Bring Back The Electric Norseman!

Once again, Patrick Thoresen wants to return to the NHL. He tried to land an NHL job last year and was unsuccessful after a spectacular KHL season, so this year he went out and had a more spectacular KHL season. This is a guy who deserves another crack at an NHL job.

Normally, for a player like this who was a defensive specialist the last time he played in the NHL, I’d be busting out the advanced statistics. For Thoresen, I don’t need to (although his are superb); I watched nearly every game he played as a member of the Edmonton Oilers. Defensively, his positioning was as good as any player on the team. He never backed down from a physical battle, he forechecked like a demon, and there could never be any doubt about his work ethic or intensity. Aside from his size, he was the kind of fourth-liner every coach dreams of.

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Thoresen’s problem at the NHL level was producing offence. At 17, he came over to the QMJHL and spent two seasons playing major junior hockey in Canada, scoring 73 points in 60 games as a rookie and following that up with 108 points in 71 games the year after. Along the way he was stellar for Norway’s U-18 and U-20 international teams. He went over to Sweden, starting in the Allsvenskan before moving up to the Swedish Elite League for two seasons. In his second year he scored 36 points in 50 games, which was enough to convince the Edmonton Oilers to bring him over and give him a shot at an NHL job.

Thoresen produced relatively well at the AHL level, but managed only six goals and 24 points in a little over 100 games in the NHL. After two seasons, he couldn’t get another NHL job and was forced over to the KHL.

Thoresen’s been a revelation in the KHL. In 107 points in the world’s second-best league, he’s scored 51 times (remarkably, 42 of those goals came at even-strength) and added 66 helpers for a total of 117 points. Along the way, he went plus-63. He’s turned into a faceoff-winning machine over there; with a 55.2% success rate on 754 face-offs. He’s playing in all situations, and finished with a little under 18:00 per game this last season. He’s also been a staple for international Norwegian teams, managing a point per game at last year’s World Championships and five assists in four Olympic games in 2010.

Despite all the success Thoresen has had in the KHL, that’s not where he wants to be. In May of last season, Thoresen explained why he’d be willing to take a massive pay-cut to return to the NHL:

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“I know I can score 20-25 goals in the NHL. If so, I’m going to earn the lost money and play in the NHL for many years. I have faith in myself and know what kind of potential I have.”

At 27 years of age, Thoresen’s been a bit of a late-bloomer offensively but he’s still a young man. He’s shown drive, grit and defensive responsibility at the NHL level before. His scoring has shot off the charts since his jump to the KHL, and could represent a major step forward from his last stint in North America. He’s added faceoff ability to his repertoire. Beyond that, all it will take to get him over here is a one-way deal near the league minimum.

This seems to me like a no-brainer. It’s time for someone to take a chance and bring back the Electric Norseman.