-year, $36 million contract with the Canucks on July 1.
“I know how it went in 2013,” Eriksson said. “I mean, it was only a few games, but it felt like they played the style I like.”
Their chemistry is back, and what a great sign it is for Team Sweden at the World Cup, which begins Sept. 17 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
What a great sign it is for the Canucks too. Instead of trying to gauge their new first line in preseason NHL games, they’re in heated competition, games that have pace and physicality and, even though they don’t technically count, they have meaning because of the Sweden-Finland rivalry.
Eriksson scored three goals in two games against Team Finland. At least one Sedin, if not both, had an assist on each of them. They must be loving this in Vancouver.
“It’s good for us,” Henrik Sedin said.
“I told the media [Friday] that to win a tournament like this, playing in these kinds of games, it helps you big time when you want to create some chemistry instead of just playing some preseason games at half speed. Even though you try to go out there at a hundred percent it’s not the same. So this is good for us.”
Perhaps the best part for Team Sweden and, eventually the Canucks, is how Eriksson scored his three goals. He wasn’t more than 10 feet from the blue paint on any of them.
He scored in Team Sweden’s 3-2 overtime loss to Team Finland in Helsinki on Thursday on his third attempt from the side of the left post. Both of his goals in the win Saturday came from directly in front of the net, the first off a pass from Henrik Sedin out of the corner to capitalize on a 5-on-3 and the second from Daniel Sedin from behind the net.
Eriksson didn’t have to move on the first one because of the space he had. He needed to create separation on the second one, so he drifted back a few feet to open the passing lane and create a shooting lane for when he got the puck.
“He’s going to move in and out from the net,” Henrik Sedin said.
“He’s going to be maybe a few feet outside the crease and move in and out, like the second goal, where he just snuck out and found a good spot and Danny found him.”
This relationship and the chemistry they’ve shown here works two ways.
For Eriksson, it’s a chance to feed off of the brilliance of the Sedins on a full-time basis, an ideal situation for any creative and skillful forward. For the Sedins, it’s a chance to play with someone who knows how to play with them, someone who could extend their brilliance with their 36th birthday approaching on Sept. 26.
“He’s a smart player and that’s all we really have asked for since Day 1,” Henrik Sedin said.
“A lot of people think we need a big, strong guy that plays with us, but you look at [Alexandre] Burrows, same thing. He’s smart. He finds the right spot. He’s good on the forecheck, turns the puck over and creates those kinds of chances for us. That’s what Loui does.”
Team Sweden plans to benefit from it in the World Cup. The Canucks are banking on that chemistry making its way out to Vancouver for the start of the NHL season. It’s why Eriksson signed with the Canucks, why he can’t wait to start playing games that count in Toronto.
“It feels pretty easy to play with them when you know how to play with them,” Eriksson said.