Tjärnqvist arrives in Edmonton
(If there's one thing I've learned in this blogging business, it's that no fans are as ardent on-line as Edmonton fans. Due to their extreme climate, even in July, they remain huddled in front of their PCs for warmth, holding out hope for any and all hockey news and/or gossip. So, when an International Superstar like Daniel Tjärnqvist signs with the Oilers, you better spend an inordinate amount of time providing the best coverage available. And so it begins...)
They call him Three Dot.
Growing up in the city of Umea, in the remote northern region of Sweden's eastern coast, Daniel Tjärnqvist played hockey as a youngster on the frozen tundra with his younger brother, Mathias.
The elder Tjärnqvist joined the Swedish Elite League at 17, suiting up for 18 games on the blueline with Rogle Angelholm, and catching the eye of the Florida Panthers European scout. The Panthers drafted the youngster in the 4th round, 88th overall in 1995, but didn't push for the prospect to immediately join the North American hockey ranks.
After a second season with Rogle, Three Dot made the rare move to Finland's top league, where he went on to become the first Swede to win the championship with Jokerit Helsinki.
Returning for the 1997-98 season to his homeland, Three Dot joined fellow International Superstars Patric Kjellberg and Tommy Soderstrom with the league-leading Djurgardens IF Stockholm, where Tjärnqvist would slowly rise on the depth chart the next four years.
It was following his second season with Djurgardens that earth-shattering events rocked the then 22-year-old's hockey life...
Florida acquires Trevor Kidd from Atlanta on June 25, 1999, in exchange for Gord Murphy, Herbert Vasiljevs, Daniel Tjarnqvist and a 1999 sixth-round draft pick.Heartbroken at being moved from one terrible sunbelt franchise to another, Three Dot vowed to play on with Djurgardens.
An invite to play for eventual bronze-medal winning Team Sweden at the 2001 World Championship in Germany was the precursor to Tjärnqvist's rise to the NHL, as he joined the Thrashers that fall and played more than 20 minutes per game on the last-place team's back end. Three Dot thanked the expansion gods for the opportunity.
He added a second bronze medal to the pile in 2002, and after the following season with the Thrashers, his NHL coach Curt Fraser had glowing praise for the 26 year old:
"The better teams have a horse on defense who can fill any role," Fraser said. "Daniel can be that for us. Is he ready to play 30 minutes right now? I don't think so. But by January he will be. He'll get more minutes, not less. Defensemen are at a real premium. Daniel can be a real good one."Fraser was fired 33 games into the following season.
Three Dot won a silver at the the World Championship in the offseason, but new Thrashers head coach Bob Hartley didn't take as much of a shining to him back in Atlanta. Hartley made the Swedish Stallion a healthy scratch for 10 games in a row to start the 2003-04 season. Keeping himself in great game shape throughout the layoff, however, Three Dot was undaunted. He would rise again.
"I just tried to stay positive and work hard both on the ice and off the ice," he said. "I was thinking that when I would come back I would play my own style."He would go on to post career-best totals (five goals, 20 points in 68 games) despite the missed time.
"When I came here I thought I'm going to learn every year and when I've been here four or five years, I'll show what kind of player I am," Three Dot said. "It's my third year now and I'm still learning.Then came the lockout year, and the Thrashers opted to not renew Three Dot's contract. The learning, it seemed, had come to an end.
"I think when you stop learning is when you stop playing," he added with a smile. "Every game out there you see new things."
After suiting up for his home country at the 2004 World Cup, Three Dot went back to Sweden for 2004-05, rejoining Djurgardens, where he was able to get up to his same old hijinx and mediocre point totals.
In mid-August, 2005, the Minnesota Wild took a shining to Three Dot, and signed him to a one-year contract. Last season, he played just under 20 minutes per game for the Wild, and was tied for third in scoring among Minnesota defencemen with 18 points. His -11 rating, however, was better than only Andrei Zyuzin's -12.
The Turin Olympics were the highlight of Three Dot's as of yet undistinguished career, as he was a late addition to the team when Niklas Kronwall went down to injury. Three Dot ended up contributing well (8GP, 2G, 1A, +3) as a second-pairing defenceman for Sweden's gold-medal winning team.
If that was any indication, the best is yet to come.
Scouting report: A smooth-skating defenceman with decent defensive instincts, Tjärnqvist makes safe plays with the puck and fits in well to a structured system in his team's own end. Can contribute as a second-tier power-play defenceman, but will never be an elite point producer. Is not physical and mainly a stick checker.