May 11, 2015

Stefan Persson

Selected in the 14th round of the 1974 NHL Entry Draft defenseman Stefan Persson was as integral a member of the New York Islanders dynasty that won four Stanley Cups in a row in the early 1980s.

Persson was a reliable positional defender and crisp puck mover, a favorite of legendary coach Al Arbour. Persson regularly played with the physical Dave Langevin at even strength, but the right-shooting Persson would often move up to the top power play unit, patrolling the blue line along side the great Denis Potvin. The Islanders fearsome power play of this era may have been the best specialty team unit of all time. One year - 1980-81 - the Isles scored an amazing 93 power play goals, converting 30% of their odd-man opportunities.

Choosing to stay in Sweden where he won three Swedish titles and the 1977 World Championships silver medal, Persson did not come to North America until his was a 23-year-old rookie in 1977-78. He immediately made an impact, registering 50 assists - a new NHL record for rookie defensemen (since broken).

But Stefan was no slouch at even strength, either. He and Langevin, his longtime regular partner, offered as solid a depth pairing as there was in the league. Because he was right handed, Persson and Mike Bossy formed an effective break-out duo.

Persson's immediate impact not only made him (along with teammate Anders Kallur) the first Swedish player to win the Stanley Cup, but paved the way for many European players to patrol NHL blue lines. Some sources claim he was a serious candidate to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as Stanley Cup MVP in 1980

Here's an interesting tidbit - In 1980 Stefan Persson won the Victoriastipendiet as Sweden's Athlete of the Year - an award only won by hockey players Peter Forsberg (1994) and Henrik and Daniel Sedin (2011).

Stefan Persson enjoyed a nine year NHL career totalling 622 regular season games. He scored 52 goals and an impressive 317 assists for 369 career points. He added another seven goals and 57 points in 102 playoff games.

Persson was traded to Winnipeg late in the 1986 season, but refused to report. He retired and the trade was rescinded. Persson went home to Sweden, played three more seasons with Boras before serving with the team in management for many seasons.

No comments: