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Vancouver Province article (Swede Moller still king of Chilliwack)

September 2 2008 at 7:08 AM
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N. W. Bruin  (Login NW_Bruin_GM)

Swede Moller still king of Chilliwack

Centre off to first NHL training camp in L.A. but will return to play big role

Marc Weber, The Province

Published: Tuesday, September 02, 2008

When Oscar Moller makes the NHL, it will be a feather in the Chilliwack Bruins' cap.

But if it happens this season, it could also be like an arrow through the head.

The Bruins embark on their third WHL season down standout defenceman Nick Holden to graduation, league-leading scorer Mark Santorelli to the pro-hockey ranks and talented forward Evan Pighin to a desire to play for the BCHL's Victoria Grizzlies.

Add it all up, and having Moller -- the L.A. Kings' 2007 second-round pick -- in the mix is all the more important.

"He's close, we know that," head coach Jim Hiller said of Moller's shot to make the NHL as a 19-year-old. "But Oscar is penciled in [in Chilliwack] and him coming back would be a huge part of our team."

In the optimistic air of the preseason, Hiller talked about the Bruins taking a step forward -- assuming his star sniper is around.

Chilliwack finished 28-35-4-5 last season and was swept by the Vancouver Giants in the opening round of the playoffs -- all one-goal losses.

"I think some teams might look at our roster on paper and underestimate us," said Hiller. "Our expectations this year are higher than last year and we're going to do that with a much younger lineup.

"For us, the age isn't an important factor. It's the quality of players and their skill level, and I think on aggregate we'll have more."

How much more? Moller, always a sunny Swede, drew an interesting comparison, especially considering he was born in 1989.

"I think we'll be like the young Oilers back in the '80s," said the dazzling centre, singling out 16-year-old Kevin Sundher as one to watch. "A young team, but very offensive."

It's likely that Moller, who piled up 39 goals and 82 points last season, will miss only the first two weeks of the campaign while at Kings training camp. He's also a shoe-in for the Swedish world junior team and will miss eight-or-so games in December and January.

Moller said if he cracks the Kings lineup this season it would be "a dream come true," but realistically he expects to be in Chilliwack and he's happy with that.

He's also pleased to have a countryman around. The Bruins picked winger Alexander Wiklund 21st in the CHL import draft and the two Swedes have discovered some quick chemistry. In a 3-2 exhibition win over the Everett Silvertips on Sunday, they combined for five points.

"It feels good to play with Alexander," said Moller, who formed a dynamic duo with Santorelli most of last season. "He's a good player and a nice guy. He has lots of energy and I think he's going to do well."

Wiklund is from Pitea, the same small northern town as NHLers Mikael Renberg, Mattias Ohlund and Tomas Holmstrom, whom he was compared to in pre-draft reports.

"I love it here -- hockey around the clock and it's so big," said Wiklund, who learned of the Bruins when he came across a story about Moller on the Internet, then prompted his agent to put the wheels in motion.

"I sure hope I get to play with Oscar this year."

He might as well have been speaking for the entire team.

© The Vancouver Province 2008

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