Regina picks up Swedish vet in import draft
By Greg Harder, Leader-Post
June 28, 2012
The Regina Pats believe that power forward Emil Sylvegård is the right fit at the right time.
The feeling appears to be mutual.
After picking Sylvegård in the first round (32nd overall) of Wednesday's CHL import draft, Pats GM Chad Lang expressed optimism that the 19-year-old native of Sweden - who spent last season with the QMJHL's Drummondville Voltigeurs - has a chance to make an immediate impact in Regina.
"He was a guy who really intrigued us for a couple reasons," said Lang. "He has the experience of playing in the CHL and he's a big kid that we feel has the potential to create some offence. I always find with those import players that it takes them a year to adjust. For him to have that year under his belt, understanding what it takes to be successful in the CHL, I think that's an advantage."
The Pats' brass hasn't seen Sylvegård in person but did receive multiple positive reports from NHL clubs and other sources. One of them is former NHL star Claude Lemieux, who is serving as Sylvegård's agent.
"He's a big, strong guy who has a really good level of skill," said Lemieux, the North American president of 4Sports and Entertainment, a European-based agency.
"Like a lot of European players . . . he moves the puck well. He can finish. He's going to be a leader, a veteran player in Regina. He can play a physical game as well. He did a pretty good job in that role last year in Drummondville. I think the Western league is going to be a good fit for him. He's a really good kid. I think the group (in Regina) is going to enjoy him."
Lemieux also noted that Sylvegård is a "hockey guy" who grew up around the game. His father Patrik, a well-known former player in Sweden, is the general manager and CEO of the Malmo Redhawks, overseeing the club's junior and pro teams.
Emil Sylvegård is currently skating with the Redhawks, fuelling speculation that he could stay in Sweden this season, but the Pats have been assured that's not the case.
"I talked to him (Wednesday)," said Lang. "He's excited. He's happy for the opportunity and wants to get here as soon as possible and get at it. We don't see any hiccups in that process."
Neither does Lemieux. "We talked briefly . . . and I spoke a little bit more with his father and he felt it would be a good fit," said Lemieux. "He's excited about going. He's looking to play one more year in Canadian junior hockey and wants to have a really good year. For sure he's going to be coming."
Last season with Drummondville, Sylvegård recorded 13 goals and 31 points in 65 games, along with 42 penalty minutes.
The 6-foot-2, 202-pounder was selected in the first round (47th overall) of the 2011 import draft but he parted company with the Voltigeurs this spring and went back into the draft.
"He didn't feel there was good chemistry last year with the coach in Drummondville," explained Lemieux.
"I think Drummondville as a group had a big letdown. They didn't have a very good season and Emil took a lot of the heat for that. He felt a lot of it was unjustified.
"(His departure) was mutual. It was better for both sides to go a different way. No hard feelings. It's just a better situation like this."
That belief has a lot to do with the presence of Pats head coach Pat Conacher, Lemieux's former teammate with the New Jersey Devils.
"I think (Sylvegård) is going to be a good leader on that team for Pat," added Lemieux.
"It was important because I felt last year was a miss-fit for him in Drummondville. Pat needed someone and he was available. What's always important for Pat is a person and Emil is a great teammate and a great guy. Pat will get the most out of him using different tactics. Pat has been around a long time. We're good friends and I'm happy it's working out for both sides."
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