His point production is down, his goals-per-game is down, but all is not wrong for sophomore Eric Nystrom.
In fact, after his return from the World Junior Championships in December, things may actually be looking up.
After starting the season with just five goals in 16 games, Nystrom has rebounded with four in his past eight games.
“I think (World Juniors) was good for me,” Nystrom said. “I started off slow, went off to World Juniors and had a real strong showing there. I came back, and I thought I continued that play. I’ve scored a few goals in the short span that I’ve been back, and I think my play has been better than what it was before I left.”
And even though the 10th-pick overall of last summer’s NHL Entry Draft may not be living up to the stats he posted for himself last year – 18 goals and 13 assists in 40 games compared to nine goals and six assists this year – he’s still living up to the stats that don’t usually get press. Nystrom has just eight penalties on the season and a plus-minus rating of plus-11.
“People blame you for not scoring, they tell you, ‘You’re a top-10 pick, you should be scoring,'” Nystrom said. “It wasn’t like I chose to get picked there. It’s tough, and people are watching a little bit closer. Right now the puck’s not going in as much as I’d like it to, but I think there’s more to the game than numbers. The type of player that I am is someone that you know what you’re going to get every night – whether it is a good defensive effort or a goal in the net.”
Currently Nystrom has found a home with sophomore Dwight Helminen and senior Mark Mink. Helminen was the other Wolverine to go to World Juniors, and Nystrom was the man responsible for getting Helminen his first goal since World Juniors. Though Nystrom’s line has changed about every week, he may have found the grouping that he’s needed with Mink and Helminen.
“They’re just messing up the lines to find the right combination,” Nystrom said. “Anyone on the team can play with anyone, it’s just sticking with the lines that are scoring that’s important.”
Even though Nystrom hasn’t been scoring as much, the scoring-by-committee Wolverines are not dependent on just one scorer and are actually scoring more per game than last year’s Mike Cammalleri-led offense – this year’s scoring of 4.04 is up from last season’s 3.45. And it becomes a little unrealistic to expect an individual to stand out when everyone is scoring more than last year.
“Last year, I had a career year, and it’s hard to match up to that,” Nystrom said. “Maybe I’m not a 50-goal scorer, but I know I can be on the ice when we’re down a goal or up a goal.”