Once pegged as a one-dimensional forward, Patric Hornqvist was not selected until the very last pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Even though it was a relief to be drafted, a difficult road lay before the Swedish forward, since very few seventh-round picks make their new team’s NHL roster and even fewer make much of an impact on the ice if they do make the cut.
Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Even though the odds were not in his favor, (Hunger Games reference/joke) Hornqvist proceed to do just what he did on the ice game after game—he put his head down and worked away. He simply kept lighting the lamp over the next three years on a fewdifferent Swedish teams, and the excitement of the Predators organization grew.
After making the move to North America in 2008, the power forward spent one season with the Preds’ minor league affiliate before joining the big club full-time in 2009.
Beginning with his first NHL game, Hornqvist’s style of play infuriated opponent’s goalies and defenses. Ignoring the beatings taken from an opposition’s defenseman or goalie (or both), Hornqvist would simply park himself in front of the opposing team’s goal and proceed to tip pucks into the net or knock home loose rebounds.
Perhaps even more infuriating was that it worked over and over again.
The “Horndog’s” first full season in Nashville (2009-10) was a great one, resulting in 30 goals and 51 points. To put that in perspective, the 30-goal plateau has only been eclipsed by a Predators forward three other times (Steve Sullivan, Paul Kariya and Jason Arnott).
One of the most successful starts to a career in Predators history, Hornqvist’s highly successful season placed him squarely in the Preds top six forwards and made him one of the players the Preds coaches and fans expected to lead the team night in and night out.
And he did not disappoint.
Hornqvist potted 21 goals in 2010-11 and added 27 assists (48 points), including this spectacular individual effort in the home opener. In 2011-12, he found the back of the net 27 more times and dished out 16 assists (43 points).
Once labeled as a one-dimensional forward, Hornqvist has proved the doubters wrong year after year as he’s demonstrated his ability to tip pucks, screen goalies and jam home rebounds way more often than initially expected.
Hornqvist’s first encounter with disappointment and major injuries occurred last season, though, as he ended up playing in only 24 games and scoring just four times. General manager David Poile bet last season’s campaign was a rare misfire, however, as he rewarded Hornqvist with a five-year contract extension despite his lack of production and missed time the year before.
This coming season, the Predators will be counting on more of what they saw from Hornqvist from 2009-12 and trusting that a usually healthy forward does not again fall prey to the shoulder and back injuries that plagued him last season.
Hornqvist’s greatest strengths are his ability to deflect pucks and willingness to take a beating in front of the opposition’s goal in order to power in rebounds. Because of this, the vast majority of his goals will come within five feet of the net, so the Predators need to work to get him in that position as much as possible. Hornqvist will always rely on picking up a large portion of his points on the power play because he thrives once his team is set up in the zone, but lacks the puck possession skills to help his team set up the offense on a regular basis.
He is a legitimate first line player if used in the right way, despite not having the speed or agility many star NHL players possess. His gritty style and relentless pursuit of the puck in the offensive zone are more than admirable qualities, even if he does not have all the skills necessary to create or finish the highlight reel goal once he gets to the puck.
Hornqvist knows he works best right in front of the goal screening the opposition’s netminder and he shouldn’t be expected to be something other than that type of player.
At 26 years of age, Hornqvist is entering the prime of his career and his best years may still be ahead of him. This coming year, expect a strong season from Hornqvist with much better goal and assist totals than last year’s pedestrian campaign.
Games: 75-79. Goals: 26. Assists: 19.
Leads the team with 16 power play points.