Hometown: Nordingra, Sweden
Weight: 180 lbs.
Drafted: Eighth round (239), 2003 Entry Draft
The scenario is one of the most unlikely in all of hockey. As the 2003 Entry Draft wound down the Atlanta Thrashers picked up a left-handed defenseman from Sweden. Nobody was going to mistake him with fellow countrymen Nick Lidstrom, but Tobias Enstrom will go down as one of the best eighth round selections in NHL history. Six picks later Dustin Byfuglien was drafted, another late round steal. Seven seasons later Byfuglien was traded to Atlanta and two of the last players selected in the 2003 draft ended up linemates and assistant captains. Who would have guessed that picks 239 and 245 would end up leading an NHL power play?
The Winnipeg Jets aren’t known as the most high-powered scoring unit in the NHL, which means that special teams have to be their bread and butter if they want to enjoy any success. Together, Byfuglien and Enstrom are the driving force behind the Jets’ power play. Byfuglien brings the big shot while Enstrom plays anchor, holding the puck and setting up the play while Big Buff finds space to get rubber on the net.
Being healthy is the only limiting factor to this duos success. When the top defensive pairing is clicking, the Jets win games. Unfortunately, Enstrom played in a career low 66 games in ’11-’12, missing significant time with a collarbone injury. Take a quick look at Byfuglien’s numbers with and without his linemate and it’s easy to see that the Jets need these two stars on the ice together.
Enstrom and Byfuglien played together for 724:41 minutes last season. In that time the Jets’ scored at a rate of 0.966 goals for per 20 minutes (GF/20), while allowing 0.883 goals against (GA/20). When apart things were dramatically different, the Jets GF/20 plummeted to 0.786, while pucks flew past Ondrej Pavelec at a rate of 1.140 GA/20. When these two aren’t on the ice together, the Jets aren’t giving themselves an honest opportunity to win. Health is the only thing that will keep Coach Claude Noel from playing these two at the same time.
This summer Enstrom was rewarded by GM Kevin Cheveldayoff with a shiny new contract that will see him in a Jets uniform for five more years. At a cap hit of $5.75M per season, Enstrom isn’t a burden against the cap system, and is a key factor towards the Jets winning hockey games and making the playoffs.