Following the end of last regular season, a disappointing one by any measure for the Nashville Predators, the players gathered at Bridgestone Arena to collect their belongings before departing for the offseason.
When asked where Filip Forsberg, the forward acquired at the trade deadline in exchange for longtime Predator Martin Erat, was, Nashville’s manager of media relations Kevin Wilson said that he was not there due to the fact that he had already departed for his homeland of Sweden so that the then 18-year-old could finish high school. And Wilson was not joking.
When you hear a player is 18, it makes him sound young, but when you hear that he has not yet completed high school, it strikes as how young he really is.
Entering the 2013-14 season as a grizzled 19-year-old and with a roster spot all but guaranteed, Forsberg was forced to sit out Nashville’s first two games with a lower-body injury.
Forsberg made his season debut in the home opener for the Predators Tuesday night, and just over five minutes into the opening period scored his first NHL goal.
With the Predators on a two-man advantage, Forsberg was on the left side when the puck hit Patric Hornqvist in the slot off of a deflection from Seth Jones’ shot from the blue line. The puck came right to Forsberg and he made no mistake, putting it by Wild starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom with authority.
After lighting the lamp, the normally poised rookie allowed himself a moment of joy as he leapt into the boards in the left corner.
Following the game, the calm Swede was back to his measured approach.
“It was a pretty lucky bounce for me,” Forsberg said. “I was just waiting there for the puck. It came right out of Patric’s shin pads and right onto my stick. It was a pretty easy one, but it was good. It was a good one to have.”
Predators head coach Barry Trotz knows the team got a good one in the trade for Erat.
“He’s got those magic hands,” Trotz said. “He’s slippery in tight spaces. As he keeps growing as a player, I think you are going to see some of those qualities come out. He doesn’t seem to be intimidated by a whole heck of a lot.”
Hornqvist, who was given the primary assist on the goal, started to go and celebrate the goal with his countryman, but he quickly pivoted to collect the valuable souvenir for his teammate.
“I noticed it was Filip’s first goal and I remembered it last second, so I went and grabbed the puck for him, “ Hornqvist said. “Hopefully he will put it up on the wall and it will be a good memory for him.”
Since he frequently finds himself right in front of the opposition’s net, this was not the first time Hornqvist was in position to retrieve the puck from a teammate’s first marker. He was also the one to grab Roman Josi’s first goal puck.
After Forsberg joined the Predators at the tail end of last season, he lived with Hornqvist, so it was no wonder he sounded like a proud older brother when talking about Forsberg’s goal.
The goal was not only a milestone for Forsberg; it was also one for Jones, the player who collected the secondary assist on the play. Playing in his third career NHL game, the assist was the first point of his NHL career.
When asked if he would try to get a sliver of the historic puck, he did not want any part of it.
“I want the full one for my first goal, whenever that may come,” he said with a laugh.
Hornqvist thinks that day will come soon and often after that as well.
“We are going to see a lot of those two guys here in this building for a long time,” Hornqvist said. “I am really happy for those two guys and to get the win too.”