Eric Nystrom will never win the Rocket Richard Trophy. Despite that, in 2012-13, Nystrom had one of his best seasons as an NHL player, racking up 11 points (7G – 4A) in 48 games with the Dallas Stars. During the lockout, he also briefly played in Norway with the Stavanger Oilers, scoring a mere 7 points in the first game of his six game stint with the team.
In 408 NHL games, the Michigan alumnus has collected 83 points (46 G – 37A), but also a fairly respectable 308 penalty minutes. Basically, everything about Nystrom’s style of play can be read into his penalty minutes. He is a gritty player, he is not afraid to get involved, but he also does not hit the ice looking for a fight or a cheap shot. In 2011-12, Nystrom only had 24 penalty minutes in 74 games (while scoring 16 goals). In 2010-11, he had 30 in 82.
In each of the last three seasons, Nystrom has ranked in the top 50 in the NHL in hits. For the most part, Nystrom has managed to throw his body without getting himself in too much trouble. However, a few years ago there was a questionable hit on the Penguins’ Kris Letang that left Letang with a concussion. Nystrom earned no suspension for that hit. In the 2011 preseason, Nystrom was trying to beat Edmonton’s Taylor Fedun to a puck to beat out an icing and ended up hitting Fedun awkwardly enough that Fedun broke his leg. Nystrom did not earn a suspension for that hit either, but some believe it played a part in Minnesota’s decision to waive him before the season.
David Poile often touts the need in Nashville for “Tootoo-ish” players, obviously referencing the style of play of former Predator Jordin Tootoo who was known for having only one gear when he hit the ice – all out. The style of play that Barry Trotz and David Poile seem to praise most often come from the likes of hard-working, smart, gritty players with a little bit of meanness like Scott Nichol, Jerred Smithson and Nystrom’s former teammate Vernon Fiddler. This style of play is what Poile and Trotz like to call “Predators hockey”.
On July 5, Nystrom signed a 4-year, $10 million deal with the Predators. Poile specifically referenced Nystrom’s arrival as Nashville regaining the “Predators hockey” identity that the team seemed to lack in the 2012-13 season.
“I think I fit the mold really well (in Nashville),” Nystrom said upon his signing. “I know that they are an honest, hard-working team. Anybody I’ve known that’s played for Barry Trotz has had the highest regard for him as a coach. I knew that I could fit in here, have a really good role on the team and contribute and that my style of play would fit in well.”
Nystrom has consistently been a strong, two-way player – particularly in the defensive end. With the addition of Matt Hendricks and the unexpected rise of Rich Clune, Nystrom should provide a perfect complement to what could be one of the meanest and most thunderous energy lines in the NHL.
Predators fans may remember Nystrom from this…
Photo Credit: Bridget Samuels
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