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A rookie season in the American Hockey League can have many different ups and downs for a player as they get acclimated to a new league, new systems, more games, among many other changes. For most, it’s about developing and building on skills to ultimately make it to the next level.
Forward Joakim Nordstrom’s 2013-14 season may have been just like many other rookies before him, but he got a taste of something that most don’t – playing in the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Nordstrom was a little different than most first-year AHL players as he came with experience across three different levels with AIK of the Swedish Hockey League going into the 2013-14 season. Regardless, the Chicago Blackhawks third round pick (#90 overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft began the season on a high note as he made the Blackhawks squad coming out of training camp. Unwavered by getting sent down to Rockford in late October, the 22-year-old used his rookie campaign exactly how most do, adjusting and enduring the grind of the season.
The Tyreso, Sweden native was Rockford’s third best goal scorer during the season with 17 tallies to go along with 16 assists in 58 contests. Mix in two recalls to Chicago where he added three points (1g-2a) in 16 games, including six games down the stretch at the end of the regular season, and the center was ready for postseason hockey.
“Coming up [to Chicago] late in the season and getting in a few games to help me out to be ready and get used to the system here was good,” said Nordstrom. “It’s a little bit different here than in Rockford.”
Getting those games late in the regular season ensured that the young centerman was ready to go when he got the call on May 27 in a critical Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round series against St. Louis.
The learning experience continued in the next round against the Minnesota Wild as he appeared in all six contests for the Blackhawks. With the nerves out of the way, Nordstrom was quick to pick up one of the differences between the regular season and postseason.
“There are little mistakes and it’s desperation,” commented Nordstrom. “Every single play you make can be crucial and might decide the whole series. Getting the games earlier [in the regular season], it was easy to come in and fit in.”
It didn’t matter which locker room he was in, Rockford or Chicago, Nordstrom was able to adapt and fit in, just as any rookie has to do.
“The whole team is such a great group of guys and ever since I got called up again everyone has been supportive and helped me out,” Nordstrom said. “If I had any questions about the systems or just anything on a regular basis I could ask anyone.”
Despite seeing the Blackhawks playoff run fall short of a second straight Stanley Cup Finals appearance, Nordstrom was able to take in the whole experience, even noting the atmosphere of playoff hockey at buildings like the Xcel Energy Center, Staples Center, and United Center.
“First of all, in Rockford we have had a great crowd the whole year so it’s been really fun to play there,” said Nordstrom. “And then same here, it’s sold out every game, it’s very loud and great fans that are cheering the whole game, so it’s a lot of fun.”
For Nordstrom, getting a few games in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs under his belt was just another step in the right direction.
“It’s definitely different to play in the playoffs than in the regular season,” said Nordstrom. “So obviously I’m one experience richer. The whole experience of playing NHL playoff hockey has been great.”