When Rasmus Dahlin put pen to paper on his first NHL contract, the reverberations carried to Gothenburg and Lidkoping in his native Sweden.
The No. 1 overall pick signing with the Buffalo Sabres earned Swedish ice hockey administrators more than US$250,000 to put back into development.
“It’s unreal,” Dahlin said. “We need all the money we can get.”
Last year alone, the NHL paid more than US$35 million in transfer fees as teams signed European players. There are agreements in place with all the major ice hockey-producing countries except Russia and Switzerland that allow the free flow of players to the US league.
“The purpose, I suppose, is to help prime the pump for hockey development,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “The pool of players who can play in the National Hockey League continues to increase on a regular basis... There’s more better players than ever before.”
With the world junior championship to begin in Canada tomorrow, that emerging talent is to be showcased. The NHL also sends junior leagues in Canada and the US more than US$12 million annually, while it also provides financial support for International Ice Hockey Federation member USA Hockey.
That feeder system is partially responsible for the game’s explosion of young talent in recent years. Nowhere is that more evident than Sweden, which received about US$8 million last year for Dahlin and more than 30 other players who signed NHL contracts.
“That money is obviously huge,” said Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who is Swedish. “It doesn’t just go to the pro teams. I think it funnels down to your first team and the teams that are developing you, and have been taking you on this ride. And that money is doing the same for the next generation of players — setting up with the right facilities and the right coaches, and just try to surround them with the best circumstances that they can so they can succeed.”
“That’s one of the reasons why Sweden’s been able to keep producing players,” he said.
The investment makes sense for the NHL, which has players from 16 different countries. The 31 — soon to be 32 — teams split the costs equally each year.
On the ice, Alex Galchenyuk finally broke out of a prolonged slump and the Arizona Coyotes are suddenly making strides.
Galchenyuk scored two goals in regulation plus the only one in a shoot-out as Arizona defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Sunday.
Acquired in a June trade with Montreal for Max Domi, Galchenyuk had not scored in 16 games and had just three goals all season going into the game.
However, the 24-year-old center, drafted third overall in 2012, got his first goal since Nov. 11 when he flicked a backhand past Sharks goaltender Aaron Dell on a breakaway 15 minutes, 31 seconds into the first period. Galchenyuk then scored on a five-on-three powerplay to snap a 1-1 tie 12:21 into the second.
“It was frustrating without scoring for such a long period of time, trying to find my game,” Galchenyuk said. “I knew sooner or later it was going to come. Stick to it, keep working.”
Galchenyuk also scored on Arizona’s first chance in the shoot-out.
“The second I touched the puck, I knew what I was going to do,” he said. “I’m happy.”
Conor Garland also scored to help the Coyotes win their second consecutive game after losing three straight and seven of eight. Darcy Kuemper made 35 saves for Arizona.
Tomas Hertl scored twice and Tim Heed had a goal for San Jose, who lost their third straight after winning a season-high five in a row.
In other games on Sunday, it was:
‧ Devils 0, Blue Jackets 3
‧ Hurricanes 5, Bruins 3
‧ Rangers 2, Flyers 3 (SO)
‧ Blackhawks 3, Panthers 6
‧ Maple Leafs 5, Red Wings 4
‧ Islanders 3, Stars 1
‧ Kings 4, Golden Knights 3
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