We continue celebrating Dallas Stars history this summer as we move closer and closer to their 20th year in DFW with a look at Loui Eriksson.
Overview: Eriksson's development into an NHL star was evident early on, with the Swede playing with kids well beyond him (16 year-olds) at just age 11. He won rookie of the year in the Elitserien at just age 18 the year after the Stars drafted him 33rd overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He'd play a full season with the Iowa Stars before scoring in his NHL debut on October 4th, 2006 against the Colorado Avalanche. In his last four seasons he's averaged 29.5 goals, establishing himself as a premier forward in league - And one crucial to the future of the franchise.
Why He's On The List: At just 27 years old he's already 8th all time in Dallas Stars history with 328 points. In his next (full) season he'll pass Darryl Sydor and Joe Nieuwendyk in points easily, and possibly Mike Ribeiro, behind whom he's just 79 points. Being just 200~ points behind Sergei Zubov, it's very probably that at some point Eriksson will hold the title of the second highest scoring Dallas Star ever behind only Mike Modano. These are just goals and assists we're talking about. There's the litany of other things he does, sometimes unnoticed, always crucial to the game, that he adds on top of the production to consider as well.
Eriksson is a curious inclusion in this list because his time is not yet done in Dallas. In fact his time might not even be half done. At 27 years of age he's entering what is considered to be his "prime", and new ownership and management tout him endlessly as being a core part of what they're building in this new era.
#9 might be a rather lofty position but it's indicative of what he's done so far, and also what he's yet to do. He'll be a Star, lockout or no, for years to come on one of the best contracts in the league according to many - And if Mr. Gaglardi is the guy many think he is, Loui won't be getting free even when his current deal expires.
He will take over significant records from a production standpoint. He will. Yet it's all that he does away from the puck, or in pursuit of it, that really makes him stand out.
Puck possession is king in the league these days, and the Stars are short on men who can initiate it. Eriksson, not unlike Benn, is such a presence. It's such a joy to sit in the press box and listen to practiced professionals, who have absorbed thousands upon thousands more hours of hockey in their lifetimes than I have, talk about what impresses them (very little) and what doesn't (the rest of it).
Loui Eriksson is impressive to those kinds of folks. Truly. They marvel at him. It's not when he's scoring goals. It's not when he's assisting on them. It's when he's dispossessing people of the puck. It's his defensive recoveries that pull teammates rear ends out of the fire. Those are the plays that catch peoples eyes. Those are the plays he'll continue to make for years to come in a Dallas uniform. He'll be remembered for that responsibility and team play as much as anything else when it's all said and done.
With a little luck (and a season that starts on time) Loui Eriksson will be able to showcase himself more effectively in the coming years with a more competent top six grouping around him that doesn't rely on him so much to be cleaning up messes in his own end. That will lend itself to more offense for the perennially underrated Swede, and just like Jamie Benn, he'll be able to unleash his true potential rather than covering for less (defensively) competent lines ahead of him, as has been his charge in recent seasons.
Eriksson has sprouted during a difficult time for the franchise. If better times are ahead then quiet #21 has as much to gain as anyone else on this roster, and his stance in countdowns like this will only improve - Possibly to top-five (three?) Stars of all time when it's all said and done. He's that good.