Florida Panthers rookie centre Henrik Borgstrom is a closet Edmonton Oilers fan.
One of his best friends is former coach Todd McLellan’s boy Tyson after playing with him at Denver University for two years. He’s met Todd many times and if somebody offered him an autographed Connor McDavid stick after the game he wouldn’t turn it down.
“Tyson and I lived together and we were in the same 2020 (graduating) class … he’s a better student than I am, I’ll give that one to him,” said Borgstrom, 21, who was taking business classes but also some communications courses at Denver U after the Panthers took the Helsinki-born youngster 23rd overall at the 2016 draft.
“Tyson’s a two-way player, great skater … I loved playing with him,” said Borgstrom, who won a national title with Todd’s son in the spring of 2017 when both were freshmen at Denver.
“Tyson has the coaching-view of the game. He studies it a lot. He’s really passionate about it.”
The first game against McDavid was a pinch-me moment for Borgstrom. Would getting a stick signed by Connor make his day?
“Yeah, 100 per cent. I’m like the youngest guy on this team now though and I don’t have the, how shall I say, the balls to ask,” said Borgstrom, who was also wide-eyed the first game against Crosby where he took some face-offs against him.
“I don’t know if McDavid is the best player in the world, but he’s top two (Crosby). Really cool for me. I played against him when I was 14 years old in Toronto in the summer. As young kids we were going ‘oooh, he’s good.’ Connor was on a team with (Joshua) Ho-Sang (New York Islanders’ farmhand). People were talking then ‘wait three years or so and they’ll both go top five in the draft,” said Borgstrom, who was playing for Jokerit’s youth team in Helsinki
“We had two lines on that trip and I remember losing 13-1 or something like that.”
Borgstrom went from Jokerit to rival IFK in Helsinki, a big moment in his life.
“I got cut by Jokerit (midget), so had to switch,” said Borgstrom, who was small for Jokerit but grew about a foot after moving to IFK. He’s now six-foot-three and 190 pounds.
Borgstrom, the Panthers’ No. 1 prospect, got an early education on the Oilers from Tyson.
“We were always watching their games on TV … it was fun, lots of young players, and of course his dad was coaching. That made it special for Tyson but we were also following pretty closely (103-point season in 2016-2017),” said Borgstrom.
“I remember Todd came in during the all-star break our first year and Tyson had gone a long time without scoring and Tyson got a back-door tap-in (goal). He was pretty excited,” said Borgstrom.
So was Todd when he saw Borgstrom at Denver.
“How good is he? He’s really, really good,” said the former Oiler coach.
On Thursday, he was on the ice against the Oilers as the Panthers No. 2 centre behind fellow Finn Aleksander Barkov with Vincent Trocheck still on the injured list. It was his 12th game this season, after four last year.
Could McLellan be headed to Los Angeles?
Todd McLellan is still being paid by the Oilers for this year and next at $3 million a season, but his name has predictably come up as a possible head coach next season in Los Angeles because the Kings’ GM Rob Blake used to be the San Jose captain. Blake had the C when McLellan was in his first two seasons as head coach of the Sharks in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.