“I went through a covered knee surgery ten days ago here in the U.S. that requires half a year of rehabilitation, but it is uncertain if I can come back and play hockey again in the first place” Mattias Ohlund told Expressen, translation to Google.
If this is indeed true, one of the all-time best Vancouver Canuck defencemen may be forced to retire after a season-long battle with knee problems that kept him out of the Tampa Bay lineup. He went there as a free agent after the 2009 season after 11 seasons, 770 games, 93 goals and 325 points with the Canucks.
Only Harold Snepts played more games as a defenceman for the Canucks.
Selected 13th overall in the 1994 draft, Ohlund didn’t debut for the team until the 1998 season, after the Toronto Maple Leafs signed him to a 5-year offer sheet worth $10M. As that story notes, Ohlund was coming off a solid showing at the World Hockey Championships that summer and had been named the best defenceman at the World Junior Championships in 1996 when Sweden finished as the runner-up to the Canadian team led by Jarome Iginla.
Ohlund would stay with the Canucks and become a fixture on the team throughout the West Coast Express era with the club in the early aughts. He acted as the foil to Ed Jovanovski, who had a tendency to leave himself open defensively when he jumped up into the play, but Ohlund was better as a two-way guy, a defenceman who scored 10 goals on four occasions and five nine times. He was never a Norris Trophy nominee, but won the Babe Pratt Trophy as the team’s best defenceman four times, in 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2006.
His time in Vancouver was up as injuries and age took their toll. For his age 33 season, he was recruited by the Lightning to mentor his Swedish countryman Victor Hedman, recently the #2 pick in the draft. He didn’t lose his physical edge, however. Check out these hits on Brad Marchand and Phil Kessel:
I think we knew that Ohlund’s time in the NHL was dwindling to a close by the time he was picked up by the Lightning, but he was the best defenceman on the team in the West Coast Express days. Along with the Sedin twins and Markus Naslund, Ohlund was a prominent fixture behind the Swedish core of the team under Marc Crawford, and won a gold medal with the twins at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Ohlund leaves behind a couple of team records, as mentioned, goals and points for defencemen, but also overtime goals (with 6) and, if indeed he’s forced to sit out the rest of his career with ailing knee injuries, I’d expect to see his name in the Canucks ‘Ring of Honour’ sooner rather than later.